If there was a heyday of black-and-white, low-budget science fiction movies, “It! The Terror From Beyond Space” might have been smack in the heart of it.
It’s startling to think now that the 1958 release date of “It!” came just 10 years before “2001: A Space Odyssey” and less than 20 years before “Star Wars.” Those movies – although decades old now – seem much more contemporary than “It!”
When you make those comparisons, though, it’s funny to note that a movie that still feels contemporary despite the passage of years, Ridley Scott’s 1979 sci-fi thriller “Alien,” was in many ways inspired by “It!” A lot of people have called “It” the inspiration for “Alien.”
Plot-wise, they have more than a few similarities. An expedition to another planet – Mars in the earlier movie – results in a dead crew and suspicion on the survivor. When a second ship is sent to investigate, the only survivor of the earlier crew – played by Marshall Thompson – is to be brought back to Earth to be tried for killing his crew.
But there’s another addition along for the ride: A stowaway, a monster, a scaly hulk played by stuntman and actor Ray “Crash” Corrigan. The creature killed the earlier crew and, on the trip back, begins picking off the second crew, stalking them in the hidden recesses of the ship.
“It!” is most effective when it doesn’t show the monster. Shots of the creature’s big, rubbery feet and pigeon-toed walk sap some of its menace, that’s for sure. While the hulking monster is appropriately kiddie-matinee scary for its time, every shot of it reduces the mystery and menace.
Although the movie is called by some the inspiration for “Alien,” it’s almost like a sequel instead.
The movie’s action is set in 1973, which as we all know was a big period for Martian exploration.
“It” came out during the great period of 1950s black and white science fiction with craggy alien landscapes and beautiful star-filled backdrops and graceful rockets with Buick-style fins.
There’s a lot of science-defying action here, with the crew firing guns pretty indiscriminately at the monster. Lots of gas bombs are thrown and there’s a token wearing of gas masks, but only when hatch doors are open. What about the the air-handling system? The monster and his victims spend a lot of time in the vents, so I’m pretty sure that gas would get all around the ship.
Look for Dabbs Greer, familiar to “Little House on the Prairie” watchers, as one of the crew.