Monday, April 12, 2010

It! The Terror From Beyond Space (1958) review


Marshall Thompson (Commander Carruthers), Shawn Smith (Ann Anderson), Ray "Crash" Corrigan (The Alien)

Directed by Edward L. Cahn

When the leader of a Mars expedition is taken into custody by a rescue team for the murder of his crew, the ships crew members come to the realization they are not alone. A seemingly indestructible monster has stowed away aboard the spacecraft and begins slaughtering the ships team. The remaining survivors try to devise a method to destroy the creature before they reach the Earth.

All this scene needs is a guy eating spaghetti prior to a terrible stomach ache

A victim of the beast found in an air duct minus all liquid in his body

The director of such trash flicks as VOODOO WOMAN (1957) and CURSE OF THE FACELESS MAN (1958) takes the reigns of one of the best alien movies of the 1950's. Speaking of creatures from outer space, a certain Ridley Scott movie owes a huge debt to this modest, lean and mean 69 minute sci fi/horror film. A number of shots and scenes instantly bring Scott's classic tale of outer space horror to mind. Whether it be characters crawling around in cylindrical air ducts, or the sheer intelligence of the creature.

What makes IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE work so well is the surprisingly adept and smart script from Twilight Zone and Star Trek writer, Jerome Bixby. Compared with other similar alien movies such as THE ANGRY RED PLANET (1959), Cahn's movie doesn't totally follow conventions and Bixby's script allows the proceedings to stand out amongst a horde of by-the-numbers productions. It's far more darker than most of these types of movies and this is no doubt due to Bixby's contribution.

Paul Blaisdell, the creator of some of Hollywood's best 'B' movie monsters, designed the intelligent reptilian menace donned by stuntman, serial actor, Ray "Crash" Corrigan. He brings a lot of ferocity to the brutal beast which adds to the suspense level of the film and there's a lot of that to go around.

The crew constantly attempt various plots and ploys to destroy the marauding monster without much luck. Bullets, burning, electrocution, hitting it with radiation and blowing it up all don't work on the monster. The method by which the creature is finally disposed of is also kind of similar to the fate of the xenomorph in Ridley Scott's classic sci fi/horror classic.

Even at a brisk 69 minutes, IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE (1958) is essential viewing for fans of the golden age of science fiction-horror movies. It's one of the most memorable of its kind to come out of the atomic age era of 1950's Hollywood fright flicks.

This review is representative of the MGM DVD. It is also on a double feature DVD paired with THE MONSTER THAT CHALLENGED THE WORLD (1957).

The Monster That Challenged the World (1957) review


Tim Holt (John Twillinger), Audrey Dalton (Gail Mackenzie)

Directed by Arnold Laven

An earthquake under the Salton Sea unleashes a slimy horror that threatens the lives of anyone living near the California coast. A nest of the massive mollusks is discovered and the military attempt to thwart the undersea menace. One of the eggs is taken back to a research facility for study where the creature soon and unexpectedly hatches.

One of the mutant mollusk eggs is brought aboard to be taken back for study

One of the best ever titles for a monster movie is also wholly deceptive. With a title like THE MONSTER THAT CHALLENGED THE WORLD, those words evoke images of a beast of Godzilla proportions trampling world cities and taking on the might of worlds military forces. A shame none of that happens over the course of the movies 84 minute running time.

The main characters get their first glimpse of the underwater monsters

But that's not to say television director, Arnold Laven's movie is no good, far from it. It just doesn't deliver on the blaring moniker it's saddled with. Still, it's a damn cool title for a monster movie. The film has all the earmarks of a classic creature feature of the 50's. The relationship between the male and female leads isn't very interesting. Tim Holt comes off like he'd be better suited in a cowboy outfit and riding a horse as opposed to battling oversized mutant mollusks. Taking a gander at his resume, it's filled with numerous old fashioned western features.

But one doesn't watch a movie like this for its performances, you watch it for the monsters and Laven's movie has some impressive ones, especially the hydraulically controlled monster that challenges the little girl at the end. Publicity stills were released that featured creature action not seen in the finished movie. These stills were popularly featured in such publications as Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. There's also a bit of gore in this movie including some grim looking corpses and bloody violence perpetrated on the creatures.

My how things have changed since 1957 in women's swimming attire

There are also some genuinely creepy moments throughout including the eerie opening of the movie and a scene where two lovers go for a late night swim. These scenes call attention to Spielberg's killer shark movie nearly two decades away. There's also a startling scene where two divers are attacked by the monsters and one of them has his head separated from his torso.

The ending wherein one of the monsters hatches from an egg taken to a military research station and assaults the lead actresses daughter is tense and well done. It's just a shame the rest of the movie doesn't have enough of these to go around. Still, it's an above average monster flick for fans who have a fondness for B/W science fiction-horror movies the likes of which they just don't make anymore.

This review is representative of the MGM DVD. It is also out on a double feature DVD paired with IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE (1958).

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