As influential as it is entertaining, the quintessential 1950s sci-fi monster movie. IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE, lands on Blu-ray courtesy of Olive Films.
In the futuristic year of 1973, man’s first rocket expedition to Mars is a disaster, with every crew member of a crashed spaceship being left for dead except for one, Col. Edward Carruthers (Marshall Thompson, FIEND WITHOUT A FACE). Although he is innocent and blames the deaths on an alien life form, Carruthers could face the firing squad for murdering his fellow crew members, with a rescue ship (and a new crew) taking him back to Earth to await trial. The commander of the ship, Col. Van Heusen (Kim Spalding, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL) seems convinced that Carruthers is guilty of killing his nine ship mates for their food and rations, while a female crew member, Ann Anderson (Shawn Smith, THE LAND UNKNOWN) is more sympathetic and actually believes that what he saying could be the truth. Unbeknownst to the crew, a large, lurking humanoid stowaway (Ray “Crash” Corrigan, CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN) has crept into the vessel via an open external vent, hiding in the various hatches and ducts when he’s not pouncing on and sucking on the blood of the desperate astronauts. When the crew discovers the horrifying other-world menace they are up against, they try every resource available (including grenades, electrocution and a bazooka) to destroy it, but it’s going to take a master plan to bring down a creature who can crush metallic hatches as if they were made of cardboard and will likely go after each and every passenger for the sake of its own survival.
IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE is probably best known today as one of the influences for Dan O’Bannon’s screenplay for ALIEN (with a very similar plot outline) and although it may have been influenced by THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD, it’s stands alone as one of the most memorable monster movie flicks of its era. IT! was made independently by Vogue Pictures and released by United Artists and was directed by B level genre specialist Edward L. Cahn, who also gave us such pictures as INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN, CURSE OF THE FACELESS MAN and INVISIBLE INVADERS. Cahn does a fine job of keeping the 70-minute suspenseful, claustrophobic tale of man against monster interesting, with the main set of a lofty, multi-leveled rocketship being a perfect one, and the art design is far better than most other 1950s low budget space adventures would allow. The monster is also kept in the shadows as much as possible (along with unforgettable silhouette shots of it pounding on its victims) but is well on display (and quite scary) throughout, unlike the aforementioned THE THING. Well-renowned sci-fi writer Jerome Bixby (who would later work on both “The Twilight Zone” and “Star Trek”) mounts a rather intelligent script without a lot of filler, and the fact that the title creature is a vampire who hunts and kills for survival is a terrific aspect which would soon be imitated in numerous other films (early on in production, the film was known as “It! The Vampire from Beyond Space“). Although it's low on special effects, taking place almost entirely inside the ship, when effects are on display, they’re not bad, including some clever matte shots and a scene where a couple of space-suited men are walking horizontally on the ship’s outer wall. Surprisingly, all these years later, the film is fairly low on camp (unless you count crew members sitting around smoking inside the ship’s rec room, or the persistent calling out of a missing crew member named “Gino”, as played by Richard Hervey).
The real star of the picture though is the monster suit creation by Paul Blaisdell. Blaisdell, a legend among the first generation of Famous Monsters of Filmland readers, built monster heads and suits for such 1950s flicks as INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN, THE DAY THE WORLD ENDED, THE SHE-CREATURE and VOODOO WOMAN, sometimes not even receiving screen credit (as is the case with this film). Donning the bulky, scaly creature suit, with its three-fingered claws and elaborate over-the-head piece, was former stuntman Corrigan (in his final film role in a career that went back to the early 1930s) and reportedly he could be disagreeable when sporting the costume on the set. In fact, when Blaisdell created the headpiece and costume, he designed it for himself to wear thinking he was being cast, so when the much larger Corrigan tried on the appliances, complications arose. Blaisdell arrived on the set and was able to fix these problems, including creating a set of lower teeth on the mask to cover up the fact that Corrigan's chin protruded through the bottom mouth piece!
The solid cast of mostly sci-fi movie veterans also includes Dabbs Greer (HOUSE OF WAX, THE VAMPIRE) and Ann Doran (THEM!) as a husband and wife team of doctors, Paul Langton (THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN, THE COSMIC MAN), Robert Bice (THE SNOW CREATURE), Richard Benedict (BEGINNING OF THE END) and Thom Carney (WHO’S MINDING THE MINT?). The masterfully orchestrated music score by Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter would later turn up in such cheapies as Jerry Warren’s TEENAGE ZOMBIES.
IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE first appeared on DVD back in 2001 as part of MGM’s Midnite Movies line, and then re-released in 2005 (on the same line) as a double feature with THE MONSTER THAT CHALLENGED THE WORLD. Unlike the previous full frame DVD releases, Olive Films (utilizing MGM’s HD master) presents the film in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio (despite the back of the packaging stating it’s in 1.37:1). The 1080p image is nicely detailed for the most part and sharp, with only a few soft spots. The black and white image looks quite good here with the grayscale being nicely modulated, black levels look appropriately deep and whites are also solid. Background grain and minor debris is sometimes amplified due to the high resolution, but it’s never anything too distracting, as the film has never looked better. The DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track is strong for a cheap little 1950s film, with no detectable hiss or distortion. No subtitle options are included, but the original theatrical trailer (with its flashing subliminal messages) is on hand as the disc’s sole extra. (George R. Reis)
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