STARRING: Richard Carlson, Barbara Rush, Charles Drake, Russell Johnson, Kathleen Hughes, Joseph Sawyer

1953, 81 Minutes, Directed by:
Jack Arnold

Despite the lurid title and the involvement of several genre regulars, It Came from Outer Space is hardly a typical ‘Fifties sci-fi movie because:

(a) It was based on material by a bona fide science fiction writer, namely Ray Bradbury’s short story The Meteor; and

(b) Unlike most movies of its era it isn’t an alien invasion tale.

In an age of Red Scare paranoia flicks such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers and its ilk, It Came From Outer Space is a more sober and cerebral effort. One evening an amateur astronomer (played by Richard Carlson of Creature from the Black Lagoon fame) and his girlfriend (Barbara Rush, When Worlds Collide) witnesses a falling meteor. Upon further investigation it becomes clear that the meteor is in fact an alien spaceship, now buried beneath tons of rubble.

Our astronomer hero tries to alert the authorities but is largely ignored or ridiculed for his efforts because he is already viewed as a bit of an eccentric oddball although it is never exactly clear why this should be the case - maybe it is because he smokes a pipe and has elbow patches on his suit. Who knows?. Soon it becomes apparent that an alien presence is “taking over” several townsfolk.

Prelude to an alien invasion? In most movies of the time it would be, but in this underappreciated 1953 effort it is a case simply of the aliens wanting to repair their spaceship and getting back to their planet pronto. And who can blame them? It Came From Outer Space subtly hints at the paranoia, conservatism and conformity of the 1950s. At one point the local Sheriff organizes a posse to round up the aliens, but they more resemble a dangerous lynching mob than anything else. In It Came from Outer Space the aliens may not exactly be as friendly as the little guys in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but they are just as distrustful of us as we are of them.

Staid by modern standards, It Came from Outer Space will most appeal to aficionados of movies of the era as well as curious Ray Bradbury fans. It was directed by Jack Arnold who also directed several other 1950s classics such as Incredible Shrinking Man, Tarantula and some of the Creature from the Black Lagoon movies. Interestingly enough it was released as a 3D film back then, something one wouldn’t have guessed beforehand.



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