IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE!
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A SIERRA NEVADA
(MICHAEL MADSEN & JOHN SAVAGE).
When IT! came out in 1958, IT! bore the rather disingenuous statement,
$50,000 Guaranteed By A World Renown Insurance Company To The First Person Who Can Prove "IT" Is Not On Mars Now!
Now despite the fallacious command of telling someone to prove a negative, this movie never-the-less managed to frighten at least one young boy. I'll get to that child in a moment, but first, what about the movie?
IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE, is actually a misnomer since the movie starts right off by telling us that IT! is from Mars. Which is hardly beyond space now is it?
IT! starts off with voice over exposition. Lots and lots of voice over exposition.
When the movie actually begins, its a trick. What we think is the movie beginning is some important Washington D.C. wonk telling a group of reporters, basically, the same thing that the voice over narrator just told us.
The Same Thing!
Finally, we get shot of the rescue spaceship on Mars, then a guy sitting at his microphone while someone else over the speakers tells him to shut the damn door to the space craft already.
They just Left the Door Open? On Mars?!?
That's right! IT!
But that's not all the extra cargo they are carrying. See, there was this crashed derelict ship on the planet. The astronaut's bosses also sent them to Mars to retrieve... I'm getting ahead of myself, and yet...
So the rocket takes off.
Wait a minute! There's no oxygen on Mars and they just Left The Door Open?!? How the hell did they not die?
Now you've gotta wonder: If they knew the crew couldn't survive for the three months it took to get a rescue ship there, why would they send a rescue ship?
If they were convinced that Carruthers killed his crew and he was signalling for rescue, why didn't they just leave him there? It's pretty obvious that Carruthers will go through a kangaroo court martial and be executed for murder. It's obvious because the captain of the rescue ship, Col. Van Heusen (Kim Spalding: THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL), doesn't mind rubbing that fact in Carruthers' face.
So what possible point was there in going after Carruthers in the first place?
Still, they let Carruthers have run of the ship because, after all, where is he gonna go?
I mean, if you honestly believe that this guy is a psycho who thinks nothing of killing his crew to save his ass; and everyone knows he is facing the death penalty anyway, why the hell would you let him have the "run of the ship"?
The crew is mixed with six men, two women, the prisoner, and the monster of course. No surprise there.
What is surprising are the women. Doctors Ann Anderson (Shirley Patterson: BATMAN , WORLD WITHOUT END, THE LAND UNKNOWN) and Mary Royce (Ann Doran: THE SHADOW , FLYING G-MEN, ELLERY QUEEN'S PENTHOUSE MYSTERY, THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS, FEAR IN THE NIGHT, ONCE YOU KISS A STRANGER, WEEKEND OF TERROR) seem to be there for no good reason other than they are also the ship's scientists (yet from the outset, this isn't an expedition). And not just scientists, but the ship medical doctors as well. They and the ship are even fully capable of doing autopsies.
And when the Ph.D's who are ALSO Medical doctors aren't busy being smarter than everybody else? They serve the men meals and clean up after them.
Well what the hell are the men there for?
The men are basically the pet cats of the ship.
So everybody thinks Carruthers killed off his crew. That is, until the very first crewman gets attacked by IT! Then their tune changes BUT quick!
The creature is hiding in the ship's lower decks.
Then IT captures IT's victims and drags them into the ventilation shaft without actually killing them.
What doesn't sound familiar is the fact that the spaceship is loaded to the KILLS with all manner of guns, grenades, even a bazooka for crying out loud. What the hell kind of a rescue mission was this? They don't believe there is life on Mars? This ship is fully loaded to have a land battle on a planet devoid of life. What the hell?
In case you haven't guessed it yet, this is the movie that inspired grown-up writer Dan O'Bannon to re-write the entire flick - the film that scared the hell out of him as a kid - and fix every problem he saw with it. In other words, Dan O'Bannon thought the concept was good, it was the execution that stunk.
Apparently he was right. With a better director and a better story, the movie ALIEN became the bar to which all other Science Fiction and Horror movies must aspire. And this - THIS - was the movie that inspired it!
Director Edward L. Cahn (CREATURE WITH THE ATOM BRAIN, THE SHE-CREATURE, THE ZOMBIES OF MORA TAU, INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN, CURSE OF THE FACELESS MAN, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST) was renown in his time for grinding out one feature film after the next. At the age of 61, he directed 10 feature films in one year (1960). At the age of 62, he directed 11 movies. Edward then directed two feature films in 1962 and promptly dropped dead. Clearly Eddie died doing what he loved: making cheesy Scifi movies that would be revered by nerds for decades to come.
Speaking of revered, Science Fiction writer, Jerome Bixby (CURSE OF THE FACELESS MAN, THE LOST MISSILE, FANTASTIC VOYAGE, TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE) wrote IT! and movies like this and he became revered more for his literature in books than his movies, though Trekkies have a soft spot for him.
One more mention must be made and that's IT! itself. IT! was played by actor Ray "Crash" Corrigan, whose career in creature features largely centered on him playing the uncredited creature. He had a 20 year career in monkey suits! -
See, Ray was a powerful athlete and could really deliver the one thing all of these movies needed, a scene where the gorilla or monster goes convincingly apeshit. Ray could bring the scary ferocious power such scenes required. Ray also had a long successful career in shit-kickers as Tucson Smith and playing himself: Ray "Crash" Corrigan. IT! was his last movie and wouldn't you know it? This is the one that had the pop-culture cinematic staying power!
IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE is good cheesy fun, but MAN is it ever bad. How bad is it? IT! is so bad IT! is GOOD!
I give it 3 Negative Shriekgirls