Welcome back! We’re up to Day 10, and today we’re talking about the 1953 Sci-Fi classic It Came From Outer Space, starring Barbara Rush and Richard Carlson.
I’m sorry to say it, but I really didn’t enjoy this movie very much. It is a combination of all the worst aspects of ’50s movies: it’s supremely cheesy, xenophobic, flimsy in plot, and just plain boring. It isn’t horrible, or even BAD, necessarily…but it definitely does not stand the test of time. I fell asleep at least twice while watching, and then had to rewind to be sure I hadn’t missed anything. Spoiler alert: I hadn’t.
It might be fun to see with friends at the drive-in for a cult movie night or something, but ultimately It Came From Outer Space is just another goofy alien flick. Or, to put it another way, it’s like a mashup of all the least popular episodes of Star Trek, The Twilight Zone, and The Andy Griffith Show. Read into that what you will.
The movie begins with young couple John Putnam (Carlson) and Ellen Fields (Rush) enjoying a candlelit dinner at their home in Arizona, making carefree jokes about living together “in sin”. They go out onto the terrace for a little late-night stargazing (Putnam, as an amateur astronomer, has a massive telescope set up there), when they see what they believe to be a meteor streaking across the sky. It crashes into the desert nearby, and the two lovebirds race to the scene of the collision. John skitters down into the bowels of the crater to get a closer look (casting aside the frantic remonstrations of schoolteacher Ellen), and what he sees astonishes him. It’s not a meteor at all, but instead an alien spacecraft! Naturally, no one believes him–not even Ellen at first.
Putnam butts heads with Sheriff Matt Warren (who is clearly in love with Ellen as well) time and time again over his theories regarding the crash, to no avail. Even after Putnam has seen and talked with the aliens (which takes a ridiculously long time to occur), Sheriff Warren and the townspeople refuse to believe in their existence. It’s a classic mob mentality situation–they don’t believe in the aliens until they suddenly do, and once they do, they charge in with guns literally blazing, despite Putnam earnestly beseeching them to do the opposite. The filmmakers are pretty heavy-handed with the “humans fear that which they do not understand” metaphor, and, while true, it is incredibly frustrating to watch.
The aliens themselves are pretty hilarious-looking, though. They’re kind of these amorphous blob shapes, with a long, protruding eyeball and…hair? It’s extremely bizarre, and makes me appreciate the lack of screen time they have in their “true” form. I think the sight is intended to be frighteningly grotesque (even the stoic Putnam cheesily recoils in horror), but it’s just funny to me. The aliens also leave a glittering, slug-like trail (reminiscent of bedazzled jeans) everywhere they go, which is pretty much a drinking game waiting to happen. Every time you hear the theremin accompany a slow camera pan along the bedazzled alien sludge, finish your drink. See you in the E.R.
Again, this movie could be worth checking out under the right circumstances…as long as those circumstances involve friends, the ability to throw popcorn at the screen, and a setting where nobody is taking things too seriously. Otherwise, I do not suggest you rent this movie on a Saturday night, hoping for a good time. If you’re a contrarian and want to prove me wrong, however, you can find it available for streaming on Amazon Video and Apple TV.
Tomorrow, Charles will be continuing our journey through 1950s horror with 1954’s Gojira. Stay tuned for this and all the rest of our October reviews during the 31 Days of Horror!!