IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE is a landmark achievement in science-fiction cinema. It benefits greatly from a suitably otherworldly score and wisely keeps the appearance of the shape-shifting aliens a mystery until towards the end of the film. One does, however, get glimpses of what we are to see and a frequently we are given a monster's-eye view of ourselves. The $750,000 production was based upon a tale entitled "The Meteor" by Ray Bradbury in the early 50s.
One can only speculate on the impact that the 3-D effect had on audiences of the time. It is not as effects-laden as the films that would follow but deserves praise for making the aliens benign and human beings aggressive and warlike, something that unfortunately has not changed to this day.
Richard Carlson is believable as the scientist John Putnam attempting to give peace a chance and the aliens enough time to get out of Dodge. Too much time is spent on Carlson trying to convince the skeptical townsfolk that aliens are among them. The subplot of the rivalry between Carlson and the sheriff serves a purpose in the scheme of things but love interest should always be at a minimum in this kind of film. Barbara Rush (WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE) is a more than an adequate leading lady and is a real hoot when she gets possessed and gets her hands on one of those out-of-this world ray guns.
This reviewer's favorite moments are when the two telephone repairmen (one of whom is Russell Johnson of "Gilligan's Island") creep around town and cower in dark rooms with eyes that glow in the dark. Once possessed, the humans sound like their voices are magnified in a manner that becomes tiresome after awhile. While your scribe prefers THE THING and INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS it is difficult not to acknowledge its influence on what was to follow.
Genre journalist/historian Tom Weaver, reading rapidly from the Evelyn Wood School of Speed Reading gives a laborious accounting of every production matter conceivable. He certainly knows his 50s science-fiction and if Universal Home Video would listen to fans, Weaver could and should do commentaries for the likes of TARANTULA, CREATURE WALKS AMONG US, REVENGE OF THE CREATURE, INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN and others. He does exhibit a dark side in making value judgments regarding the actor's personal lives. He notably remarks about "Carlson's love of the bottle" as he did with Chaney, Jr. on THE WOLF MAN. However, facts are what this is all about and he has done his homework and merits praise for his efforts.
Back in 1975 or 1976 while living in San Francisco this film was double-billed with CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON and shown in 3-D at the Powell Theater at Market Street and Powell. What a treat it was to see Universal-International's 50s best in this manner; unforgettable and wondrous this experience was.
The print quality is positively vibrant and clear. The sound is Dolby Digital 3.0 stereo and is perfection plus, and the weird Joseph Gershenson musical theme of the film will stick with you forever. Extras include a still and poster gallery, trailer and a documentary by David Skal entitled "The Universe According to Universal" which appears to be a bit thin as if the studio insisted on ballyhooing their other 50s sci-fi efforts such as THIS ISLAND EARTH at the expense of the film at hand. The box art is cheesy and out of step with the Universal monster series which reproduced original poster art.
This is however one of Universal Home Video's better offerings and may be the only classic sci-fi release for 2002. Let's hope the powers that be at Universal change their minds about this! (Christopher Dietrich)
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