It! The Terror from Beyond Space-attachment0

It! The Terror from Beyond Space

Movie Information

In Brief: Though it's pretty indefensible as objectively good in any normal sense, It! The Terror from Beyond Space is a towering classic of 1950s sci-fi horror cheese. It's more fun, more memorable and certainly more influential than the handful of big-budget sci-fi movies of the era. After all, none of its pricier brethren can lay claim to being the template for Alien (1979). And, yes, it's pretty much the same story — told in comic-bookish terms. You have a seemingly unstoppable monster stowing away on a space ship and making meals out of the humans onboard. It's less sophisticated, yes, but it caused its share of nightmares in youthful viewers.
Score:

Genre: Sci-Fi Horror
Director: Edward L. Cahn (The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake)
Starring: Marshall Thompson, Shirley Patterson, Kim Spalding, Ann Doran, Dabbs Greer, Ray Corrigan
Rated: NR

Director Edward L. Cahn entered the film industry in 1931 as a novice director at Universal. His second film, Law and Order (1932), is considered a classic western. Maybe it was accidentally good (most of his early filmography is hard to find). By 1935, Cahn was toiling on Poverty Row and soon found himself knocking out undistinguished short films — a lot of them. Basically, he seems to have turned into an adequate director who never said no to a script. Today, we mostly remember him for the low-rent sci-fi and horror pictures he produced in the 1950s. Of these, It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958) is probably the best — in a relative sense. This tale of a hokey but nasty-looking monster (stunt man, sometimes cowboy star and professional gorilla impersonator Ray “Crash” Corrigan in a rubber suit) laying waste to the crew of a spaceship was a staple viewing experience for anyone who grew up in the 1960s and even part of the ‘70s. It’s very much of an era where space travel looked a lot more exciting and glamorous than the reality turned out to be — even if the spaceship in this instance is launched with a Gra-Lab darkroom timer (barely accurate enough to develop a photo). The film is really mostly a monster-running-amuck affair. The monster (who appears to drain all your blood) has stowed away on a ship is on its way to Mars to rescue — or more correctly arrest for murder — the only survivor (Marshall Thompson) of the first manned mission to the red planet. Of course, it was the monster itself that killed everybody — and now he’s out to chow down on the rescue crew. The question is whether or not they can stop the marauding creature.

What is most remarkable about the film today is how very much it resembles Alien — or, more correctly, how much Alien resembles It. I remember thinking in 1979 as I watched Alien that the film was nothing but this movie with a budget — and when the space travelers in Alien tried to rid themselves of their monster by opening the ship to empty it of oxygen, it was pretty obvious that this was not coincidental, even if Alien offered no credit to the old movie. Sure, Alien is slicker, better made and has a much more daunting monster, but that doesn’t change the fact that old Edward L. Cahn’s unassuming B-picture got there first.

The Thursday Horror Picture Show will screen It! The Terror from Beyond Space Thursday, April 4 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge of The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

6 thoughts on “It! The Terror from Beyond Space

  1. Dionysis

    This is one of my favorites, having seen it many times. I read in some sci-fi history book that Marshall Thompson (who was in several other memoriable old sci-fi films of that era) and Shirley Paterson (a/k/a ‘Shawn Smith’) did not get along at all during production.

  2. DrSerizawa

    Ha! I remember my sophomore (high school) english teacher actually recommending this movie. Of course that was in 1962. He said, “It wasn’t too bad.” So my older brother and I were able to prevail upon my parents to let us watch it that evening. It was on the Million Dollar Movie and ran every evening at 7PM for a week IIRC. It compared pretty well to a lot of those 50s flicks and graces my current B collection. It’s also available on instant play on Netflix.

  3. Ken Hanke

    Great snakes, Doctor, you’re older’n I am. I’m thinking back on it and I’m pretty sure I first saw it because my father was watching it on one of those countless Saturday afternoon sci-fi/horror “theaters” that were a TV staple of the 60s.

  4. Dionysis

    Re-watching that movie several years ago prompted interest in learning more about the make-up and special effects makers, which led me to a really interesting biography of the talented Paul Blaisdell, who created so many early sci-fi creatures using virtually no money but lots of creativity. Very talented fellow.

  5. Ken Hanke

    Well, he certainly had great imagination on some pretty threadbare budgets.

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