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Friday, May 26, 2017

It Came from Outer Space (1953)


Stargazer John Putnam and his girlfriend Ellen witness what they think is a meteor that crashes in the desert near John’s home. When they investigate John climbs into the crater and realizes that it was a spaceship and not just an asteroid. There is a landslide and the ship is buried before anyone else sees it leaving him a laughingstock in the town. At the same time, some members of the town start acting strangely and it isn’t long before John knows they have been replaced by the crew of the crashed ship. When he gets too close to the truth the aliens kidnap Ellen and threaten to kill her if they aren’t left alone to complete their repairs. Things are complicated when the locals finally believe John and form a posse to deal with the invaders.
Formulas are theme that I come back to many times when reviewing either movies or books. When done correctly even a predictable story can still be entertaining. Following what worked in the past makes a lot of sense. But when you want to do something different and surprise the audience it can be magic. It Came from Outer Space is one of those special movies that turns the expected on its head.
The aliens aren’t here to conquer us or help us. They state clearly that it is too early for contact yet. To them humanity is nothing more than children who aren’t ready for the grown up’s table. Now they are willing to defend themselves, but aren’t going out of their way to hurt anyone. In genre movies involving aliens the story normally revolves around human beings either defending themselves or determining if we are worthy of the help from superior intelligences. Here the aliens crashed accidentally and want to get away from the primitives as quickly as possible. I know later movies would deal with these themes but I remember seeing this movie the first time many years ago, and being surprised by how it dismisses the human race.
Yeah sort of Goofy...
I don’t suppose given two names associated with the movie that it should come as any surprise that it was something different and creative. First, we have the director Jack Arnold. Whether it was this movie, Tarantula, The Incredible Shrinking Man, or Creature from the Black Lagoon there was always an added depth and intelligence to his work. Toss in that the script was based on a treatment by the legendary Ray Bradbury and you get one of the smartest entries into the science fiction genre ever filmed.
Just a few more things. The aliens look ok but honestly don’t hold up that well. Even I must admit that and I’m a fan of old school creature effects work. The cast does a fine job delivering some of the most poetic dialogue that you will ever hear in a movie like this. I know that some of the folks I’ve shown this to in the past have thought it was a bit slow. I don’t necessarily agree with that, but if you are looking for the action normally associated with a creature feature you will be disappointed. It Came from Outer Space is a more thoughtful movie that makes you think about preconceived notions that everything revolves around human beings. Maybe we aren’t the smartest creatures running around the universe! For that alone I’d recommend the movie, but clearly there is much more to like then just that.


© Copyright 2017 John Shatzer

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