Sunday, 25 February 2018

Movie Review: It Came From Outer Space (1953)


A low-budget science fiction film with some suspense elements, It Came From Outer Space has a limited number of decent ideas but delivers them with respectable proficiency.

A space object crash lands in the desert outside a small Arizona town. While everyone believes it to be a meteor, amateur astronomer John Putnam (Richard Carlson) goes to the crash site to take a closer look and discovers an alien spacecraft. But the crater is then buried in a rockfall and no one believes John, although his girlfriend Ellen (Barbara Rush) stands by him. The local sheriff Matt Warren (Charles Drake), who is also protective of Ellen, is particularly skeptical about John's claims,

But soon strange things start to happen around the town, as the aliens abduct locals and take on their form. John tries to piece together what is going on and what the aliens may be after, but then Ellen is placed in danger and Matt starts to run out of patience.

A combination of ideas featured in the better known The Day The Earth Stood Still and Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, It Came From Out Of Space features generally peaceful aliens who are nevertheless happy to take on the form of human abductees for their own purpose. Here the visitors accidentally landed on the wrong planet and hold no ill intent. While the premise is thoughtful, the Ray Bradbury story does default back to the familiar criticism of the human propensity to shoot first at anything different.

The absence of a genuine threat from the aliens blunts the film's edge. Director Jack Arnold resorts to point-of-view shots, his most potent weapon being the apparently hideous look of the aliens (and it's not so terrifying once revealed). Barbara Rush emits a few really loud screams, several of which are false alarms. The tension is limited to John and Matt arguing whether to peacefully step out of the way of the aliens or to attack with all guns blazing, and the debate struggles to sustain the short 80 minutes of running time.

On the positive side, the desert setting and small town location are suitably isolated, the Clifford Stine cinematography is crisp, and Arnold makes the most of his limited budget with decent visual effects for the era. Carlson and Rush are an appealing couple although she could have been given more to do than stand by her man. The Theremin-dominated music score is classic eerie Sci-Fi.

Compact in scope and scale, It Came From Outer Space knows where it's at.






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