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It! The Terror From Beyond Space


Title: It! The Terror From Beyond Space
Year Of Release: 1958
Running Time: 69 minutes
DVD Released By: MGM Home Entertainment
Directed By: Edward L. Cahn
Writing Credits: Jerome Bixby

Starring: Marshall Thompson, Shawn Smith, Kim Spalding, Ann Doran, Dabbs Greer, Paul Langton, Robert Bice
Taglines:
1. It breathes, it hunts…It Kills!
2. IT!...Reaches through space!...Scoops up men and women!...Gorges on blood!
3. The revelation shocker of things to come!
Alternate Titles:
It! The Vampire from Beyond Space (1958)
The Terror from Beyond Space (1958).

Review Date: 12.12.04 (updated 1.1.10)

Shadow's Title: "Space Stowaways Can Kill"

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The Monster That Challenged the World / It! The Terror from Beyond Space (Midnite Movies Double Feature)

Characters
Colonel Edward Carruthers – He commanded the Challenge-141, the first spaceship to land on the planet Mars…well, if by land you mean crash. Unfortunately, the ship did indeed crash upon arrival and the crew were quickly killed by some unseen Martian lifeform, leaving only him.
Colonel Van Heusen – He commands the Challenge-142, the rescue ship sent to Mars. He is a total asshole. He doesn’t believe Carruthers’ story of a monster and is convinced that the other man murdered his own crew in order to make the supplies last longer.
Ann Anderson – I’m still not sure what function she served on the ship other than to serve coffee, clean up after dinner and fetch cigarettes for the men, though she may have been a geologist. Has a relationship with Van Heusen, but dumps him halfway through the film in favor of Carruthers.
Eric Royce – I’m not sure what his position is on the ship, but I think he was the executive officer. He certainly seemed to carry some authority and people often jumped to do what he said. Then again, maybe he just had the key to the liquor cabinet and no one wanted to be on his bad side.
Dr. Mary Royce – The chief medical officer on the Challenge-142. Hell, she seems to be the only medical officer. Don’t let the fact that she is a degree carrying doctor fool you. The male crew members still make her clean up dirty plates and serve coffee once dinner is over.
Lt. James Calder – This is the moron responsible for IT getting on board. It seems in a display of callous littering and blatant disregard for the local ecology, he left a hatch open after dumping some empty crates overboard. IT gained access to the ship through this opening.
Major John Purdue – I have no idea what this clown’s job was on the ship. He could have been security chief or weapons specialist or even the designated pilot for when all the others were hammered. Whatever his duties were, he actually contributed very little to the events in the film.
Bob Finelli – Here is another guy whose position on ship is never fully explained…or explained at all, for that matter. While he could have filled any number of technical positions, from his behavior during the movie we must conclude that it was his job to be the ships’ resident whiner and complainer.
Gino Finelli – Bob’s brother and the monster’s second victim, who gets the bitch-slap treatment off screen while everyone is looking for the missing Keinholz. He lingers behind to open a storage locker and retrieve some cigarettes. Along comes IT, which delivers the ultimate anti-smoking message.
Joe Keinholz – I’ll give you a single guess as to what this guy’s job was on the ship. That’s right! The movie never revealed that information! It didn't really matter anyway. He barely had any lines and was hardly in the film, just sticking around long enough to be the creature’s first victim.
It – Talk about illegal aliens! IT uses a (no doubt) patented attack to kill his victims – he bitch slaps them to death, pinwheeling his arms and laying the smack down on the poor bastards until all the bones in their bodies are broken and they are more pliable. Then it drains them of all fluids. Yech.
Government Spokseman - This guy only appears at the beginning of the film and then at the end, conducting press releases. I think these scenes were added after the fact to help pad out the running time a wee bit more. As it was the film is only 69 minutes long.

 

The Plot Hold your cursor over an image for a pop-up caption

Where exactly is BEYOND space? Do they sell Bed and Bath stuff there?The film opens with a thundering musical theme and a title that threatens to bust out of the screen and into our third spatial dimension. After the credits end, we get a view of the Martian surface. In the distance we see the wreckage of a crashed rocketship. A voice belonging to Colonel Edward Carruthers begins to narrate, relating how the ship he commanded cracked up on landing six months previously and how he is now the only survivor from that doomed expedition, the crew encountering some strange force on the Red planet they came to know only as death. The camera slowly pans over the landscape and a second rocketship is revealed, albeit intact and standing erect. Carruthers says that he will now be going back to face his superiors on Earth and possibly another kind of death.

Now we see the capitol building in Washington D.C., which quickly fades to a door marked, “Science advisory committee. Division of interplanetary exploration.” No doubt down the hall are the offices for the divisions on Radiation-Enlarged Insects and Lizards, Temporal Exploration (time travel), Subatomic Exploration (shrinking people to wee size), Alien Incursions, Killer Robots and Spam. After all, does anyone really know where Spam comes from or from what it is made?

Inside this room a government official is conducting a press conference and releasing information on events that have transpired on Mars. He talks about how the first ship commanded by Colonel Carruthers, the Challenge-141 arrived on Mars six months ago and how radio contact was instantly lost. He then explains how a second ship, the Challenge-142, was dispatched two months ago and that this vessel has arrived on Mars and found the crashed remnants of the first one. Carruthers has been found alive on Mars, but is the only survivor from the initial expedition. The second ship is ready to return to Earth and is bringing Carruthers back for a court martial, where he will face trail for the murders of the rest of the first ship’s crew. On hearing this, all the reporters in the room instantly jump out of their seats and rush for the door as if they just got news that Godzilla was one block away. I’m guessing that they are all scrambling to make their deadlines and not that their laxatives just kicked it into high gear.

What is with the goofy names these people choose for their ships? Thousands of years of Human history, an untold number of words in thousands of langauges and all they can come up with is the Challenge-141 and the Challenge-142? The “Challenge” part is ok I guess…for one of the ships. The second ship should have had a different name. But why the numbers? Is the entire exploratory fleet gonna go by that designation, albeit with a different numeral suffix? The Challenge-143, Challenge-144, Challenge-145 and so forth? How boring! How about cool names like The Defiant or The Invincible? Better yet, name them after famous explorers, like Magellan or Columbus. Hell, even names like Star Thruster, Spatial Prober or Uranus Explorer would be better. Juvenile, but still better than a name that reads like a cheap pharmaceutical product designed to combat explosive diarrhea.

Back on Mars, we see the Challenge-142 and get another voiceover from Carruthers. He relates now that the rescue ship is now ready to embark on its return trip to Earth. He will spend the next four months with a group of strangers whose sole purpose now is to make sure that he faces a firing squad for his perceived crimes. That ought to make for a happy voyage!

Just how long is the trip between Earth and Mars? According to that government official at the press conference, it took the second ship two months to reach Mars. Later, Colonel Carruthers mentions the prospect of spending four months with strangers on the return voyage. So which one is it? Two months or four months? Was this disparity due to the constantly changing distances between Earth and Mars, created by their differing orbits around the sun? Or was the second ship under orders to take their time and drag their asses back home? Perhaps they took a shortcut on their way to Mars…through a wormhole or something. Either that or they were anticipating a few wrong turns on the return trip.

Before we go any further, there is something that I just realized. This guy just spent six months alone on Mars. The view we got of his ship would make it seem like it was pretty much in complete ruin. Since the ship was designed like a building with the point of the rocket at the top, and it was now on its side in pieces, we can conclude that Carruthers was unable to utilize any of the systems on board. He might have been able to salvage various pieces of equipment and construct a crude shelter out of the wreckage, but he surely wasn’t able to use things like the shower or toilet. This guy must have just reeked! I doubt the washing machine worked either, so his clothes must have been so encrusted with dirt and who knows what else that they probably could stand erect on their own. No doubt Van Heusen’s crew sprayed Carruthers with a hose for at least an hour before allowing his smelly ass on board.

No mask on!That's quite the pigeon toe walk on that alien.Just moments before lift-off, Colonel Van Heusen is sitting at his control station and notices that an emergency airlock in C compartment has been left open. When he inquires about it over the intercom, Lt. Calder explains that he must have left it open after dumping some empty crates overboard. HOLD THE FREAKIN’ PHONE!!! You mean to tell me that this bunch of idiots traveled all the way to Mars just to litter?? They left Earth with no better way to dispose of their trash than just chucking it out the airlock? No wonder the Martian Monster was so pissed! He is just getting back at these interplanetary litterbugs. Nevermind “Don’t Mess With Texas” – don’t mess with Mars!! So, the open hatch is closed remotely, but as it slides shut, an ominous shadow moving about nearby alerts us to the fact that something has managed to get aboard while it was open. We hear a few growls and even get a close up of IT’s feet as it moves about. I gotta say, this guy needs some serious corrective footwear. Talk about a slewfoot! If his feet turn any further in when he walks, his toenails are gonna meet. What is even more hilarious is that the shadow we see on the wall seems to be made by the actor in the monster suit, but not the monster mask. His facial features seem pretty clear in silhouette.

Elsewhere, Van Heusen calls for a name check, and several crewmembers check in via their HAM radios…er…their intercoms. The funny part is, everyone but two crew members are shown checking in. Where the other two guys not important enough for the film to show? Then Van Heusen begins the launch countdown at ten, while strapped into what appears to be a lawn chair! Where was the budget blown for this ship? No trash recycling systems and cheap chairs! The contractor must have spent it somewhere, but it obviously wasn’t on this ship! The countdown continues and when the end is reached, the rocket lifts off from the Martian surface in a display of sparkler fireworks.

Once in space and safely on the way home, we see Carruthers looking at a monitor as Mars recedes into the distance, reflecting on what transpired there and what he is leaving behind. Van Heusen (who will henceforth be referred to simply as Van – some of the characters did it, why not me) arrives and begins acting like an asshole, ridiculing Carruther’s story of a monster that killed his crew. He tells Carruthers (seemingly with great delight) that they have enough evidence to put him in front of a firing squad. Carruthers asks Van if he really believes he is capable of murdering his closest friends. Van replies by saying that it seems logical and that the supplies would have lasted him ten times as long as they would have for the whole crew. Carruthers sticks to his story. Van says he has something he wants to show him. They head up one level and Van shows him a human skull they found on the surface of Mars. Dental records revealed it to be a Frank Kenner, one of Carruther’s crew. The skull has an obvious bullet hole in it and Van says, “There’s only one kind of a monster that uses bullets,” the implication being that Carruthers was the one who shot and killed Kenner. There is an ominous musical cue. Carruthers walks away and the film fades out.

Sometime later the crew is cleaning up after a meal. Correction: the women are cleaning up after a meal. Yes, in this futuristic year of 1973, women – despite being doctors and presumably vital members of the crew – are still assigned the laborious task of cleaning up after meals and making sure all the lazy, fat-ass males have fresh, hot coffee in their cups and are supplied with cigarettes. I wonder if these guys made them cook the meal as well. This bit is an amusing look at 50’s culture and gender attitudes, especially given the fact that the ladies are smiling while performing these duties. After all, in the 50s, women were supposed to like all that domestic-household-serve-the-men crap and this scene just re-enforces that antiquated mindset. I can only imagine that a lot of chauvinistic males met untimely deaths from poisoning during those years, or at the very least, had their meals accented with Ex-lax.

So this group has finished a meal and are relaxing. Keinholz and the Finelli brothers are discussing what they plan on doing once they return to Earth. Have you ever seen a horror film where people who make future plans actually live to realize them? I didn’t think so. Keep that in mind for future reference as the film unfolds. The usual light banter is exchanged before the topic of Colonel Carruthers and his monster comes up. Royce (the other Royce will always be referred to as Doctor Royce for purposes of this review) says that he doesn’t disbelieve or believe the story. He just knows that Carruthers believes it. Along about that time Carruthers arrives and is greeted with a smart-ass comment from Van. He gets some coffee from Ann and retreats back up one level. Van then states that before they reach Earth, he will have Carruthers’ confession on tape. What is he going to do, beat it out of him? Or maybe he’ll threaten to lock him in the brig and play Yanni albums nonstop? I think I’d rather get an ice pick in the eye.

Some more time passes and Ann brings Carruthers a plate of food. They talk about the planet Mars briefly and she says that she wants to believe him. She admits that she has only heard the story of what happened to the crew of the Challenge-141 from Van and would like to hear it straight from Carruthers. He goes on to relate the sequence of events. He and the rest of the crew were all outside the crashed ship, exploring the countryside in a jeep when a sandstorm hit. They headed back towards the ship and were almost there when a crewman named Cartwright just vanished – pulled out of the jeep so quickly that no one saw what did it. A weird sound was heard and movement was seen in the sand, so the they started shooting at it (Were these guys morons or what? What if Cartwright had just fallen out and was trying to pick himself back up and run to catch the jeep? These dorks would have ended up shooting him! Way to just start shooting at the first thing that moves, you morons. But as we’ll see, the entire fleet seems comprised of such individuals). Within moments all the other crewmen had disappeared into the sandstorm, Carruthers being the only one to make it back to the ship. He searched all over once the storm ended but never found any trace of the missing people. Ann then asks how can he explain the bullet hole in Kenner’s skull. He theorizes that during the confusion, when everyone was shooting blindly into the sand, Kenner took a hit and was killed unknowingly. He adds that maybe the one who got the bullet was lucky. He knows that Ann does not believe him and she tries to insist that she doesn’t disbelieve.

"Liquid viagra? I think I’ll be keeping this one."About now, Van descends the stairs from the upper level and approaches Ann. “Carruthers still talking about his monsters?” he asks. She gets on his case for baiting Carruthers and for not using his authority very well. In other words, he’s being an asshole. He admits that he thinks Carruthers is guilty and unstable, and intends to “crack” him before they reach home. Did I mention that this guy is an asshole? She tells him that he owes it to Carruthers to treat him like a fellow officer and not an animal, and that it is not his place to decide whether he is guilty or not. She goes to leave, but he becomes apologetic. It’s obvious from this brief scene that these two have either been dancing the horizontal mambo or are planning on doing it at some point down the line.

More time passes. By the way, the passage of time is always represented by an exterior shot of the ship as it travels through space, from the bottom of the screen towards the top. One would assume that everything we have witnessed so far has occurred on the first “day” of their return voyage and that now it is getting late, with people having turned in or preparing to do so. Royce and Carruthers are playing chess while Van looks on, smoking a cigarette. Calder is nearby scribbling in a notebook – probably “I won’t leave outer hatches open before lift-off” a hundred times, enforced by Van for his lamebrain mistake.

Elsewhere, Keinholz is sitting alone at a desk, looking bored beyond belief and reading something that looks like blueprints or something. He hears a sound but dismisses it. A cutaway scene shows a monstrous three-digit hand moving boxes around, making more noise. Keinholz cannot dismiss that sound, so he goes to investigate. He descends one level to what seems to be the dining area. He flips the light on and takes a look around but there is nothing to be seen. So he descends another level, which takes him to where the crew quarters are located. This also happens to be where Carruthers, Van, Royce and Calder are at. Now this just begs the question – if Keinholz heard the monster banging around from two levels up, what can’t these guys hear it? Are they that deaf? A roar can be heard from even further below, so Keinholz descends yet another level. This area is full of cargo containers and drums – none of which seem to be secured in any fashion; god knows what would happen to it if say… the ships hits some turbulence during atmospheric re-entry. Another close up of slewfoot tells us that IT is nearby. Keinholz walks through a doorway and just as his shadow passes from view, we hear a monstrous roar followed by a terrified scream. Keinholz it seems, has bumped into the monster. Next we see the attack via shadows on a wall. The monster lifts Keinholz over his head and brings him smashing to the floor, where he proceeds to pelt the unfortunate crewmen with a barrage of blows…or in this case, cartwheeling its arms and bitch-slapping the guy to death.

Above, Carruthers has heard the commotion and wonders what is going on. No one else seems to have heard anything, however. He comes out into the main room of the quarters level and looks around. He calls for Keinholz, who is supposed to be stationed above on the command deck. Even though Keinholz was seen descending two levels from the command deck to the quarters level, Carruthers now only ascends one level to spy an empty command center. He continues to call out the other man’s name, but is getting no reply.

Van gets annoyed, thinking Carruthers is hearing things and fearful he may wake up those who are sleeping. If anyone is asleep, they must be drugged because I can’t see how anyone could snooze through the racket Keinholz made when he got slapped to death. Van says that Keinholz has probably just turned in, but an examination of his quarters by Carruthers reveals it to be empty. Carruthers continues to call for the missing crewman while Van is getting more and more irritated. Carruthers finally gets on the intercom to page Keinholz but no response is forthcoming. By now, everyone is awake and wondering what the hell is going on. Royce takes a turn at the intercom and calls Keinholz. No response. He jokingly adds that he will make Keinholz walk home if this is one of the other guy’s idea of humor. When no replies from Keinholz are received, Royce tells everyone to search the ship.

We see the Finelli brothers searching a storage compartment of some kind, but still no sign of Keinholz can be found. They go to leave, but Gino hangs back to open a storage locker and retrieve a cigarette. He has one of those big grins on his face, like he is the cat about to eat the golden canary (which makes me question just what is in those smokes), but before he can light up, a shadow on the wall and yet another look at some slewfeet tells us that IT is just feet away. Gino looks up as he hears a growl and his happy face turns to one of “oh, crap. I just shit my pants,” before the scene ends.

After a transition wipe, we see some of the others searching a deck above. Bob comes up from below and tells them that there is no sign of Keinholz. Van is in disbelief as there just isn’t a place on the ship a man could hide. Carruthers asks where Gino is and Bob says that he was right behind him. He looks back down the ladder to the deck below and calls out to Gino, but all is silent below. He, Van and Carruthers all go back down where they find Gino’s unused cigarette on the floor, but no Gino. Now everyone is calling out for Gino in addition to Keinholz. Carruthers moves close to a grill set in the wall, under which is a sign that reads, “Air Generation and Moisture Recovery Section.” I think that’s big speak for “airduct.” He turns his back on the grill and rests against it, which causes an arm to fall into view. Sensing something is wrong, he turns and sees it. The other two rush over and they manage to get the grill off, at which point the body of Keinholz slides into view. Van gets on the intercom and calls everyone to that location.

Maybe it's MaybellineThey all come running and arrive as Keinholz is removed from the duct. Bob wonders if Gino is inside the duct, but Carruthers looks and sees nothing. Major Purdue, who hasn’t done a thing up until now, sees another duct entrance behind some crates and moves them out of the way. He volunteers to go in to look for Gino as he claims to know the layout. He crawls on in, but doesn’t see anything at first. Then he re-orients himself and sees Gino at the end of the passage. Gino is looking pretty bad, like he was in a fight with an Avon lady who applied her make-up samples to him. Purdue yells out that he found Gino and begins to crawl toward him. He shakes Gino, trying to rouse him but Gino just shakes his head limply. Then there is a shadowy movement nearby and IT arrives on the scene, no doubt pissed to find someone playing with his food. IT growls and claws at Purdue, who screams before pulling out a revolver and squeezing off a few shots. This makes the monster roar and outside in the storage room, Carruther’s face is one of dread – he knows that roar all too well, it seems.

Purdue comes barreling out of the duct and Carruthers sneaks a glance inside before he and Van replace the cover over the entrance. Bob, naturally has a fit, upset that his brother is being left behind. He is removed by Royce and Carruthers yells to the cowering women to run and get a head start. A head start for where? You’re on a spaceship, not the open plains of Iowa. Carruthers then spots a crate of grenades and suggests that they wire them up to the hatches, thus blowing IT up if it decides to leave the duct. Of course, this crate of grenades is not secured in any fashion and is just sitting haphazardly on top of another large container. If the first ship to Mars was so idiotically maintained no wonder it cracked up upon landing. The entire space corps are morons of the highest order! So Van, Carruthers and Calder wire up these grenades, then gather up Keinholz’s body (which seemed to magically aid them in picking itself off the floor) and retreat to one of the upper levels.

Next we see a table loaded with guns, rifles and ammunition. It looks like a NRA convention! It is at this point that I must point out the sheer stupidity of these people. They are on a spaceship, which is travelling through the vacuum of space. Rupturing the hull of the ship in any way would be extraordinarily bad. I’d imagine that great pains would be taken to minimize the chances that such an event ever took place. Yet these fools insist on firing projectile weapons within the confines of the ship. Not only that, but they have grenades ready to detonate below. Now, what kind of tests did these people have to pass in order to be selected for this mission? Cuz smarts don’t seem to be a requisite. Not once does any one of them stop to consider the chances that such an explosion might actually harm the bloody ship! No, they just fire away. Either these people are colossal idiots, or they are confident in the construction and engineering of the ship – but given the lawn chairs adorning the place, I would not exactly be willing to bet my life on the latter possibility.

So the men are taking stock of the weapons while the ladies apply the most idiotic looking bandage to Purdue’s head. Royce tries to console Bob by telling him there was nothing they could have done for Gino, but Bob is pissed that they didn’t even try to rescue his brother. Purdue is feeling down for being so close to Gino but not being able to help him. He wants Bob to hate him, but Bob has reserved his enmity for the monster. The ladies examine the body of Keinholz, and Dr. Royce notes that all the bones are broken and how the body seems shriveled. She intends to perform an autopsy as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Van is asking Carruthers if he knows what IT is. This must have just galled the guy to no end. Here he was all ready to break Carruthers and get a confession, and now he must admit that the other man was right all along. Carruthers doesn’t know what IT is, but Royce has a theory which he seems to pull straight out of his ass. He thinks that there was once a civilization on Mars and for whatever reason, that society collapsed and the inhabitants turned to barbarism in order to survive. All fine and dandy except for the fact that not once has anyone ever before mentioned finding ANY FREAKING SIGNS OF LIFE on Mars. I mean, come on! If you’re gonna send a couple of spaceships to a planet, the prudent thing to do is scope the place out before hand. I’m sure both vessels scanned the surface in detail before landing – and no signs of buildings, roads…hell, even a rock cabin was ever discovered. Now this turkey thinks there was once a civilization there. That may be true, but it would have had to existed eons ago for all traces of it to be eradicated. And I cannot believe that any descendents of that civilization, no matter how barbaric they become, would abandon every nuance of civility. I’m sure they would still use tools, erect some type of shelters and congregate together in some fashion – at least every once in a while, but to leave all of that behind? Nope.

Another thing, how could Carruthers have spent six months on Mars without ever having seen any life forms? After all his crewmates went missing, did he cower in the ship’s janitorial supply closet, only venturing out to grab a bite to eat and take a dump (and perhaps not even leaving for that)? Did the Martian or Martians that killed the others believe there were no more tasty Humans to dine upon? If so, why didn’t they take a closer look at the spaceship wreckage to be sure? At some point Carruthers should have seen or heard something. The only explanations are that any nearby Martians went for an extended hike after killing the others, or he hid like a chickenshit bastard for six months, refusing to budge whenever he thought he heard a sound.

Adding to all that, why did the second expedition spend so little time on Mars? Unlike the morons in the first ship, they were able to land without incident, so why not take a good, long look around? Why didn’t they find any signs of life? They don’t seem in any particular rush to get home, seeing as how it was going to take them twice as long to reach Earth as it did to arrive at Mars, so why not settle down for a few months and begin a careful exploration of the countryside? Was their sole purpose in making the trip to retrieve any survivors and then bolt? What would they have done if they had discovered that everyone from the first ship had died? Shrugged their shoulders, mumbled, “oh well” and then hopped back aboard their own rocket and pushed off for Earth, all within five minutes of landing? Did they all have important dates and appointments to make back on Earth? Why the rush?!

Time passes and the gang are pacing up and down, waiting for IT to leave the ducts and trip the grenade trap. Royce wonders how IT could have gotten aboard. Van wonders as to why IT is on the ship, curious as to why IT would want on board if IT only meant to kill them. Carruthers believes there is always a reason an intelligent creature kills. Ann asks him how he knows IT is intelligent and he replies by saying that IT managed to open the door to C compartment. You know…my dog once managed to roll down the automatic windows in my car. I guess by Carruther’s definition, my dog is a likely candidate for Mensa.

Another shot of the ship flying through space lets us know that even more time has elapsed. The crew is still pacing up and down, but now they hear the creature roar somewhere below. They all gather around the intercom and listen as IT busts through the grate covering the duct and sets off the grenades. All those grenades detonate and we are treated to an explosion that looks like it was made by a box of firecrackers. Above, the crew listens to the sounds of the explosion over the intercom. Despite this detonation occurring just a couple of levels below them, the ship doesn’t shake or vibrate in any fashion whatsoever. Maybe these dorks have reason to trust in the design of the ship. If thirteen grenades cannot even produce the slightest tremor, a few stray bullets aren’t gonna harm anything. Maybe.

So the monster sets off all the grenades, but they still hear it growling, so they know that the plan has failed. Without a word, they hoist their firearms, open the central stair hatch and head down to investigate further…well, all the guys do. The women stay up above, no doubt prepping coffee. The guys gather around the door to C compartment (funny how IT can’t get it open now) and open it up. A lot of smoke passes through the doorway, obscuring their vision. Calder, who is carrying the biggest gun, goes in first. Well, actually Van was in the lead, but when he couldn’t get the lights activated, he motions for Calder to go first. Chickenshit bastard. Calder barely gets through the door when IT lunges out of the smoke, grabs his rifle and bends it, Superman-style, over its head. Calder, Royce and Bob then run like hell up the stairs while Van and Carruthers fire their pistols at the beast. They retreat up the stairs, firing all the way, while IT tears the door to C compartment open wide enough to get through (yeah, tearing a door off the wall is a sure sign of intellectual development). Once safely up the stairs, the crew closes the central stair hatch.

"Don't let him in, his surpise birthday party isn't ready yet!"Later, Dr. Royce mentions some gas grenades that Gino had made up in anticipation of running into a dinosaur on Mars. She suggests using them against the monster. The grenades are promptly retrieved from the chemical cabinet and gas masks are quickly distributed. Well, the gas masks are distributed to Carruthers, Van, Royce, Bob and Calder. The two women and Purdue don’t get any and they watch the proceedings from the corner, where the three are huddled so close they are all almost in the same damn chair. You’d think that without gas masks, they would want to retreat up another level so they won’t be exposed to any lethal fumes, but I suppose cowering in the corner is safe enough in their minds. The central stair hatch is opened about a foot or so and IT can be seen wandering around at the bottom of the stairs. The men quickly start throwing the gas grenades down at it, which go POOF and fill the air with their poison. They exhaust their supply and close the hatch. They wait a few seconds for the gas to take effect and then open the hatch back up again. As it rises, smoke pours out and SURPRISE, a huge hand reaches out and swipes at Van. The monster grabs his leg and begins tearing at his boot. The hatch is quickly closed again and Van is hauled away. They wait a few more seconds and – you got it – open the hatch again. Are these clowns morons of the highest order or what? Lucky for them, IT has descended the stairs and is hauling Gino’s body around like a happy meal. They close the hatch and Calder says, “Bullets, grenades – nothing stops it. What do we do now?” I for one would suggest a method that would greatly lessen the chance of rupturing the damn hull.

Something just struck me...why is it that once the crew realizes that IT is loose on their ship, they all take to carrying pistols around with them…all of them except the women that is? Why weren’t they issued firearms with which to protect themselves? Don’t their lives matter? They were vital members of the crew after all! I mean, c’mon! Who the hell is gonna fix dinner, clean up the dirty plates and serve coffee and cigarettes if something happens to them? The men? Don’t make me laugh! We all know men can’t cook anything that doesn’t come in a can and their idea of cleaning up is based on the “out of sight, out of mind” approach. Perhaps the men were more concerned with the ladies’ poor marksmanship, afraid that more people would be killed by friendly fire rather than the rampaging monster. I think the simple truth is that after treating the women like servants, the men were afraid to let them have guns, as any one of them could have suddenly sprouted lead hemoroids.

They all retreat up another level (so now the monster is two levels below them). Dr. Royce emerges from the galley, where she has completed the autopsy on Keinholz. The galley!! You mean to tell me that this ship has no infirmary? Damn, I really don’t want to know what is on the menu for dinner! Anyway, Royce has discovered that “there is not a molecule of oxygen or a drop of water” left in his body. Blood, bone marrow, glandular secretions – everything, is gone. She theorizes that since there are no puncture marks on the body, that this was accomplished through some type of osmosis process. Keep in mind that the Human body is sixty to seventy percent water. Now, we got a pretty good view of the dead Keinholz earlier. Sure, his body was shriveled, but if all the moisture in his body had been removed, then would not he have looked more like a dried up prune, and been the size of a cabbage patch doll? Royce feels that this confirms his ideas on the life on Mars (suddenly this guy is an expert at exobiology). He pulls more mumbo jumbo out of nowhere about how the food chain on mars no doubt works.

While Keinholz is quite dead, Van Heusen hasn’t joined the cadaver club yet. His wound is infected and nothing Dr. Royce can do helps it any. Below, some banging and growling can be heard. They open the central hatch and peer down. IT is two levels below them, but they can see IT breaking through the center hatch on the level below them, which will grant IT access to the next level. They realize that if IT can get through the center hatches, they are royally SCREWED. IT must kill them or starve and they must kill IT or die. Like I said, screwed.

The same shot of the ship flying through space is used again to denote the passage of time. Van Heusen is in bad shape. The alien bacteria is doing a number on him and the drugs administered to counter it have no effect. Ann approaches Carruthers and tells him that he was right and they were all wrong. They hold hands and share a Kodak moment, but then Van sees them getting close and calls to Ann.

Royce pipes in about now with an idea he and Bob have worked out. Showing everyone a schematic of the ship, he proposes that two men exit through the control room airlock, located at the top most level, and then space walk down the side of the ship and re-enter through the airlock on the motor level – below the current location of the creature. This would enable them to surprise the monster, but they aren’t sure what to surprise it with. Carruthers says he’s been thinking and has an idea. By the way, the schematic shows that the ship is comprised of six levels, which from top to bottom are: the control level, quarters level, laboratory level, first storage level, second storage level and motor level. This is confusing, because earlier Keinholz descended one flight from the quarters level before getting killed, which would have put him on the laboratory level. When his body was found it was in the first storage level’s C compartment – one level down from the lab. Yet, now the creature is supposed to be on the second storage level…even further down? The interior of this ship is reminding me more and more of a TARDIS.

Next we see Ann helping Carruthers into a spacesuit. Nearby Calder is being helped into one as well. They all synchronize their watches so that when the two men reach the airlock on the motor level, the rest of the crew can make some noise to distract the monster from any sounds the two might make when entering. Ann places a helmet, which appears to be made from some type of vinyl material, over Carruthers’ head. Then she tucks the ends of it into the collar of his spacesuit! OMG. Do they really expect to survive the vacuum of space with helmets that just tuck in? Why are they so afraid of this monster, as it seems these dingbats are trying to get themselves killed with all the stupid things they do? Ann and Carruthers share another close moment and then he and Calder exit out the control room airlock. It is rather hard to notice unless the film is played at 2x speed or higher, but as the two men climb out of the airlock and position themselves on the hull of the ship, the background stars actually bob up and down!

Next comes a sequence that might test one’s ability to stay awake. The two men slowly make their way down the side of the ship, using magnetic boots to cling to the hull. Most of the time we see the two close up, with only the hull under their feet and the distant stars in the shot with them, but at one point we get a distance shot, which shows the entire ship moving through space with two small figures on its side. This particular shot is funny, because at one point, the tiny figures take several steps, but cover no ground – they’re just walking in place. Plus, they seem far to big in proportion to the width of the ship, especially considering how spacious we have seen the inside to be. The entire time this is taking place (and every other time in the film we see a shot of the ship moving through space) the background is filled with this soft, whistling-like sound. The combination of slow moving figures, no dialog and the hypnotic and eerie whistling sound, may induce sleepiness, so be careful.

Astronaut = 6 feet tall.  Therefore rocket = 25 feet in width, tops. Yet internal sets indicate a much larger interior.I have come to the conclusion that Time Lords from the planet Gallifrey did indeed build the Challenge-142. That is the only reasonable way to explain why the ship is bigger on the inside than the outside! The interior of the ship is plainly quite big. The central chambers on each level – the ones with the center hatches – seem to be twenty feet in diameter, at least. On some levels there are other rooms that lead off the central chamber: storage rooms, reactor rooms, crew cabins, the galley, etc. So each level should be much bigger than the central chambers. Now take a look at the screen cap at right. It is a close-up of Carruthers and Calder as they make their space walk. Notice how tall Carruthers is? We’ll call him six foot even, despite actor Marshall Thompson being taller still. Now look at how wide the ship is. About twenty-five feet tops!

So they reach the airlock on the motor level and the others above begin talking loud at the proper time, distracting the monster from what is occurring below it. The only real idiotic thing about this is the fact that the people talking are dead!! The conversation from the beginning of the film between Bob, Gino and Keinholz where they all discuss what they want to do when they return to Earth, can again be heard here. Was it going to cost too much money to actually record a new track with voices talking, that they had to recycle that one? Carruthers and Calder sneak out onto the motor level and in a scene reminiscent of The Thing From Another World, set an electrical trap on the stairs that lead to the upper level where IT is located. Another voiceover from Carruthers outlines this plan as the two start welding lines to the stairs with an acetylene torch.

The two then take cover behind some induction pumps and open the center hatch, which is noticed by the creature. It begins to descend the stairs and when it gets to the appropriate spot – ZAP. Naturally, it is not pleased and begins growling and dancing around a wee bit. It then descends the rest of the way and starts prowling around the motor level. Somebody makes a sound, as suddenly it rushes to where the two men are hiding. Carruthers is able to make it safely to the airlock, but Calder takes a blow to the head which tears his vinyl “helmet” and stumbles back, his foot getting caught and the fall breaking his leg. He fires up the acetylene torch and uses it to fend off the monster every time it gets to close to his hiding spot. He yells to Carruthers than he can’t make it and tells the Colonel to go and get help.

Next we see Carruthers getting out of his spacesuit, surrounded by the crew so we must assume that he made that long space walk up the side of the hull again. Bob has switched the intercom to pick up Calder’s suit radio and Royce calls him to check up on him. Calder is still alive but very much trapped where he is at, the monster trying to pull him from his hiding spot again and again. They tell him to hold on while they try and think of some way to help him. Royce voices his concern that the monster will damage some of the equipment on the motor level and thus inhibit their ability to maneuver the ship.

Another transition shot (yes the ship moving up the screen) and then we see Dr, Royce checking up on Van and Purdue. Close by, Ann is holding Carruther’s head up against her chest and is doing her own Florence Nightingale impersonation. The Colonel is sporting a nasty gash on his forehead and she is dabbing something on it with a Q-tip, all the while talking about her love life and how she and Van became an item. The Doctor approaches Royce and tells him that the alien bacteria is attacking the bone marrow, resulting in a leukemia-type condition. The drugs she has been using are working too slowly and she needs fresh blood to keep Van and Purdue alive – but there is no more on this level. They will need to descend to the cargo level and retrieve some more. Meanwhile, Van comes too but is obviously quite dazed and accuses Carruthers of leaving Calder behind without helping him. Calder overhears this on the intercom and tells everyone that Van Heusen is nuts and has it all wrong. What a way to talk about your commanding officer!

Royce is preparing to make a run for the blood and Bob decides that it his “turn” now to go. What is this, a ride? I suppose he feels the need to do something in helping kill the monster that murdered his brother. Carruthers decides to accompany them and suggests they take their boots off so they will make less noise when they descend the stairs. Dr. Royce gives them the inventory numbers and location to go to while Calder promises to keep them appraised of the creature’s movements via the intercom. A shadow on the wall tells us that IT is still dragging dead Gino around, and has wandered into the reactor room. After Calder reports this, it gives Carruthers an idea. He remotely closes the reactor room door and asks Calder what the monster does. When no odd behavior is reported, the three men make their descent in search of the blood supply.

Shadow puppets took a sinister turn when Joe failed to acknowledge Bob’s ducky, prompting Bob to get violent.They tiptoe down the stairs like parents hiding presents on Christmas morning. Bob descends even further to help Calder while Carruthers and Royce look for the blood. Bob makes his way to where Calder is hiding and begins to help him walk. Meanwhile, way up above, Van has awoken again and is trying to get up from his cot. The women try to restrain him but he yells and pushes past them. He has an idea – by unsealing the reactor, the radiation will kill the monster. He flips some controls while the ladies still try and talk sense into him. All of this is creating a very large noise, which gives reason for Carruthers and Royce to pause in their search. In the reactor room, the creature is banging on the door to get out (I though this idiot could open doors?!) when the reactor is unsealed and it gets a face full of radiation. The women call down to warn the men what has happened, inciting Carruthers and Royce to speed things up. Below, Bob and Calder are halfway to the stairs when IT starts banging down the door of the reactor room, trying to get out. Calder tells Bob to go ahead without him but Bob refuses to leave him. Finally, with IT about to come tearing through the door, Calder dives back into his hiding spot and Bob fires off his pistol at the beast. He then tries to run up the stairs, but IT is too fast. The monster reaches up and grabs him, pulling him down to the floor and bitch-slapping him to death. This is accomplished on screen by just re-playing the same shot when Keinholz was killed – the shadow of the monster throwing a body to the floor then pinwheeling its arms over the person. Calder fires up his acetylene torch again and yells out to the others that the monster has escaped. Royce and Carruthers haul ass back up the stairs with the blood, having to leave Bob behind. They get back to the laboratory level and then everyone heads on up to the topmost level – the control room.

Yet again we get another transition scene (you should know the drill by now). Everyone is huddled on the highest level. For some IDIOTIC reason, Carruthers is carrying a bazooka. A bazooka! Is he expecting a tank formation to arrive at any second? They pile some heavy instrumentation casings and crates over the hatch in the floor, hoping to keep IT from busting up through the opening, then…by all that is holy, we get ANOTHER transition scene. Another one! As if seven at this point in the film was not enough (I counted). Why not have one more? What the hell, it will only help pad the running time out, right? Sheesh!!

Purdue (still wearing that ridiculous bandage) is mumbling to Dr. Royce something about how down below he could have at lest died on a mattress. I think this is supposed to be him complaining about the fact that there is no place to relax on the control level and everyone is propped up uncomfortably against the instrument panels. I just hope no one accidentally bumps the self-destruct button. I wouldn’t put it past these turkeys. Nearby Ann and Van are talking and the ever more disconcerted Colonel is remarking on Ann is now “with” Carruthers and how it happened out of the blue. She tries to dismiss it and wants to talk about it later, but he insists that there may be no later considering how their situation is degenerating rapidly. She walks off to help Carruthers and Van continues to mutter to Dr. Royce.

 

Note - It is at this point that the movie enters its final segment, so if any of you really feel the need to watch this film and not know the ending ahead of time, skip the rest of this section.

 

So now another voiceover from Carruthers details their situation. They are at the topmost level of the ship and can go no higher. They wait to see if the beast will break through the center hatch. Either it dies or they die. No surrender, no retreat. The camera pans over the assembled crew and when we get to Carruthers, he is crouched on a raised section of the deck and pointing the bazooka at the center hatch! They contact Calder down below, who is still alive. He can see the monster still bumbling around on the motor level. Calder has figured out at last how the monster got on board. The monster must have followed them back to the ship, climbed one of the fins (what is he…Spider-Man?) and entered through the open hatch left open by Calder himself. Give the idiot a prize! About now IT has decided to find out where everyone else has gone. IT ascends the stairs to the first storage level and begins banging around. Calder warns Carruthers that IT is on its way up. The gang up top makes ready, turning the lights off and preparing for the last fight. Carruthers tells Calder to make his way to the airlock now that IT is no longer nearby and hide there. Then Carruthers picks up the bazooka again and aims it at the hatch.

While waiting, Carruthers happens to glance at a dial on a nearby instrument panel and notices that the oxygen consumption on the ship is far in excess of what it should be. He points this out to Royce and the two theorize that it is due to the monster. With the thin air on Mars it would need a gigantic lung capacity and has thus been hogging all the oxygen on the ship with its Darth Vader breathing style. Carruthers suggest letting all the air out of the ship to kill it. Royce agrees, saying they can build it back up for themselves later.

The Iraqi army’s training film on the safe and proper use of a bazooka.A mad rush is on now, everyone trying to get into his or her space suit. The monster tears his way up onto the laboratory level, doesn’t even hesitate and then heads up the latter to the top level. Oddly enough, as IT was tearing through the hatch, everyone was just starting to put their space suits on, but just a few seconds later when it has climbed through and ascended the next set of stairs, everyone is now fully clothed in said space suits. These guys can change clothes faster than superheroes! IT bangs on the hatch, causing all the boxes sitting atop it to topple over, then IT peels back the metal of the hatch like wrapping paper and pokes up through the opening like a jack-in-the-box. Everyone has their spacesuits on now, but Carruthers cannot reach the controls to release the air because the monster is in the way. He calls to Royce, who is now holding the bazooka, to drive it back down so he can make his way to the proper control panel. Royce fires the bazooka, but the rocket just bounces off the monster before bouncing around the floor some. No detonation at all! It must have been a dud. Carruthers is trying to reach the controls, but the monster is preventing him from getting too close. Van then jumps up, runs to the controls and hits the correct button. The airlock doors open and the air begins rushing out. The monster has grabbed Van and no doubt given him the squish treatment, as when next we see Van, he is stretched out on the floor.

The ship begins diving. Well, not really…but given that the emergency klaxon blaring away to warn everyone of decompression and air loss sounds just like the diving bell in some old WWII movie, and one can see why it seems like the ship is diving. Everyone hangs on for dear life. Papers start flying around the room, but very few actually get blown out the airlock. The monster growls, writhes around and finally stops moving as the last of the air is removed – all while still stuck partway through the hatch. Carruthers checks on both IT and Van, but both are still and quiet. I have to wonder how Van didn’t get blown out. Everyone was hanging on, but Van was out cold (or dead). It seems the monster is finally dead. Everyone seems relieved, and the camera zooms in on Ann and Carruthers as they hold hands before fading out…

…Into ANOTHER freakin’ shot of the ship flying through space (number nine)! This fades into the room in Washington D.C. that we saw at the very beginning of the film. The same government official is conducting another press release. He has more information to add to the story he gave to the reporters the previous evening. I guess this means the entire movie took place over the course of a single night. Who could have guessed with all those damn spaceship scene transitions? Anyway, government guy reads a message from the Challenge-142 received less than an hour ago:

“This is Eric Royce talking. Of the nineteen men and women who have set foot upon the planet Mars, six will return.”

Six? Let’s see…Carruthers, Ann, Royce, Dr. Royce, Purdue and…Calder, I suppose. Calder was hiding in the airlock on the motor level while Van Heusen got beat up by the monster and was laying there pretty still at the end, so I guess he was the one who died. The message continues:

And here I thought UA stood for Unequivocally Asinine“There is no longer a question of murder, but of an alien and elemental lifeforce. A planet so cruel, so hostile, that man may have to find it necessary to bypass it in his endeavor to explore and understand the universe.”

Well, at least Carruthers has been cleared, but Royce makes out like the planet Mars is so damn dangerous. Excuse me, but were not you guys all safe until you got back on the ship? The planet seemed pretty harmless. It is the native life that proved to be so deadly. Big difference. The message (and the movie) concludes:

“Another name for Mars…is death.”

Fade out.


The End.

Review

The cinematic fascination with outer space did not begin in the 1950’s, but it was certainly cemented during that time period. While the 1902 French film Le Voyage Dans La Lune or A Trip to the Moon is regarded as the medium’s first foray into science fiction, and the genre films that followed up to and including the releases of the 1940’s were more often than not based on classic literature as well as various myths and legends; it was the decade that followed that gave rise to science fiction films en masse that focused on outer space and life beyond our world. The cultural and societal influences on this trend can be traced to a multitude of sources including the 1947 Roswell incident, the new obsession with technology that arose after the close of the second World War and the mounting apprehensiveness over the cold war with the U.S.S.R. to name but a few. By the end the decade, this subgenre was showing signs of creative bankruptcy, with many films of generally poor quality unleashed on the public. This precipitated the changes to come in the turbulent 60’s and the gradual shift the genre saw towards more Earth bound terrors. It! The Terror From Beyond Space arrived on the seen during this glut of cheesy outer space “epics,” but stands above the rest – albeit just barely, in the entertaining department. As was commonly the case, the alien lifeforms in these films were violent and dangerous to Humanity. This film saw no need to buck the trend.

Today the film is generally remembered as one of the inspirations for Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), as the plots for the two films are quite similar. Indeed, cinematic folklore has it that representatives of It! sued the producers of Alien, claiming that its story was a plagiarization of this film. There are some who assert that the film borrowed some of its plot points from noted SF author A.E. van Vogt’s classic novel The Voyage of the Space Beagle. Of course one cannot dismiss the influence Mario Bava's Planet of the Vampires also had on Alien, but that is a story for another time.

The movie was directed by Edward L. Cahn, who today is regarded as something of a hack filmmaker that worked on many “B” and “C” grade genre films of the 50’s. Among his more notorious works were The Creature with the Atom Brain (1955), Zombies of Mora Tau (1957), Curse of the Faceless Man (1958), The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake (1959) and Invisible Invaders (1959), plus three films for American International Pictures: The She-Creature (1956), Voodoo Woman (1957) and Invasion of the Saucer-Men (1957). With a record like that, it comes as no surprise to learn that It! The Terror From Beyond Space is generally considered to be his best work. While working on his AIP films, he met Paul Blaisdell, who had provided the monster suits and FX for those movies on a shoe string budget. Cahn would recruit him to design the title monster for It!, promising a bigger budget with which to work. Blaisdell’s ultimate creation is considered to be his very best work and the make-up master originally planned to wear the suit himself for the film, but it was decided to have a larger actor play the part so as to instill the creature with more presence.

After watching this film for purposes of this page, and then writing every other section of the review up, I’m still not exactly sure of what to say in regards to this movie. Is it entertaining? Yes and no. “B” movie fans will have a field day here, as this thing is loaded with the cheezy goodness we al love, while the more mainstream audiences will most likely be put off by how silly the film is by modern standards. I’m sure in its day, the movie was considered quite good and riveting by the science fiction/horror community. Now however, there is just too much about it to safely call it a classic on the same level as projects like Forbidden Planet or The Thing From Another World.

The Storyline.
Structurally, this movie is most similar to the latter of the two aforementioned films, as it deals with a small group of people trapped in a confined space and struggling to prevail against a deadly organism from another planet bound and determined to make a snack of them all. Aside from the opening and closing segments set on Earth (which most people conclude were added in order to stretch out the film’s running time) the movie never leaves the crew of the Challenge-142. In hindsight, those extra scenes on Earth should have been left out. They don’t really add anything to the story and they ultimately ruin any claustrophobic feel that the remainder of the film might create by pulling the viewer away from those isolated events in such a small environment. When it is concentrating on the ship’s crew is when the film works best. Once things get rolling, it rarely lets up and moves along at a brisk pace, rapidly pushing its characters through one bad situation and into another. While not as intense as later films would be, the approach taken works very well and the viewer begins to detect the sense of danger and desperation that builds as the film progresses.

Characterizations & Acting.
Sadly, the character development that was so well executed in the Howard Hawk’s The Thing, is sorely and quite obviously lacking here. We are quickly introduced to a number of people, who for the most part, will be expanded upon very little and examined only long enough to form the vaguest of impressions. With the exception of Carruthers and Van Heusen, who these people are and what motivates them was just not important to the producers. Those two are plainly set up to be at odds with each other, though the conflict is really all on the part of Van Heusen, who is resolute in his belief of Carruther’s guilt. Yet, the film sets up this adversarial dynamic and goes no where with it. Early on during the monster’s rampage, Van Heusen takes a hit and is restricted to bed for the rest of the film, offering up only smartass remarks and a failed attempt at killing the creature thereafter. I suppose one could say that Van Heusen was shown to be in error when it came to the veracity of Carruthers’ story, and that he was pushed aside to make room for latter to take the lead and redeem himself. There could not be two leaders, so one was removed.

As for the rest of the cast, some turn in brief performances while others should have been much shorter. The large cast really hinders the film somewhat, in that at one point there really isn’t much for them to do. This is resolved by having two injured by the monster and thus relegated to set dressing by confining them to beds. Others are quickly dispatched by the beast, bringing an end to their already minimal roles. While the need for “monster fodder” is apparent in movies such as this one, it still seems a waste to allocate time on characters that ultimately contribute nothing aside from the occasional laugh. Then again, maybe that is a good thing given how this movie has aged.

While the characters might not be the most fleshed out in film history, they certainly make up for it with their actions. After viewing this movie, one has to wonder what kind of idiots these people truly were. How they ever graduated from some type of training program and granted a position on a ship to Mars is beyond me. In fact, the entire organization seems lacking. There is just so much that betrays them as morons. Like smoking. These people are nicotine fiends who are lighting up non-stop. Someone missing? Have a smoke. The monster kills someone? Have a smoke. Time running out and death looking certain? Have a freaking smoke! I must say that the Challenge-142 must have one HELL of an air recycling system. These folks have the oxygen scrubbers working overtime with all the smoke they exhale.

On top of that, these guys are gun toting, trigger-happy morons who make the Montana militia groups look like the boy scouts. They start squeezing off rounds at the drop of a hat, no worries about ricocheting bullets or friendly fire. In fact, Carruthers relates a story to Ann that deals with the first expedition’s ill fated run in with Martian life, and it sounds more like an NRA meeting gone mad than an attack by otherworldly forces. I guess the ship, on top of having a first rate air recycling system, also has the sturdiest hull ever manufactured by mankind. It must have, as these guys don’t give a single thought to accidentally rupturing the hull. And they don’t stop with guns! They haul out grenades by the dozen and detonate them and then move on up to firing a bazooka in their ship’s control room! It was starting to look like a Rap music award ceremony with all the rounds flying through the air.

FX.
As far as visual FX are concerned, this film doesn’t have too many. What we do see is adequately done by the standards of the day. The shot of the rocket traveling through space that is hauled out countless times in the film (nine actually) looks ok, if not a little boring in its simplicity. The lift off near the beginning is done fairly well, even if modern viewers can dissect the shot down to its component parts. The most ambitious shot is the view of Carruthers and Calder walking down the side of the ship as it traverses the stars. Back then it might have looked awesome, but now it is very easy to notice that the actors don’t seem to be covering any ground, despite taking numerous steps as well as the obvious signs of matting them into the footage of the rocket. I’d venture to say that the best looking thing we see, though it is just for a few seconds at the film’s beginning, is the painting that represents the surface of Mars. Sure, it looks nothing like what Mars really looks like, but it is still executed pretty darn well.

Now we come to the one aspect that is both one of the best as well as one of the worst things about the movie: The monster. The monster costume is a glaring source of both potential embarrassment and possible fun. The costume is a rather bulky, rubber affair that bends in all the wrong places, heightening the “cheese” factor and lending a certain air of ridiculousness to the film. The way it lumbers, stumbles and plods around the ship is laughable considering the dire circumstances and danger it supposedly represents. The face is static, except for the tongue that is often protruding from the sizable mouth. This effect was produced by the actor’s chin pushing the “tongue” through the creature’s maw. The only response this creature will elicit from today’s audience is laughter, not screams. Conversely, the costume is one of the very best to come out of the 50’s and stands as one of Paul Blaisdell’s best creations (the others being the costumes for The She Creature and the monster in From Hell It Came). Given what he had to work with, the monster really is head and shoulders above many other cinematic beast of the day, and Blaisdell’s contributions to horror and science fiction films should never be glossed over or forgotten.

Music.
The work done here by the prolific duo of Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter is quite good when compared to other genre films of the 50’s. The opening theme is loud and in your face. Right up front you know that you are in for an experience that cannot be described as subtle. Indeed, there are few subdued moments to the music, and in most cases the composers make use of strident, blaring horns to remind us of both the horror of the situation as well as the inherent danger facing the crew. Sometimes the music is a little too noticeable, overpowering moments that might not necessarily call for loud musical cues, but it is in no way overly repetitive or boring. Neither is it annoying as all hell. In my opinion, this film has one of the better musical scores of the time period.

Technique.
The idea here must have been akin to Larry the Cable Guy’s infamous line of “Git ‘er done!” The filmmakers don’t waste any time on things that do not pertain to the story, with the exception of the Washington D.C. scenes that bookend the film and which were most likely added after filming in order to pad out the running time. Within just ten minutes of the opening credits, the monster has stowed away and the ship is en route for Earth. Once the first death occurs, the film only pauses on occasion to pay attention to the ridiculous Carruther-Anderson romantic sub-plot. One thing I love about 50’s horror/science fiction cinema is that at the very least, movies were straightforward, with no meandering plots and storylines that jumped around a lot. Things pretty much went from A to B to C and so on.

Since the movie was filmed on a mere handful of sets, with a single set used to represent the various central chambers of the ship – just re-dressed for each one, director Cahn makes good use of the limited space he has. Thanks to the camera work and the set dressing, the ship comes across as being fairly good sized. Another thing he does rather well in conjunction with cinematographer Kenneth Peach is to hide the monster and utilize shadows to create an atmosphere of dread and creepiness. Whether this was done for artistic reasons or to help hide the often silly-looking monster suit is open for debate, but since the creature is shown quite well on several occasions, and the suit holds up pretty darn well to scrutiny, I personally believe it was the former. There are numerous occasions where all we see is the beast’s shadow on the wall, or a foot moving across the floor. More than one assault on a Human is shown as nothing more than shadows on a wall, which, while lessening the onscreen violence, only makes the attacks more horrifying. This method really helps in firing the imagination, as what the mind conjures up is almost always more frightening than what we ultimately see on screen.

Summation.
Still, despite all the apparent flaws...indeed, perhaps because of those very flaws, this film has a sizable “fun” quotient. Taking it too seriously will only lessen the enjoyment derived from the proceedings. An enormous grain of salt, along with a large suspension of disbelief will come in handy here, and will help transform the film from an “old 50’s monster movie” into a “classic B-Movie experience.” This is one of those films you watch with a large group and just rail on the idiocies on display. Conversely, it is also the type of movie to be enjoyed by those who love such films. Depending on personal tastes, they will either view this film as good or bad, but even bad it still maintains a quirky charm.

 

Expect To See:
Aliens
Aliens - One Martian monster, theorized to be what is left of Martian civilization after societal collapse and a turn towards barbarism. Sounds like Darth Vader with a head cold.
Gunplay
Gunplay - I think fewer shots were fired in WWII! These moron astronauts seem hell bent on rupturing their hull and haul out quite the assortment of firearms with which to do it.
Monsters
Monsters - The aforementioned Martian beast. While he may be an intelligent, he still behaves like a child throwing a tantrum when he tosses crewmembers around like stuffed toys.
Offworld Hijinks
Offworld Hijinks - The movie starts off on the surface of the Red Planet but soon leaves it behind for deep space. A few offworld hijinks are recalled via dialog.
Outer Space
Outer Space - The bulk of the movie takes place in the depths of space, while the Challenge-142 is in transit between Mars and Earth. There's even a space walk sequence!
Romance
Romance - One of the fastest and most idiotic of romances develops here. Ann dumps Van Heusen in favor of Carruthers – all while IT is on the loose.
Spaceships
Spaceships - The Challenge-142 is a phallic-looking rocket of a bygone era. Designed so that the multiple decks are oriented with the "point" of the rocket at the very top like a building.
Violence
Violence - A moderate amount of violence here. The deaths occur mostly offscreen and are only seen via shadows on the wall. Lots of weapons in use here, especially various firearms.

 

Movie Stats:
Shadow's Commentary:

Deaths: 4 (5 including IT)
Cigarettes smoked: 5
Voiceovers from Carruthers: 5
Failed attempts made to kill IT: 4
Shots of the rocketship flying through space: 9
Times Carruthers calls Keinholz’s name when searching: 12
Grenades used: 13
Gas grenades used: 7
Gunshots fired in a sealed, pressurized environment: 40
Times IT slaps people to death: 2

04 Mins – Dig that space age lawn chair.
08 Mins - You killed Kenner! You bastard!
23 Mins - Who attacked him…the Avon lady?
28 Mins - Ask Dr. Stupid!
40 Mins - I have a cunning plan, M’lord.
47 Mins - I hear dead people.
52 Mins - I think their medical insurance just ran out.
60 Mins - Who designed this ship without a freight elevator?
66 Mins - Dive! Dive!
68 Mins - PIGS IN SPACE!


Shadow's Drinking Game: Every time a gun is discharged, take a drink. Make sure to have chips or pretzels on standby as well. You’ll need them to help soak up the beer.

 

Images Click for larger image

Coming soon: The Astronomy Channel.

"I told you Mars didn't have a Hooters."

"Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him…
ah screw this cheap dinner
theater gig!"


"I’m tired of chess. Who was the
moron who didn’t pack
Trivial Pursuit?"
 

Joe was promptly fired when he was
caught napping in the dumbwaiter.


The Martian chapter of the NRA
preps for lobbying action.

"I know this is a tense moment,
but…ahhhhh…I just had to cut one." 

"Is that rigor mortis or is he just
happy to see us?"
 

"These aren’t the starship Enterprise
blueprints I bought on
E-bay! I’ve been ripped off!"

"I told you I’d stop the rocket if you
kept it up. Now get out and think
about what you’ve done."


"For the love of god, let me turn
down the heat! I’m boiling!"

"Ouch! Damn static electricity!"


"When he dies can I get his room?!"

"These new tanning booths are
outta control! I feel like
a deep fried turkey."

"Is it fatal, Doc?"

"Normally, no...but seeing as how
your insurance just ran out..."

"Class, repeat after me:
Juan es un muchacho."

 

Immortal Dialog

The gang wonders how smart IT may be.

Royce: "How could that thing have gotten aboard?"
Van Heusen: "And why? Just to kill us?"
Carruthers: "There is a usual reason an intelligent creature kills."
Dr. Royce: "It's hungry?"
Ann: "What makes you so certain it's intelligent, Colonel? Not just an animal?"
Carruthers: "It opened the door to C compartment."

Shadow’s comment: My dog managed to get his collar off once. Shall I submit his application to Mensa?


Carruthers talks about the new plan to kill IT, in light of the old plans.

Carruthers: "Grenades, gas and bullets have failed to stop the beast, but perhaps it can be electrocuted. There is enough voltage in these lines to kill thirty human beings. The only drawback is…the thing isn’t human."

Shadow’s comment: Did you ever think of playing a Yanni album?

 

Keep In Mind
  • Chairs need not be secured to the deck during blast off. In fact, nothing aboard the ship needs to be tied down or secured in any way.
  • People are guilty until proven guilty.
  • Martians are violently anti-smoking.
  • It is standard procedure for rocketship crews to carry handguns at all times. Unless they’re female.
  • Setting off explosives in a contained, pressure sensitive environment is not at all foolhardy.
  • Grenades detonated within a couple feet of other grenades will not set them off.
  • Martians have no visible genitalia.
  • Martians are violently anti-firearms.
  • The vacuum of space emits a strange whistling sound.
  • Firing a bazooka in the control room of a spaceship is perfectly safe.



This Film & Me

This was one of those 50’s science fiction/horror films that escaped my attention as a kid in the 1970’s. I had never even heard of the movie until the mid 80’s when I bought a book on famous movie monsters and saw a listing for this film. Having been a big fan of the movie Alien, and a bonafide lover of 50’s films, I made it a priority to see this one – the movie many credit as having inspired Ridley Scott’s 1979 film. It wasn’t too long before it showed up on AMC, back in the days before that channel started airing commercial breaks. Naturally, I taped it as it aired. While not loving it the way I do other films from the same era, such as The Thing From Another World or Them!, I still thoroughly enjoyed it. When I spotted it a few years later on VHS, I scooped it up in order to have a nice clean copy. Last year when I found it on DVD, I scooped it up again. It remains a favorite to this day.

Shadow's rating: Eight Tombstones



The Good

  • Movie wastes no time in getting going
  • LOTS of monster action
  • Decent looking monster by 1950's standards
  • Film doesn't shy away from killing the crew
  • Sense of dread created by the limited environment

The Bad

  • Spaceship apparently bigger on inside than outside
  • Antiquated gender roles
  • Van Heusen is a total jerk
  • Sudden way Ann dumps Van for Carruthers
  • Dorky bandage worn by Purdue
  • Pointless opening and closing segments

The Ugly

  • Crew smokes too much. Oxygen scrubbers no doubt on overdrive
  • Moron crew determined to rupture hull with gunfire
  • Science thrown right out the airlock
  • Stupid names for spaceships
  • People heard talking after they have been killed


This review is part of the Cheese from Outer Space Rogue Reviewers Roundtable:

Review Round-Up
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