Vogue Pictures  69′
country: United States
director: Edward L. Cahn
cast: Marshall Thompson, Shirley
Patterson, Kim Spalding, Ann Doran,
Dabbs Greer, Ray Corrigan
MGM  $9.98
single layer DVD10 / NTSC / Region 1
subtitles: French, Spanish
Order this title from Amazon.com
When the first manned mission to Mars meets with unexpected disaster a rescue mission is quickly ordered, but what the rescue ship finds upon landing is far stranger than they had anticipated. Out of ten original crew members only Colonel Carruthers [Thompson] is alive, claiming that a violent Martian creature is responsible for the deaths of his fellow astronauts. With no sign of the beast to be found and evidence mounting against him [like the skull of one of his friends being found with a bullet hole in it], Carruthers’ story falls on deaf ears in favor of a more logical theory – that the Colonel killed his crew.
But the ship has more than just Carruthers on board when it begins its return flight, with the monster that killed the Colonel’s crew sneaking aboard through an open cargo hatch. It isn’t long before the formidable beast, invulnerable to conventional weapons and possessing immense strength, is on the prowl, leaving Carruthers and the deminishing rescue crew little choice but to find a means to destroy it or die.
This is a reasonably successful little no-budget sci-fi shocker from the tail end of the American genre boom. Ostensibly a rehash of the superior man vs. alien effort THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD [minus the nod to the flying saucer craze] with the action moved to outer space, IT! made an indelible impression on generations of viewers thanks in large part to its healthy life on television.
Prolific director Edward L. Cahn [CREATURE WITH THE ATOM BRAIN, THE INVISIBLE INVADERS] managed to produce not only IT!, but its accompanying feature CURSE OF THE FACELESS MAN and three other films before 1958 was through, and there is no denying that it’s every bit as quick and dirty as that packed production schedule would suggest. Much of the limited special effects work is re-cut and repeated throughout, notably shots of the monster’s shuffling feet and footage of the rescue spaceship ascending through the stars. Still, Cahn was a competent director even if the material he worked with was often not and, along with cinematographer Kenneth Peach [an accomplished fellow who would go on to work on many episodes of the original THE OUTER LIMITS television series], he manages to class up the proceedings to a certain extent.
One thing that clever lighting and competent direction can’t gloss over is the ludicrous science of IT! – heaven help them if there was a technical advisor for the production. Forget for a moment that much of the crew smokes while in their oxygen-rich environment [cartons of cigarettes can be seen stocked in the ship's store room], as that’s small potatoes for a film that has a man defending himself with a blowtorch in space. Lifting off from the Martian surface doesn’t even rate the crew of the ship sitting, much less being strapped in, and a spacewalk is undertaken with not so much as a single tow-rope in evidence.
Luckily, IT! is more horror than science fiction and it manages at least a few memorable moments in that respect – Marshall Thompson’s [CULT OF THE COBRA, FIEND WITHOUT A FACE] spooky narration helps. It’s hard to forget the image of a three-clawed hand punching its way through one of the spaceship’s central hatchways or of “it” bursting forth, backlit, from the reactor room. But IT! suffers in showing far too much of its menace in its brief running time, and could have been that much more effective had its makers taken a cue from inspiration THE THING and limited audience exposure to the Paul Blaisdell-devised monster suit [later re-used for THE INVISIBLE INVADERS].
Most notable among IT!’s cast is the man behind the monster – none other than Ray “Crash” Corrigan. While he received the starring role in the 1936 serial UNDERSEA KINGDOM, Corrigan was better known for playing variety of film monsters, predominantly of the ape variety [as in THE WHITE GORILLA and BELA LUGOSI MEETS THE BROOKLYN GORILLA]. Those who have seen his previous work will find his mannerisms here, in his final role, instantly recognizable. Sad is the case of the beautiful and reasonably talented Shirley Patterson [using her pseudonym Shawn Smith] who is wasted in a traditional female role only slightly less thankless than the one she’d played in THE LAND UNKNOWN the previous year [at least the men on board this ship don't spend every waking moment making lewd remarks while Patterson grins and takes it]. She would appear only once more, in an episode of FRONTIER DOCTOR, before disappearing from screen acting all together.
MGM first released IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE as a stand-alone DVD in August of 2001 – it is this same encoding that is copied over to the Midnight Movies double bill [with THE MONSTER THAT CHALLENGED THE WORLD] flipper reviewed here. The black and white transfer is progressive and open-matte, leaving ample dead space at the top and bottom of the frame. This looks to be the same SD master used for previous VHS and United Artists Sci-Fi Matinee laserdisc releases and while detail is at reasonable levels contrast is flat and damage is both present and frequent. Audio is presented in serviceable Dolby Digital monophonic – the score by Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter, re-composed themes from the previous year’s KRONOS, has some nice punchiness at times, but don’t expect anything spectacular. Subtitles are available in French or Spanish. A fanciful theatrical trailer [complete with some utterly failed attempts at subliminal marketing] is the only supplement.
Frankly, I can’t see any reason not to recommend this disc – the retail price is low, online sale price lower, and you get the memorable THE MONSTER THAT CHALLENGED THE WORLD on the flip-side of the disc for your troubles. Those just wishing to test the waters should check hulu.com, on which you can currently view IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE in a new and properly matted 1.85:1 transfer [undoubtedly one of MGM's many recent HD remasters] free of charge.
However you choose to see it, IT! is a hoot and a sight better than many in its class from the same time period. It’s also mercifully brief, running just 69 minutes with credits and all. I have no problem recommending.