"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!"
3D Or Not 3D, That Is The Question
Gary F. Taylor | Biloxi, MS USA | 02/24/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In the 1970s I had the privledge of seeing IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE on the big screen in its original 3D format, and as such it was a visually fascinating film. But like all 3D films, IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE suffers in the translation from big screen 3D format to a standard television screen: the special effects, which seemed so spectacular in 3D, seem only so-so. And that is truly regrettable, for in its original format IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE is a classic of 1950s science-fiction.The story, created by Bradbury, concerns an amateur astronomer who discovers that aliens have crashlanded in the desert--but no one will believe him. Although the basic premise has been done to death, at the time OUTER SPACE was released it was still fresh, and Bradbury gives the tale an unusual spin that lifts it out of the realm of later 1950s and 1960s teenybopper flicks. But shorn of its 3D effects, the film lacks impact, and the creatures that were so impressive on the big screen become literal and slightly silly. Viewers who have never seen the film in its original 3D will be apt to wonder what all the fuss is about.And this poses a question. Why can't we have 3D films--a roster that includes THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, Vincent Price's WAX MUSEUM, and IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE--on tape or DVD in their original format? Admittedly the glasses are cumbersome, and there might be some issues about including them in the package, but other (and considerably less interesting) films have been released to video in 3D; why not the great classics, so we can see them as they were intended to be seen--and enjoy such films as IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE to their fullest? The original 3D version deserves a five-star rating, but in flat presentation it is worthy of only a three. I'm splitting the difference."
The DVD Falls Just Short of Meteoric
Robert E. Rodden II | Peoria, IL. United States | 05/28/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a wonderful movie, even in the flat 2-D we are offered on this DVD. I've actually never seen this movie in its original 3-D splendor, but I've been told it was stunning.The story is, by today's standards, typical for the 1950's science fiction film. Handsome, rugged scientist (Richard Carlson of Creature From The Black Lagoon fame) and beautiful girlfriend (Barbara Rush) witness a meteor crashing to ground in the Arizona desert, only to learn it is a spacecraft from another world. No one believes them until people begin to disappear, and later return as almost robotic zombies. But this story was based on a Ray Bradburry short story, and that story, combined with wonderful script writing, takes this from a bland sci-fi popcorn muncher to a thinking man's (at least on the B-grade movie level) story of paranoia and terror that ultimately shows the weaknesses, and the strenths, in humankind. What most young people today don't realize is that this film was a first of many kinds. It was the first science fiction movie to portray aliens as anything but blood thirsty. It was the first of the desert sci-fi films. It was one of the first films to use the theremin for the eerie, wavering, electronic music we all associate with science fiction films from that era. It's the first time a movie used the perspective of the "monster", by letting us see through its cyclopian eye.The lonely desert landscapes are almost alien in themselves, sweeping and harsh, and seen many times in the long shadows and gray light of dusk. The soundtrack is mono that has been encoded to stereo, which sound wonderful on a home stereo system. The acting is top notch, and the special effects, though dated, have that comic book Buck Roger's feel that was bigger than life in the 1950's. The extras here are nice, as well. There's a really nice documentary about the movie and a few other films in the same genre. There's a audio commentary with film historian Tom Weaver. There also a nice photograph and poster gallery, as well as the theatrical trailer, production notes, and a brief cast and filmakers section. The only reason I don't give this DVD five STARS is because they didn't include a 3-D version of the movie. Maybe that's asking too much for the ... price tag, but darnit, Univeral has been so commited to releasing wonderful horror and sci-fi gems to DVD in wonderfully restored condition, that I can't help but wonder why it was decided not to offer this rare and exciting way of viewing the movie. Especially after the glowing way it is described in the docummentary included on the DVD. What a missed opportunity for Univeral and for the fans of this wonderful movie. That aside, this is a lovely package and a wonderful edition to any science fiction film fans collection."
One of the first classic alien invasion Sci Fi films
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 10/18/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"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."
"You're not gonna tell those people ya saw Martians running
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 06/26/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Bwana Devil (1952) may have ushered in the `golden era' of 3-dimensional films in the early 1950s, but two of the best features to utilize the process at the time, in my opinion, were Vincent Price's House of Wax (1953), which I actually got to see in most spectacular 3D some years ago at Chicago's Music Box Theater (if you love movies and are even in town, you really should make a point to visit the place), and this science fiction thriller classic It Came from Outer Space (1953), which I have yet to see in 3D, but would surely love the opportunity. Based on a treatment by Ray Bradbury, the film was directed by Jack Arnold (Creature from the Black Lagoon, Tarantula, The Incredible Shrinking Man) and starred Richard Carlson (The Amazing Mr. X, The Magnetic Monster, Creature from the Black Lagoon), Barbara Rush (When Worlds Collide, Captain Lightfoot), and Charles Drake (Winchester '73, Bonzo Goes to College). Also appearing is Joe Sawyer (Them!, The Killing), Russell `The Professor' Johnson (This Island Earth, Attack of the Crab Monsters, "Gilligan's Island"), and Kathleen Hughes (The Golden Blade, Cult of the Cobra), in a small, but noticeable, role.
As the movie, set in Sand Rock County, Arizona, begins we meet a handsome young couple named John Putnam (Carlson) and Ellen Fields (Rush). John's a junior astronomer and part time writer while Ellen is a schoolteacher. As they enjoy a quiet evening together out at John's remote, desert shanty (well, maybe not so quiet as Ellen keeps blabbing on about getting married), they witness a flaming object streaking across the sky, eventually smashing into the Earth out by the old Excelsior mine. Upon investigation they find a huge, honking crater. As John ventures in (you're a braver man than I, Gunga Din), he discovers the object wasn't just a meteor, but a space ship, one that contains cycloptic, squid-like alien life! As John tries to comprehend this amazing happenstance, an unfortunate rockslide dumps a couple hundred tons of Earth on the ship, effectively burying any proof John has of his fantastic story. Soon Sheriff Matt Warren (Drake), whose got the hots for Ellen, makes the scene, along with some other rubes, and John tries to relate what he saw, but of course no one believes him (even Ellen is unsure what to make of it), and eventually he becomes something of a laughingstock, especially after the newspapers pick up on the story...well, we'll see who laughs last when someone gets their face melted off by a trigger happy Martian sporting a Type 6 Megasonic Destructor Ray...turns out the plucky aliens didn't perish in the rockslide, but are out and about, forcefully co-opting local yokels and assuming their appearance so that they may move freely among us. Their purpose? Well, you'll just have to watch the film and find out for yourself...my money's on the seizure of our women for procreation purposes, as if science fiction films have taught me anything aliens have a real yen for Earth babes...
While It Came from Outer Space isn't my absolute favorite science fiction feature to come out of the 1950s (that's a toss up between 1951's The Day the Earth Stood Still and 1956's Forbidden Planet), it's definitely up there in the top five, and considered by many to be a staple of the genre with good reason, primarily because it's extremely entertaining, even despite the fact it lacks the original 3D presentation on this DVD (there's any number of scenes shot specifically for the process, some obvious, some not so much). While watching this film, I learned a number of things including the follow...
1. Despite mastering the delicate intricacies of space travel, aliens still have yet to work out the kinks on landing (while plowing into a planet with enough force to wake the dead is technically a landing, it's not one I'd want to engage in on a regular basis). 2. Venturing into a huge, smoldering crater recently formed by the impact of an object from space may not be the best idea. 3. Junior astronomers keep handguns in the glove compartments of their cars. 4. Helicopter pilots are a great source of smart alecky remarks. 5. Aliens are crafty (and ugly). 6. You can slug a sheriff in Sand Rock County and not get arrested (heck, you can even steal their gun and their car to boot). 7. Prospectors get cranky when they haven't eaten. 8. Living and working in desert climates often makes people weird. 9. Barbara Rush would scream at the drop of a hat. 10. More people are murdered at ninety-two degrees Fahrenheit than any other temperature. 11. Humans will often destroy what they cannot understand. 12. Aliens possess some wicked awesome weaponry, but their targeting skills are sub par. 13. Don't go blabbing about spaceships and aliens if'n you don't have the proof to back up your claims.
I think the two elements that work the best here are the writing and the direction. While Bradbury wasn't hired to write the final script, enough elements of his original treatment were preserved so that anyone familiar with his writing could easily feel his imprint on the material. Arnold's direction works extremely well moving the story along at a decent pace, along with generating enough suspense at times to keep viewers glued to the screen. There's no doubt the aliens look pretty hokey by today's standards, but I have little doubt their appearance on screen back in the day probably produced a few nightmares among some patrons. As far as the performances, I thought all did very well, especially Carlson as he seemed to pull off his role with relative ease, with Barbara Rush supplying the eye candy. Her role had considerably less meat to it than Carlson's, but then that was fairly common of female characters in the genre at the time. There were a couple of minor things that bothered me a little about this film, the first thing being the reluctance of the military or scientific community towards digging up whatever it was that crashed in the desert. Most were content with the idea it was just a meteor, but still, given its size and from whence it came, wouldn't that generate enough interest to warrant an excavation? The second is actress Kathleen Hughes aka Betty Von Gerkan (that one heck of a moniker). She had a bit part in the film, and yet she gets a photo credit at the end of the film, right along with Carlson, Rush, and Drake. Certainly she was an attractive woman, but since she was only on screen for all of about two minutes, I don't understand how she got the credit she did here unless she was either related to someone, dating someone, or the studio was trying to promote her in the hopes of moving her on to bigger and better things...ah well...regardless, this is a great feature, and required watching for anyone interested in classic science fiction features.
The picture, presented in fullscreen (1.33:1), looks relatively clean and sharp...there are some aging elements present throughout (white specking), but nothing to get worked up over. The Dolby Digital 3.0 audio comes through crisply, highlighting the extensive usage of Theremin to produce that electronic, far-out, `spacey' sound. As far as extras, there's an entertaining documentary titled The Universe According to Universal (31:42), an audio commentary track by film historian Tom Weaver, a photo gallery, a theatrical trailer, production notes, cast and crew biographies and filmographies, and subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.