It! The Terror from Beyond Space
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It! The Terror from Beyond Space

It seems I frequently get into discussions with my friends concerning the merits of various films. One point of contention that most commonly comes up as the validity of the ‘B’ movies that was so prevalent in the 1950s. The disagreement manifests as opposition to my insistence that not only are some of these films quite good but many are important from a cinematic point of view. I freely admit that I can fully appreciate the modern block busters with the miraculous innovations of technology as 3-D, high-definition and discrete surround sound. What's more amazing is I can have this experience in the comfortable living room. Still, I hold firm, insisting that is something in the old movies that are worth enjoying. Understandably many of these movies were truly bad. The TV show, 'Mystery Science Theater 3000', got it a sizable cult following by poking fun of these flicks. Many don’t realize is as we sat in the darkness of the theater watching these movies on the big screen we pretty much did the same thing. This of the movies that not only influenced my generation but the filmmakers such as Steven Spielberg, Josh Wedon and George Lucas were sitting in similar theaters to us being influenced by these very movies the great epics they would produce. Most of these films have made the DVD by this point and now there is another round of releases, this time with the movies remastered the high-definition. One of the latest to achieve this status has been one of my favorites, ‘It: The Terror from Beyond’. Although it meets every criterion necessary to be included in the category of B’ flicks it also ranks as one of the better example these creature features that help defined the cinematic zeitgeist of the decade. Although I did watch this movie and it’s remastered Blu-ray form, I made sure I put aside the time I could adjust the sound of my audio system to emulate the acoustics of local theaters and allowed the film to me back in time to when all movies something new and exciting.

In the aftermath of our victory in World War II there were giant leaps in technology that may have started on the battlefield quickly used it so every American home. They were to specific changes that literally alter the course of mankind; the beginning of the space race and the threat of nuclear weapons. Technology may have more helped save the free will but it did so at the cost of fear and paranoia control generation. This was frequently reflected in movies such as this. The basis for this film combined the two in the form of a nuclear powered spaceship. One of the main purposes of these films was to demonstrate to the public that scientists are working on peaceful applications for the technology that made people so afraid. The film is set in the future, 1973, the spaceship driven by the power of the item was sent on a mission to bring men to Mars. This particular mission without one of exploration it was to rescue the crew of the previous excursion that became stranded on the red planet. Tragically there was only one member of the crew who survived; Col. Edward Carruthers (Marshall Thompson). There were considerable suspicions as to the details of how the other members of the crew met their own primary demise. Strong suspicions were held by many back home the Colonel Carruthers for some reason murdered his teammates. The Colonel’s statement exerting his innocence detailed and attacked by some alien creature murdered the others but for some unknown reason spared his life. The incredulous tail does not spray the commander of the rescue mission will immediately confined Carruthers to his quarters and without any delay blasted all return to earth. Such wonders of technology are marvelous but nothing can be human error is the ultimate source of the terror about to be unleashed. In the haste to get underway, one crew member inadvertently left a sizable hatch unsecured and unguarded. As they began this six month journey back to earth they were unaware they were carrying a stowaway.

A very common aspect of these creature features with their ability to blend elements of science fiction suspense and horror into a single film. The origin of the monsters using these movies typically reflected the prevalent fear of the time. In the novel Frankenstein was published, it was electricity that was a strange and mysterious force of nature that could easily be misused with terrifying results. Then mutations caused by nuclear fallout would make one of the most sizable contributions to this genre. Everything from giant insects to terribly mutated people use the frighten audiences. This film would help introduce the next source of monstrosities determined to kill us all, extraterrestrials. Such modern classics as ‘Alien’, ‘Predator’ and a host of others owed much of their existence to movies precisely like this one became the vanguard for using science fiction as a platform supporting another category of storytelling rather than being the primary focus in itself. One of the basic requisites of the successful hall of story is isolation. The classics employed such spooky locations as deserted old house, the abandon the same asylum for your call breaking down on a lonely, dark stretch of road. The isolation conferred by these settings pales in comparison to be in court in the middle of outer space many millions of miles array from help. When you realize you are trapped within in human killer there is not even an iota of hope for a rescue. Many years later his sentiment would become the tag line one of the most influential and groundbreaking films of this type; ‘In Space No One Can Hear You Scream’.

The next act of the story utilizes one of the favorite plot devices of every murder mystery franchise ever devised; ‘And Then There Were None’, taken from an Agatha Christie novel. Movies running the gamut from slasher films to spy thrillers it is certain to hold the attention of the audience when you start picking off the characters one by one. The creature on board is well-versed in deadly stealth ever gone to the envy of any Special Forces team. It is up to the survivors to make sure this creature will never touch down on. While they would prefer to do so while remaining alive they realize that that is not a mandatory requirement for any plot they may come up with. As you watch this movie you will undoubtedly appreciate the strong influence it would have on our top modern filmmakers. Because of this you have to really make a concerted effort to isolate yourself on the far superior telling of the story that will inevitably come to mind. Comparisons would be natural but after all a number of decades intervened between the two. Try to forget that the special-effects here are minimal and concentrate on how the story unfolds. The director of this movie, Edward L. Cahn, helmed over 120 films running the gamut of genres from westerns, war movies, horror and science fiction. While he never really ascended to the level of primary features a significant number of his movies were like this one quite good. In a similar way the screenwriter, Jerome Bixby, may not have been as prolific but he certainly left his impact on both horror and science fiction. He wrote four of the most popular and intriguing episodes of the original Star Trek; ‘Requiem for Methuselah’, ‘Day of the Dove’, ‘By Any Other Name’ and ‘Mirror, Mirror’. He Also Penned the Story for ‘Fantastic Voyage’. Some may not know this title but is an excellent story with an enthralling twist to it, ‘The Man from Earth’. Do yourself a favor and get a copy. Those of you who doubted that there was any intrinsic worth of these old second-tier flicks 60 years ago, watching it and convince you otherwise and certainly the construction of this film and the creative people behind to make this premise readily acceptable.

Posted 05/21/2015

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