From the DVD case: Amateur astronomer John Putnam (Richard Carlson) and his fiancee Ellen Fields (Barbara Rush) are stargazing in the desert when a spaceship bursts from the sky and crashes to the ground. Just before a landslide buries the ship, a mysterious creature emerges and disappears into the darkness. Of course, when he tells his story to the sheriff (Charles Drake), John is branded a crackpot, but before long, strange things begin to happen, and the tide of disbelief turns. (1953, b&w)
Mark says: This is one of the first sci-fi films I remember seeing as a boy, and still one of my favorites. Richard Carlson (Creature from the Black Lagoon) and Barbara Rush (When Worlds Collide, Moon of the Wolf) are the quintessential 1950s sci-fi couple as Ellen Fields (the pretty school teacher) and John Putnam (the astronomer who is not afraid to state his beliefs).
One of the elements that endeared this movie to me as a child is the juxtaposition of John Putnam the “star gazer” against the simple-mindedness of the sheriff and the townsfolk. It is the classic battle of a man with imagination struggling with the comfortable perceptions of the populace.
John was not only a hero for convincing the aliens not to destroy the world when they thought the mob was going to apprehend them, but because he was a man open to strange and foreign ideas. When one of John’s colleagues accuses him of being “odd”, another colleague answers, “More than odd, Bob, individual and lonely, a man who thinks for himself.” It sounds corny today, but those were powerful words to a 10 year old boy staying up late to watch Creature Feature.
It Came from Outer Space has other things going for it, too. It’s based on a story by Ray Bradbury, who also wrote the screenplay, if you take stock in what film historian Tom Weaver says (the credit is given to Harry Esses). The desert motif is creepy, and new for the time, and the musical score was written by Henry Mancini (though it is probably the eerie sound of the theremin that you’ll most remember). The dialog is often hokey, but fun.
The aliens are the major drawback to this movie. They look like a cross between a big toe and a Mr. Potato Head. We also see far too much of them for too long. Forgivable, but this is still a thorn in the side of an otherwise great B-film.
Admittedly, this movie gets big points for nostalgia value. I would still recommend it to any sci-fi enthusiast. It was produced by William Alland and directed by Jack Arnold.
It Came from Outer Space was filmed in 3D, but this doesn’t detract significantly (if at all) from the DVD version.
Scene to watch for: In those days, even mild-mannered stargazers kept handguns in their glove compartments.
Line to listen for: “Putnam, you frighten ’em. And what frightens ’em, they’re against, one way or another.”
Special Note: I highly recommend getting the DVD version of this film which includes the commentary by film historian, Tom Weaver. Mr. Weaver takes his job seriously and packs a lot of information and stories into his narration.
Mark’s Rating: ! ! ! ! ½ out of 5.