I rewatched It Came From Outer Space tonight, partly because I could not remember the last time I had seen it and all the little things that make it so special. It’s a moderately entertaining B movie, One of the sorts they ended up making dozens of during the decade. Several things distinguish it. For example, the story is unusual for films with aliens in them for the time. Another is the cast of this science fiction classic. The film is also famous for some of the visuals employed, like 3D and double exposure.
It Came from Outer Space is a 1953 American black-and-white science fiction horror film, the first in the 3D process from Universal-International. It was produced by William Alland and directed by Jack Arnold. The film stars Richard Carlson and Barbara Rush and features Charles Drake, Joe Sawyer, and Russell Johnson. The script is based on Ray Bradbury’s original story treatment. The story concerns alien vIsitation and possession.
The cast features several easy-to-recognize faces from the period, including Carlson, famous for playing the pipesmoking fifties version of a writer or professorial type. The film also featured a very young Russel Johnson, who later played the professor on Gilligan’s Island. In addition, the film also features the lovely and always perfectly dressed and quaffed Barbara Rush who went on to win the year’s Golden Globe for the most promising newcomer and cowboy star Charles Drake, and, of course, Kathleen ‘the screamer’ Hughes.
Among the many remarkable things in this film, I found it especially amusing that the visiting aliens always left a trail of glitter in their path wherever they go. This, of course, is an attempt to make them more otherworldly, but it kept making me think that maybe they were gay and on their way to or on their way back from a cosmic rave.
Part of the post-Hiroshima atomic age and the explosion of science fiction movies that became an integral part of the whole fifties lifestyle that came into being after that horrifying, historical event, It came From Outer Space is a classic B movie in an era when new B movies came out almost every other week. This movie became almost a prototype for the baby budget thrillers that followed, like the small town, semi-rural setting. This film is also a remarkable time capsule for the period filled with lots of examples of fashion, vehicles, and attitudes.
Films of this era do not have the luxury of today’s special effects or CGI animation. Still, this film does use some of the technology available at the time, such as double exposure, and made this film using the 3D technology people were using back then. 3D has improved a great deal since then. Filmmakers of the period relied almost entirely on [tactical effects and the craft of using light and shadow to achieve the desired results. It Came From Outer Space also makes liberal use of a Theramin whenever the aliens are near.
Another element contributing to this cultural shift was the emergence of teens and young people as a demographic for the first time. Filmmakers were not blind to this and started making movies that would appeal more to that market. After the bomb, science fiction movies provided escapism, of course from a world that was suddenly more terrifying. a sort of double duty to entertain and calm a whole new set of fears in a modern world
The movies were entertaining and lucrative. Between 1948 and 1962, Hollywood released more than 500 science-fiction features widely distributed to movie palaces, neighborhood theaters, and drive-ins. Most of these films were the same type as these B movies that told stories involving fantastic elements and lots of thrills and mystery. Little did they know what they started. Long live science fiction.