It! The Terror from Beyond Space Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Olive Films
Directed by Edward L. Cahn
Written by Jerome Bixby
1958, Region A, 69 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on May 12th, 2015
Marshall Thompson as Col. Edward Carruthers
Shirley Patterson as Ann Anderson
Kim Spalding as Col. Van Heusen
Ann Doran as Mary Royce
Dabbs Greer as Eric Royce
Paul Langton as Lt. James Calder
Robert Bice as Maj. John Purdue
Richard Benedict as Bob Finelli
Richard Hervey as Gino Finelli
Ray Corrigan as It
Looking ahead in time to the futuristic date of 1973, the first manned mission to Mars has ended in tragedy with the ship marooned and the crew murdered. Nobody expected pilot Col. Edward Carruthers to turn into a homicidal maniac, but that is apparently what happened. A follow-up mission successfully arrived and the colonel has been placed under arrest and is being brought back to Earth to answer for his crimes. The accused claims his crewmates were killed by a space alien, but in all likelihood he found a way to make the supplies last longer by eliminating his colleagues. What begins as a simple rescue operation quickly turns into something unexpected when it is discovered that a mysterious creature has snuck aboard this ship and is working its way through the crew in deadly fashion. Carruthers finds little solace in having his story validated, now that the beast is on a new killing spree. What follows is a game of cat-and-mouse as the astronauts try to devise a plan that will destroy the monster before they reach Earth.
It! The Terror from Beyond Space is a classic sci-fi flick from the late 1950s that is just as entertaining today as it was almost sixty years ago. Director Edward L. Cahn (The She-Creature) has made a suspenseful movie that manages to really get under the skin. He wisely teases the creature with a nice use of shadow play before ultimately revealing this terror to viewers. His expert storytelling abilities keep things moving at a decent pace, and he covers a lot of ground in a short running time (69 minutes). One highlight comes in his use of physical space, as the crew members are repeatedly forced to retreat into smaller and smaller sections of the ship, leading to a claustrophobic finale with a seemingly unstoppable foe. Jerome Bixby (Fantastic Voyage) delivers a terrific screenplay that creates a series of challenges that push the characters from one deadly scenario to the next. He explores every possibility in which to stage an action sequence aboard a starship, including the ventilation system. Bixby creates a real sense of urgency by placing the action on a time table in which the problem has to be resolved before the ship returns home.
The human cast in a lot of these classic creature features was always less important than the monster audiences paid to see. Legendary suit performer Ray “Crash” Corrigan (The Ape) is especially creepy as the titular terror, an “It” that moves with determination, but at its own rhythm. On the other side of the equation there is one particular standout: Marshall Thompson (Fiend Without a Face), who shines as Col. Carruthers, particularly in the sequence where he shares the harrowing tale of how he helplessly watched a monster murder all of his crew. Shirley Patterson (World Without End) and Ann Doran (Rebel Without a Cause) are Ann Anderson and Mary Royce respectively, the token women on the ship. (Sure, one is a doctor, but they are more likely to be seen serving coffee to the fellas.) It’s nice to see them included in the action without being shoehorned in as love interests, but still awkward as they clearly take a supporting role when... oh wait – enough about them – look there’s a monster!
The filmmakers behind Alien have happily confessed a tremendous debt to It! The Terror from Beyond Space (and also Planet of the Vampires) as the inspiration for their cinematic masterpiece, and fans of that franchise will definitely enjoy the similarities. Starting with the stowaway alien premise, moving on to the terror lurking inside an air duct and even sharing a few familiar pages from the finale, Bixby’s script proved quite fertile with strong ideas, especially for a picture that came so late in the ‘50s sci-fi craze. You can view the monster as a metaphor for the inevitability of death, or simply take it at face value that something terrible is closing in on our heroes; either is a valid interpretation. This is a fun movie that never pauses long enough to overstay its welcome and should appeal to audiences of all ages.
Video and Audio:
The original film elements are in surprisingly good condition for a title of this vintage. Presented for the first time in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the picture looks pretty fantastic with plenty of small-object detail and strong contrast. There are some minor quality shifts from one reel to the next, suggesting the master was pulled from multiple sources, but the end result is pleasing.
A DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track delivers a faithful reproduction of the original audio recording. Everything sounds fine in this mix, as dialogue levels are clean and free from distortion. Music and effects tracks are surprisingly strong and well-balanced given the limitations and age of the elements.
The original theatrical trailer is the only bonus feature on this disc.