Click here to return to the main site.

Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

It Came From Outer Space (1953)
(2020 Reissue)


Starring: Richard Carlson, Barbara Rush, Charles Drake, Russell Johnson, Joe Sawyer and Kathleen Hughes
Distributor: Fabulous Films Ltd / Fremantle Media Enterprises
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: PG
Release Date: 14 December 2020

Amateur astronomer John Putnam witnesses a comet pass over his remote desert home and strike the ground. Along with his fiancé Helen Fields and his friend George, he goes to investigate. Alone, he ventures into the crater where he finds a spacecraft. The hatch is open, offering a brief glimpse inside before it slams shut, causing a rock fall. The craft is completely buried so that neither of his companions believe his revelation. Undeterred, John informs the sheriff. Word soon spreads and news crews show up at the site. However, no one wants to spend the time or money removing the tonnes of rock. When John has a later run-in with the craft’s occupant he is told the buried ship is being repaired, and that it will be leaving soon. But to aid the work required on the damaged craft the alien occupant copies some of the local inhabitants, including John’s friend George, telephone engineer Frank (who looks every bit the cold, alien-possessed automaton) and, later, Barbara herself...

I absolutely adore watching the 1950s and 1960s SF Monster B-Movies. They are so much fun. Just disengage your logic circuits and go along for the ride. This one from 1953, directed by Jack Arnold, finds it difficult to sustain itself over the running time. Arnold went on to make better movies, such as Creature From the Black Lagoon, and The Incredible Shrinking Man. What this film does have going for it is the phenomenal writing skills of the sadly missed Ray Bradbury. The screenplay is credited to Harry Essex, who wrote Creature From the Black Lagoon, but the truth of the matter is that the finished product incorporates the whole of Bradbury’s script and the dialogue as written. In fact, he had put forward two proposals for the alien – one wherein it is malicious and the other benign – and was pleased when the latter option was chosen. This decision ultimately influenced Steven Spielberg when he made Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

There is an uncredited music soundtrack by Irving Gertz, Herman Stein and in particular Henry Mancini, the winner of four Academy Awards, a Golden Globe, twenty Grammy Awards, and a Posthumous Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. As one of many ‘firsts’ in this film an electronic theremin is utilised for the weird moments. And talking of awards, the actors are pretty solid in their roles (you have to remember this is 1953 and attitudes were different). Ironically, my instinct is that Barbara Rush’s portrayal of Ellen is the weakest, and yet in 1954 she won a Golden Globe for most promising female newcomer for her role in the film. So, what do I know?

As in most low-budget films from this era, there are a couple of humorous moments. When John Putnam first encounters the spacecraft he hears what sounds like snoring. No wonder the ship crashed; the alien obviously fell asleep at the wheel. Sight of the creature in the desert scares the wildlife, including an owl who, bizarrely, does a backflip. John’s car obviously does good miles to the gallon, too, because he spends most of the film driving back and forth across the desert between his house or the town and the crash site or mine entrance. For me, the spookiest moment of the movie doesn’t involve the alien – which, let’s face it, is pretty basic and added as an afterthought – but when John comes across George and Frank, the first two men to be copied in a darkened doorway. In this version, they have actually left in the Intermission screenshot, too.

It is obvious that It Came From Outer Space was filmed for 3D cinema, as many of the shots not only have movement coming towards the camera, but incorporate mid-screen movement, with striking foreground and depth-of-view in the background. It was also the first of these films to have the alien’s perspective. It’s not a classic, but it is certainly worth a look. It has some of the most convincing dialogue of this genre. I have been asked if there is a dream sequence featuring John seeing the missing Helen as he remembered her, but I can confirm that there is only the appearance of the copied Helen who he follows to the mine entrance.

Extras include a Feature Commentary by Film Historian Tom Weaver; The Universe According to Universal: An Original Documentary on It Came From Outer Space (this is quite a basic featurette, which shows more clips of This Island Earth than ICFOS; Theatrical Trailers in 2D and 3D; and Poster Gallery.


Ty Power

Buy this item online