From the DVD case: Roger Corman’s tale of a chainsaw-toothed, Veggie-Monster from Venus with the ability to control human minds. The hilarious, floppy carrot monster is probably Paul Blaisdell’s most outrageous monster and it had some stiff competition! Starring Peter Graves, Lee Van Cleef and Beverly Garland. (1956, b&w)
Mark says: It Conquered the World is rich with ideas, but is pure camp in its delivery. Director/Producer Roger Corman (The Wasp Woman, The Pit and the Pendulum) brings together many of his stock players to give us one of his most delightful quickies.
I don’t usually like to retell the story, but since the DVD description is not much of a plot synopsis, I thought I should elaborate:
Lee Van Cleef (known for his bad guy roles in spaghetti Westerns) plays Dr. Tom Anderson, an eccentric scientist who assists a creature from a dying Venusian race travel to Earth. He believes this intellectually superior race (there are only nine of them left on Venus) will help mankind overcome its societal ills by wiping out emotions and delivering us to a system based on cold logic.
The creature brings with it eight bat-like flying animals that implant mind-controlling devices into their victims’ necks (the bat-creatures die after implanting their antennae). Tom himself supplies the Venusian monster with key local figures that will most “benefit” from these control devices. His long-time friend and fellow scientist, Dr. Paul Anderson, is included on the list.
Tom communicates with the monster (which holes up in a hot springs area of a nearby cavern) via a radio apparatus. Only Tom can hear the voice of the Venusian, making his grip on reality seem questionable.
Tom’s wife, Claire, played by Beverly Garland (Twice-Told Tales, The Alligator People) oscillates from being enraged with Tom, to pleading with him lovingly. Claire is frustrated with Tom’s loyalty to the alien invader. She is also not too fond of the idea of living in a world “without emotion.”
Peter Graves (Beginning of the End, Killers from Space) is Dr. Paul Nelson. Paul and Tom, though never in complete agreement, have an obvious respect for one another. Paul initially dismisses Tom’s story of a Venusian visitor as fantasy. However, when odd things start happening, he gradually accepts Tom’s claim. But he will not accept the idea that aliens can “save the human race.” He views the Venusian as a deadly enemy and spends much of the film trying to convince Tom of the grave reality of the situation.
The performances by Van Cleef, Garland, and Graves are strong and sincere, but that doesn’t mean the film isn’t chock-full of laughable moments. The dialog is astoundingly bizarre and awkward, which gives the serious performances a comedic feel. Garland’s line, “I’ll see you in hell!” as she blows holes in the monster is a guaranteed giggle.
It’s usually the Venusian creature that gets the most laughs, though (see image above, with Beverly Garland). As cheap as it obviously is, the monster gets a lot of screen time, and not just in shadows, either. We actually see the rubber beast in full daylight; its “claws” flopping around like partially inflated balloons.
The bat-like controlling devices are of higher quality. They look cheap in close-ups, but are more impressive while in flight. There is a scene after Paul’s wife, Joan (Sally Fraser) has been “controlled” where one of the creatures is particularly effective. With an eerie, cheerful countenance, Joan tosses the “bat” into the air. The thing then flaps around the room in a creepy fashion attempting to make Paul “one of them.” This is a genuinely disquieting segment.
It Conquered The World features several concepts that remind me of ideas from other films. For example, when the monster first arrives, it shuts down all electricity, reminiscent of The Day the Earth Stood Still. The controlling devices planted in the victims’ necks remind me of similar devices used in Invaders from Mars, and the concept of a “world without emotion” resembles the plot from Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Still, It Conquered the World is a very unusual film, and deserves a niche of its own. (It certainly does not compare to the other films in terms of production value or quality.)
As for other cast members: Russ Bender (The Amazing Colossal Man, I Bury the Living) plays General Pattick (one of the worst performances I have ever seen); Dick Miller is Sgt. Neil (a Corman regular, but you may also recognize him as the bookstore owner in The Howling); Jonathan Haze (Day the World Ended, The Little Shop of Horrors) plays comedy relief as Pvt. Manuel Ortiz; Taggart Casey (The Navy vs. the Night Monsters) is Sheriff Shallert, and Charles Griffith (Attack of the Crab Monsters) plays Dr. Pete Shelton.
The quick pace, the kitschy monster, and the strong lead roles make It Conquered the World a thoroughly enjoyable film.
I think you’ll like it, too.
Scene to watch for: Dr. Nelson (Peter Graves) deals harshly with his treacherous wife (Sally Fraser).
Line to listen for: “For a few dollars you can hire a woman who’ll fulfill all your fetishes. She’ll match your requirements perfectly. And when you get tired of her you can run down to the employment agency and hire another!”
Mark’s Rating: ! ! ! ½ out of 5.