It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958)

Not at all hampered by it’s inherent silliness, It! still holds up as a fun, creepy, atmospheric monster movie in space and is definitely worth the watch.

In 1979, Director Ridley Scott (Blade Runner) and Dan O’Bannon (Return of the Living Dead) created one of the best and most iconic horror films in history with the advent of Alien.  Basically Old Dark House (1932) in space, Alien was the definition of a classic horror film updated and immersed in Science Fiction and it blew people’s minds with it’s freshness and originality, not to mention the Lovecraftian designs of H.R. Geiger.  However, fans of old Science Fiction from the 1950s may have noticed the striking similarity between Alien and another milestone of SF Cinema, It! The Terror from Beyond Space.  It is now common knowledge that Mr. O’Bannon was a huge fan of It! and wrote the screenplay with more than a passing nod to this classic film, just as Ridley Scott utilized many elements and situations in the making of Alien.  It never fails to surprise me how many people have not seen Alien so it comes as no surprise that It! The Terror from Beyond Space is also forgotten by the majority of film fans, despite it’s reputation as a classic of the genre.  Thank goodness Netflix has added it to their streaming list so I could write this nifty review and hopefully open more people up to one of the most influential films in Science Fiction history.

The year is 1973 and the first manned mission to Mars has occurred.  However, on arrival, the ship broke up, putting the lives of the crewmen in jeopardy.  A rescue ship is soon dispatched and when they arrive they find Lieutenant Carruthers (Marshall Thompson) the sole survivor of the mission.  When he is questioned, he tells a fabulous story of some “shape” that plucked his men out of a jeep one by one while they were exploring until Carruthers was the only one who made it back to the ruined spacecraft alive.  The captain of the rescue vessel, Van Heusen (Kim Spalding), is positive Carruthers murdered his crew to last longer marooned on Mars and is determined to get the truth out of him before their return to Earth.  The tension is heightened when Van’s paramour, Ann (Shirely Patterson) begins to fall for Carruthers and does not disbelieve his story.  To complicate matters further, the alien marauder sneaks aboard the ship and begins picking the crew off one by one.  This causes some concern as people start disappearing because they are in an enclosed ship with only so many levels in which to hide.  Where did the missing crew members go?

Much like in Alien, the air ducts provide the monster the means to move about and hide the bodies its created and it doesn’t take much time for the crew to determine it’s whereabouts.  The solution?  Wire grenades to the duct entrances and blow the creature up when it exits (let us not forget, we are aboard a space ship.  Grenades.  Space ship).  Problem solved.  Business goes on as usual until they hear explosions.  Upon examination, the monster is still healthy and the ship’s integrity has not been breached.  Something has to be done, but what?  Bullets have no effect (on the monster or the ship) .  Gas grenades are tried and they, too fail to kill the monster or ruin the limited oxygen supply.  A couple of these guys saw Thing from Another World (1951) so they sneak around the outside of the ship to set up an electricity trap on some stairs.  Not only does that fail to kill the monster (or any of the crewmembers that use them), it results in one of the crew trapped on the level the monster has claimed as it’s own!  Good thing he’s able to hold the creature at bay with a propane torch for several hours.  They even trick the monster into the room where the radiation core is and open it full-blast, irritating the monster to no end but somehow not harming any part of the ship or it’s occupants.  People keep dying and getting injured and the crew keeps moving further up the ship until there is no place to run and only one bulkhead stands between them and certain death.  Good thing they have a bazooka placed in front of their most important computer bank in case the monster breaks in, which of course it does with aplomb.  The bazooka also has no effect except angering the creature.  Good thing that computer bank wasn’t fried because Carruthers figures out the monster has a huge capacity for oxygen and they finally defeat it by opening an airlock and sucking all the oxygen out of the ship.  Tragically, Van Heusen bites the dust, leaving Ann and Carruthers to build a new relationship after the horrible events they witnessed.  The film ends with the statement that maybe Mars is best left alone in our exploration of the Solar System.

Sure, It! The Terror from Beyond Space is a little cheesy and we certainly didn’t know as much about space travel as we do now but the movie does not fail to build tension and provide a wonderful viewing experience.  Though low budget, the settings are claustrophobic and the dark, creepy atmosphere is almost palpable, enhanced by the black and white film.  The monster, much like in Alien, is not seen much until the end, heightening the suspense and the acting from the principal cast is serviceable, getting you into the characters and building concern for their fate.  The romance sub-plot is a little trite but, again, for a low-budget quicky, this film brings the entertainment in spades.  As seen above, there are some terribly stupid things that occur but it doesn’t lessen the enjoyment value of the film; the instances seem to elicit the requisite chuckles but does not remove you from the events occurring on screen – something most modern movies fail at completely – and carries you along through it’s surprisingly short 69 minute run time.

It! The Terror from Beyond Space is one of the best of the classic 1950s Science Fiction films and hugely influential, being remade as Alien and influencing even more films through this new version.  Not at all hampered by it’s inherent silliness, It! still holds up as a fun, creepy, atmospheric monster movie in space and is definitely worth the watch.  Running little more than an hour, it should fit in your watching schedule quite easily and is definitely better than most hour programs viewed on cable television.  Take advantage of It!  The Terror from Beyond Space’s availability.  You’ll be glad you did and you’ll also be seeing one of the most important and influential films ever made…and be massively entertained in the process.

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