The 1950’s was a golden age for science fiction film making. The Second World War had brought the world to America just at the same time as science brought the cosmos to the world. A lot of seminal films (e.g., Invasion of the Body Snatchers & The Day the Earth Stood Still) mixed political paranoia with speculative fiction. Some films explored the nature of the enlarged cosmos and our place in a more existentially open frame of mind.
One of the movies that I loved as a kid was It! The Terror from Beyond Space. My childhood favorite movies don’t usually stand up so well, but this is an exception. I watched it again recently on Netflix. It is superb.
The film begins as the second expedition to Mars is about to blast off the red planet for earth. They carry one lone survivor from the first expedition, Col. Edward Carruthers (Marshall Thompson). Carruthers provides narration. Everyone on board the rescue ship believes that he killed some or all of his comrades on the first ship, in order to survive. He expects to return to earth to face a court martial. He claims that his comrades were slain by some terrible thing which he never saw in the Martian dust.
As the ship is preparing to take off, a cargo door is left open and an ominous shadow crosses the threshold. You guessed it. The alien menace is on board. In short order the monster reveals itself and the rest of the story is a struggle to kill It! before it kills them. The drama is solid and it’s hard not to care about the characters as they come to shape.
The screenplay, dialogue, and acting are all much better than one would have any right to expect. The space ship is standard needle shape, with a single door between the vertical compartments, offering something for the monster to beat his way through. We get frequent shops of it lumbering through space with eerie music punctuating these scenes. The monster is a body builder in a quazi-reptilian rubber costume, with big claws and alligator feet. What’s not to like!
I can’t praise this one enough. Don’t miss it.