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on April 3, 2004
The great thing about 1950's sci-fi movies is the way in which they took the psychological fallout from the Soviet-USA Cold War confrontation that dominated the decade (paranoia, McCarthyism and the "Red Scare", fear of the atomic bomb), and turned it into edgy science fiction that's unlike any present-day moviemaking. Some of these relatively low-budget films were awful, but others have stood the test of time to become classics of the genre. One of the best is 1953's "It Came From Outer Space", which features a great plot, solid acting, and is based on a story created by the great Ray Bradbury, one of the best sci-fi writers of his generation. Richard Carlson, who also starred in several other classic sci-fi films of the fifties, is John Putnam, an amateur astronomer and scientist who lives in the desert outside a small town in Arizona. The townsfolk consider John to be a loner and something of an oddball, but he does enjoy the love of Ellen Fields (Barbara Rush), a pretty schoolteacher who thinks that he can do no wrong. John's relationship with Ellen has earned him the ire of the town's sherriff (Charles Drake), a down-to-earth, cowboy-type fellow who can't understand Putnam's interest in "weird" things like science and astronomy and who wants Ellen for himself. One evening both John and Ellen watch as a huge meteor crashes near an old mine outside of town. The next day they investigate the meteor's crater, but only John makes it to the bottom, where he sees a large spaceship which is promptly buried in a landslide which nearly engulfs him as well. Ellen believes his story, but others are doubtful and laugh at him, and even the local radio stations make fun of him. However, events soon begin to convince even the skeptical sherriff that something odd is afoot, especially when several townspeople begin to act in bizarre ways, such as speaking and behaving in a zombie-like manner and staring directly at the sun for long periods of time. As it turns out, the "townspeople" are actually aliens from the buried spaceship, and the real humans have been abducted by them - including Ellen! Although the sherriff and some other townsfolk wish to attack the aliens (out of fear and paranoia), Putnam suspects that the aliens are actually peaceful and only want to repair their spaceship and leave. I won't give away anymore of the plot, but the storyline of "It Came From Outer Space" actually is decades ahead of its time, and strongly resembles modern sci-fi (such as "Star Trek") in showing that even strange "aliens" are not always hostile and can be peaceful if given a chance. This attitude comes directly from the stories of Ray Bradbury (for example, "The Martian Chronicles"), where aliens aren't always the bad guys and humans aren't always the good guys. It's this moral complexity that makes "It Came From Outer Space" stand out from the other (and often more simplistic) sci-fi films of the decade. As an added bonus, the DVD set of this film will be a delight to all fifties sci-fi movie buffs. It has a short documentary entitled "The Universe According to Universal" showing how "It Came From Outer Space" and other fifties sci-fi movies were made, the theatrical trailer, and a commentary by film historian Tom Weaver. Overall, this DVD set is well worth the money, IMO. Recommended!
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on March 15, 2003
I love old movies. They are an entertaining glimpse into who we thought we were filtered through a fun house history mirror. It Came From Outer Space was a great movie when I was a kid. Like The Day The Earth Stood Still Bradbury's original film treatment focused on character and suspense at the expense of bug eyed monsters. The final film (changed from the original conception of Bradbury and director Jack Arnold) does have the BEMs but, luckily, Universal didn't evisorate the characters and thought provoking plot that drove the film.
Amateur astronomer John Putnam (the reliable and stoic Richard Carlson)witnesses what he believes to be a meteor striking the desolate desert surrounded his small town. It turns out to be -- surprise!--alien's with a major blow out that has incapacitated their space ship. These Xenomorphs begin to kidnap the locals and replacing them so that they can get the materials to repair their ship and keep a lid Carlson's wild story about their arrival.
Jack Arnold's subtle direction works wonders with the budget and the 3-D format. He manages to create a film that has aged exceedingly well. Bradbury's original concept is mostly intact as well. In fact, it sounds like screenwriter Harry Essex may have incorporated dialog from Bradbury's treatment largely intact during a number of important scenes.
It benefits from being create in the wake of The Day The Earth Stood Still and it also benefits from its unusual setting (the Desert). Sadly, I can't wholeheartedly recommend this DVD. Universal has done a great job of restoring this classic film. Unfortunately, they don't offer the option of viewing it in 3-D. That's a pity as Arnold made effective use of the gimmick using a number of subtle tricks (and a couple of dramatic ones as well) to artfully blend the 3-D format with the narrative of the film. Since It is presented on a dual layer disc, I'm surprised that Universal didn't figure out a way to present the film in it's element. Unfortunately, some of the film's most powerful sequences suffer from the flat presentation here. Given the extra effort that went into the restoration and the extras, it's a pity that Universal didn't go the extra mile and present this fine film in the format it worked best in.
The extras including the documentary (The Universe According to Universal)includes interviews with illustrator/collector Vincent Di Fate, film historians and collectors (such as Bob Burns). All discuss the circumstances around the making of the film as well as the impact it had when it was presented in its original format. Additionally, they bring up the little known fact that the creatures were never seen in the original cut that Jack Arnold prepared. Universal executives went back and took reshot a couple of sequences with shots of the aliens. While this doesn't work against the film, it would have been much more powerful with the aliens presence only suggested via Arnold's idea of showing the alien-human encounters from the alien's point of view.
The photograph and poster gallery is interesting but hardly essential and the production notes informative about the cast and Arnold. The documentary will probably show up in a number of variations on other Universal science fiction and horror thrillers coming to DVD. Perhaps This Island Earth (Universal's attempt to make a picture on the scale of MGM's Forbidden Planet)will eventually be re-released to DVD with the same care. A bit of trivia on This Island Earth--Jack Arnold isn't credited but he directed many of the scenes involving the aliens and their world.
Regardless of this reissues shortcomings, It is an impressive package for the most part. It's a pity that Universal missed their opportunity to reissue this minor classic the right way the first time on DVD.
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on October 2, 2002
I always find the 1950's Sci Fi efforts a pleasure to watch and despite being the target of many modern day reviewers commenting on the early special effects and out dated dialogue/situations. I think that their freshness and innocence in a way is their most appealing quality compared to todays extravagant and special effects filled opus's which dont contain half as much interest in my belief.
"It Came From Outer Space" benefits from alot of expert assistance in all those areas that make a production memorable to watch. It has veteran director Jack Arnold, an expert in telling convincing and often intelligent sci fi stories during this period, expert location photography set in the arid desert regions that add tremendously to the eerie qualities of the story, and a haunting musical score that really adds a sense of possible menace to the proceedings. The film benefits greatly from also displaying a slight variation on the usual invading monsters from outer space theme. Here the visitors are not necessarily violent or evil, simply travellors who have had to stop on Earth to carry out much needed repairs and are not wanting to bother anyone before they get on their way.
This variation makes for an interesting premise and is well served in the story where dedicated star watcher John Putnam with his girlfriend Ellen Fields witnesses what seems like a gigantic meteor crashing in the desert near his home but on closer examination discover that a space craft has landed and been covered over by falling rocks. The story builds pace as John can't convince the townspeople that there are aliens among them even after one by one the locals are being replaced by duplicates to help on the repairs to the space ship.
Richard Carlson and Barbara Rush as the two leads here do a great job as the pair who know the truth and try desperately to warn everyone about the possible danger that has developed. Carlson, normally a fairly bland actor as a rule in my belief, here gives an excellent account of himself and his encounters with the alien duplicates are quite scary and handled with finesse.
The aliens of this story also are displayed in a much more original way than most of your 1950's monsters are. Here alot of the action involving them is seen through their eyes which gives the scenes of their encountering humans a strange surreal quality. The shots of the aliens seemingly floating over moving cars are very well staged and keep the tensions rising all the time.
While not the best of the 1950's alien films it still is an entertaining watch and benefits from above average performances by the leads and a marked lack of tentacled creatures etc, so common in this period of film making. You will enjoy "It Came From Outer Space" where for once humans are revealed as the villians who are quick to jump to conclusions and not prepared to understand others that are different to themselves. It's an interesting slant on an old story and handled here with alot of care.
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HALL OF FAMEon October 17, 2002
One night astronomer John Putnam (Richard Carlson from "Creature From the Black Lagoon") is watching the night skies when he sees a flash in the desert night sky. Dragging the pretty Ellen Fields (Barbara Rush from "When Worlds Collide") with him, he goes off to investigate what he thinks is a meteor. But what he discovers at the bottom of the creater is not a giant meteor but a space ship composed of glowing hexagons. Of course, back in town nobody will believe him, not even Sheriff Matt Warren (Charles Drake) who also likes Ellen. But then people start wandering around town in zombie-like trances and our heroic astronomer starts to figure out that there is an alien invasion taking place in his little town, which means the little love triangle here need to be put on hold.
"It Came From Outer Space" was one of the first 3-D films (you can easily guess what parts were directed out at the audience) and provides a nice mix of cheesy horror effects with eerie sci fi music. The original story is by Ray Bradbury and has all the earmarks of a pulp magazine alien invasion story. Of course, this was a period when UFO sightings were starting to be covered in the press as well. The story has a strong resemblance to "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," but remember that this 1953 film came out three years earlier and if you are looking for elements of paranoia about the Commies the subtext is a lot stronger in this film. Also, the recent film "Evolution" clearly uses this Fifties Science Fiction classic for its basic framework. Director Jack Arnold was one of the kings of Fifties "B" films having done not only "It Came From Outer Space," but "Creature From the Black Lagoon," "Tarantula," and "The Incredible Shrinking Man," all of which are films you need to screen at some point as you learn all about the roots of contemporary science fiction.
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on March 27, 2013
I was expecting a bargain-bin DVD and was pleasantly surprised. It was a re-mastered copy in a good-looking package. Highly recommended for the B-movie fan.
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on January 23, 2004
Richard Carlson (Creature From The Black Lagoon) stars as an intense astronomer who witnessess a "meteor" crash in the desert near his home. Along with Barbara Rush, he investigates the crater left by the impact. In it he finds a hexagonal doorway, that belongs to a now buried spacecraft. In the craft is a being, best described as a giant, hairy, big-toe with an eyeball where the toenail should be. Carlson's character gets out as an avalanche almost crushes him with it's paper-mache boulders! No one believes him (duh) and he is soon regarded as a nut. Two telephone co. linemen (one played by Gilligan's proffessor Russell Johnson) are possessed by the alien presence, and become monotone-speaking zombies. It turns out that rather than an invasion, the extraterrestrials are simply lost. They're just trying to fix their ship before we locate it and destroy them! Can Richard Carlson save them from the angry mob, including a hot-headed sheriff? ICFOS is a classic 50s paranoia gem. Extra points for Barbara Rush in her ... evening-wear! And, check out that blonde in the sheriff's office (whose boyfriend comes up missing). I'd watch her in anything...
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on May 27, 2002
Ray Bradbury pens passable '50s sci-fi fare, but it's not what everyone cracks it up to be. The movie is more fun than actually good, but definitely worth a watch.
B-movie vet Richard Carlson has his not-quite-love-match with the always wonderful Barbara Rush interrupted by a flaming meteorite, near his gorgeous desert home. Faster than he can light a pipe and don a houndstooth jacket, professorly Carlson goes out to investigate. The thing is too hot to approach - and big, too.
But that's hardly the greatest of his worries. Before long, many of the townsfolk are acting unusually, and Carlson finds his tracks dogged by these zombie doppelgangers of their former selves (including the Professor from Gilligan's Island, Russell Johnson, himself). He figures out that the meteorite was actually a crashing space ship, and eventually manages to meet face-to-face with...well, a pretty horrible 3-D thing, living with its buddies in a nearby abandoned mine shaft. The aliens really aren't all that friendly - they're just not hostile, eager to get their ship repaired with their rented zombie-human space-car mechanics and escape this backward berg. The usual "Earthling, Beware!" zany hijinks ensue.
This is not a great movie. But it is a good one. The cast is good, the script adequate. The special effects aren't great, but they are at least interesting, and the atmosphere is pretty spooky. It's a lot of fun in 3-D, if you ever get a chance to see it in its original format.
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on August 25, 2002
Even with its carefully crafted arrival on DVD for the first time, I still consider IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE a lost work... as to the reason, in a moment, but as to the why you should pick this up... simple, it's fun. IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE is a classy sci-fi picture that, at its worst, can be a little stiff, while at its best can be thought provoking and creepy. Drawn from a treatment by Ray Bradbury, and put together by a solid before the camera and behind the camera cast, IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE is not to be missed. Tom Weaver again provides commentary, and like his others - CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, THE WOLF MAN, FIEND WITHOUT A FACE - he takes us on a comprehensive trip from the back lots, to the stages, to the seats right in the theater, never missing a beat and always talking with you like he's sitting right next to you - enjoying the high points and never afraid to point out its lows. As per normal with these Universal releases, a documentary is included that spans the ALIEN YEARS with Universal, a well stocked photo gallery and more... more... more. But what's missing for me is the 3D, and that's why IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE is still for me a lost classic. While it's not only the jolts that I miss with the 3D I'm sure IT CAME provided, but its quiet moments as well... the simple turning of a telescope, a roaring fire in a fireplace, how the glitter trails left by the aliens must have floated there before you eyes. Despite being presented in 2D, IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE is a must for any collector of sci-fi. For the casual viewer, IT is a lot of fun.
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One of the things I find fascinating is the similarity in plots of old science fiction movies and Star Trek episodes. It isn't until the end of this feature, after all the action, is the nature of the invasion revealed. They could have revealed this sooner and had a few alien scenes to make the film more interesting, but didn't, opted to make it a mystery.

At the point where earth people confront the aliens, we discover they have evolved into energy. As Spock's words "pure energy" sang in my ears, I became aware it had more in common with a different episode of 1968, "By Any Other Name."

Elements in common:
1) Aliens are from a different galaxy.
2) Aliens occupy human beings and control them.
3) Aliens need a spaceship to return to their galaxy.
4) After a confrontation where aliens take over the humans and humans defeat their efforts, we offer to help them as friends.

A decent sci-fi film which incorporates the spinning color wheel.
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It Came From Outer Space is one of the better films brought to life in the golden age of science fiction. It is not an alien invasion story; rather, it develops and explores the ambivalence of man's own scientific progress in regards to the unknown. The aliens are not Martians; they are quite un-E.T.-like "monsters" who hide themselves. They seem to know one of the tragic secrets of humanity--it very often hates and destroys that which it does not understand. The story starts with amateur astronomer John Putnam (Richard Carlson) and his fiancée Ellen Fields (Barbara Rush) looking at the stars and engaging in some lovey-dovey conversation; suddenly, a giant fireball goes sailing across the sky and strikes the earth with a terrific impact. Putnam and Fields rush to the site via helicopter, and Putnam goes down into the crater to examine the "meteorite." He finds a ship lodged in the ground and senses a presence there; before he can peer into the ship's interior, the door closes and a landslide covers everything up. Putnam fearlessly tells the authorities what he saw and is, of course, laughed at. The sheriff, who obviously has the hots for Ellen, is particularly hard to convince. Eventually, some townspeople disappear and, even more mysteriously, reappear with whole new personalities (or lack thereof). The resolution of the movie has a philosophical aspect to it; there are no bad guys and no good guys, and one is left to ponder the real standing of Earth and society in a universe in which alien life does exist. This thought-provoking movie is based on a story by Ray Bradbury, which does much to explain its success. Some viewers may also be interested to know that Darrell Russell (the Professor from Gilligan's Island) has a co-starring role in the picture.
In its theatrical release, this movie was shown in 3-D, and it is unfortunate that today's viewers cannot enjoy it in its original format. However, it is the story and not the special effects that makes this movie a success. While its themes do not captivate modern audiences the way they did viewers in the 1950s, the movie retains a moral clarity and vision that distinguishes it from most science fiction movies of its era. It asks the viewer to trade places with the aliens and consider how things would look if he were the outsider arriving in a foreign land, which is a refreshing theme to emerge in a Cold War American motion picture.
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