by Sam Juliano
Another word for Mars is death.
Edward Cahn’s It! The Terror from Beyond Space remains a prime example of a modestly budgeted 50’s science fiction film that was gloriously resurrected on television after a theatrical run fueled by the drive-ins. In the New York City market it remained a staple on WPIX’s Chiller Theater, where it was rightly perceived as a horror/sci-fi hybrid, and aimed squarely at the baby bommer generation. The original title, The Vampire from Beyond Space is a better appraisal of the movie’s central conflict, which is variation of sorts on another 1958 genre classic The Blob, but the film is now mainly celebrated as the inspiration for Alien, a mighty acknowledgement, especially for a standard programmer in an era inundated with this brand. Mario Bava’s Planet of the Vampires (inexplicably missing from this countdown) even with the decisive lean towards horror, is another film with striking similarities to It!) The future as depicted in the film is scarely fifteen years away -1973- which is only four years after man first stepped foot on the moon. But the Jerome Bixby (Twilight Zone’s “It’s A Good Life”; Star Trek’s “Mirror, Mirror”) penned script relied on what appeared to be rapidly advancing technology, bolstered in part by the success of Sputnik the previous year, and the Cold War space competition that could very well see the U.S. negotiated not one but two missions back-to-back amidst the tensions associated with trying to exceed the other.
The rubber-clad terror that has invariably reduced the Martian physiology to that of the title protagonist showcased in Creature from the Black Lagoon is a reptilian monster with a singular aim of killing all who come in its path. There is nothing remotely sophisticated in both the plot and the character motivations exhibited in It! The Terror from Beyond Space, neither does the story arc veer into unexpected directions. Yet, there can be no question that once the suspense begins to build, it has the macabre allure of something like Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, where the question isn’t “if” but “how” and “when.” (more…)