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 (1958) 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 aboard. It's less sophisticated, yes, but it caused its share of nightmares in youthful viewers.
Genre: Sci-Fi Horror
Director: Edward L. Cahn (Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake)
Starring: Marshall Thompson, Shirley Patterson, Kim Spalding, Ann Doran, Dabbs Greer, Ray Corrigan
Rated: NR



Director Edward L. Cahn (AKA: “Fast Eddie”) 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), but it is a still striking work to this day. By 1935, Cahn was toiling on Poverty Row and soon found himself knocking out undistinguished short films — a lot of them — and earning the reputation for speed that spawned his sobriquet. 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 — done in a shadowy gothic manner that suggests “The Old Dark Spaceship.” 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 Alienresembles 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 “Fast Eddie” Cahn’s unassuming B-picture got there first.


About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. 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."

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8 thoughts on “It! The Terror from Beyond Space

  1. Chip Kaufmann

    I remember seeing this around 1960 on late night TV and being excited by the fact that 1973 (when the picture takes place) was a little over a decade away. The shot of the guy in the air duct (see above) genuinely scared me as did the verbal descriptions of what the monster did to people (ain’t imagination great!). The electronic score was also memorable and I kept hearing it for days afterwards. It was a true favorite. I remember checking TV Guide religiously to see when it would be on again. I’ll take IT! over ALIEN and its numerous sequels any day. I’d love to see what Ridley Scott or James Cameron could have done with one of “Fast Eddie”s budgets but then Cameron did start out with PIRANHA which is a lot more entertaining than some of his later movies which shall remain nameless.

    • Ken Hanke

      his later movies which shall remain nameless.

      The best way for them to remain.

  2. mtndancer

    I loved the fact that the women crew members were scientists, yet were still expected to serve coffee to the men.

  3. DrSerizawa

    Rumor has it that Crash Corrigan was drunk the entire time. My sophomore year english teacher of all people recommended ITTFBS to us saying that it wasn’t too bad. And he was right. I was 14 and it actually scared me pretty good and gave me a few nightmares. That’s more than I can say for Avatar. I own ITTFBS. I don’t own Avatar. Actually I own more Edward L. Cahn movies than Cameron or Ridley Scott. Not by design but I checked my movie database and that is the case.

    I also discovered that there are THREE more Avatar movies in the works. And three more Terminator movies. To quote Black Sabbath, “Oh no no please God help me.”

    Hmmm. The way Cameron is cranking out schlock now we might just nickname him “Fast Jimmy”.

    • Ken Hanke

      Since I own no Cameron or Scott movies, I can say the same without checking.

      My only Corrigan story is by way of my mother. During his cowboy star days he signed a photo for her at some event, inscribing it “To the prettiest brown eyes I’ve ever seen.”

  4. Chip Kaufmann

    The days of “Fast Eddie”s 30 camera setups a day are long gone and no matter how much high budget schlock he should manage to “crank out”, Cameron will never be “Fast” anything. God help us indeed.

    • Ken Hanke

      The fact that he will never be “Fast” anything is frankly comforting.

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