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DVD 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: £9.99
Certificate: PG
Release Date: 14 December 2020

One of the four or five classic sci-fi films of the 1950s, It Came From Outer Space, released in 3D, was penned by the poet laureate of fantasy and sci-fi, Ray Bradbury. Harry Essex is the credited screenwriter to whom Universal gave nominal credit due to Writer’s Guild technicalities (scene, character, dialogue and narrative) but Bradbury’s precis, notes and outline were treated with hallowed respect. The Bradbury electrum is impossible to miss. Poetry of dialogue achieves blank verse stratospheric altitude. This is the best writing you will ever find in any sci-fi film.

The black and white image by Clifford Stine is industrial cinematography at its finest. Mojave Desert locations are delivered with tone and shadow worthy of Ansel Adams. The studio soundtrack composers and orchestrators are headed by Irving Gertz, Herman Stein and no less than a young Henry Mancini. Essence of cool.

Dramatic talent is top of the player’s pyramid with Richard Carlson lending veracity and sincerity as he did in most of his career. It is Barbara Rush, though, who steals the show. As Dr. John Putnam’s fiancé, Ellen Fields, she is the reactor and responder we care about most. Rush only did one other sci-fi film, When Worlds Collide (1951) but these two forays make her the doyenne of '50s sci-fi, head and shoulders above Faith Domergue and Julie Adams.

Putnam and Ellen are at his remote desert cabin with the scientist’s large tripod hogleg of a telescope. As Putnam pans the telescope at us from his side of the screen, its 3D presence threatens to brush our faces. The effect was a harbinger of what was to come. Even in 2D, the film leaps at us with crash-landing UFOs, rockslides and, best of all, zeno-morphs creeping out at us from thin air.

An alien craft skid lands into the desert. Putnam and Ellen hurry to it. Putnam can see a bit of the vessel and through an open hatch, a being that overwhelms his imagination. The aliens are friendly but grotesque in appearance, just needing time to repair their ship. Putnam is labelled a kook but his quest to make contact with them is complicated by their ability to transmogrify human likeness. Paranoia rises.

But here Dear Reader is where your loyal reviewer gets off the bus. When Barbara Rush’s Ellen is “globbed” by the aliens, her likeness assumed - a terrible thing happens with this DVD presentation from Fabulous Films. Carlson seeks Rush in a lonely, real desert location. In the Blu-ray (running time: 80”) he sees her (I hope, anyway) as a Geist in an evening gown. As he approaches her, she disappears over a rough Mojave berm. In the DVD cut version, this whole sequence is missing, its dialogue and raison d’etre . The cut lopping it out is done with the sensitivity of a meat cleaver (at 53:09) I haven’t seen the Fabulous Films “uncut” Blu-ray version so I’m assuming, hoping, this sequence is still in the film. It is the most striking image in the entire movie and deals with the aliens’ wish for Putnam (whom they love the most) to see Ellen’s Geist (whom he loves the most) in in the most attractive memories he has of her. Yes, it is sexist and yes it is stereotypically grating to feminist sensibilities. But no less than a Vanity Fair fashion shoot. It is also a wormhole into Putnam’s mind which he must discard if he’s ever going to find the real Ellen again. In moments, he trails crypto-Ellen into a mineshaft and she is still in the evening gown but their conversation lacks the haunt of before, settling for a monochromatic paranoia. The ability to read minds is blurred and lopped away for whatever reason the censor mentality felt was justified.

It’s a great film. Don’t buy this DVD edition though. Without that scene, the film lacks its artful core. I have hopes that the longer Blu-ray isn’t bolloxed by censor-think and the scene is included. And to those who don’t like this review, I plea to a higher court: “Then at a deadly pace It Came From Outer Space and this is how the message ran...” Don’t wank with my classics. I stand with Rocky. You can stand in the toilet room.


John Huff

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