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  It! The Terror From Beyond Space In space no-one can hear you scream
Year: 1958
Director: Edward L. Cahn
Stars: Marshall Thompson, Shawn Smith, Kim Spalding, Ann Doran, Ray 'Crash' Corrigan, Dabbs Greer, Paul Langton, Richard Benedict
Genre: Horror, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 3 votes)
Review: This nifty, Fifties creature feature was allegedly the inspiration for Alien (1979). In the far-flung future year of 1973, mankind’s first space expedition is stranded on Mars. Back on planet Earth, a press conference announces that heroic spaceflight leader Colonel Edward Caruthers (Marshall Thompson) stands accused of killing his nine comrades. A second team of wisecracking space jockeys arrive on Mars to interrogate Caruthers, but find him “sticking to his crazy story about a mysterious creature.” Sure enough, as the spacecraft rockets home, a hideous monster (stuntman Ray 'Crash' Corrigan, who previously battled alien evildoers in Undersea Kingdom (1936)) bursts out from the cargo hold and starts killing crewmembers, one by one.

A classic space terror flick, this benefits from the taut handling and atmospheric staging of Edward L. Cahn, director of such drive-in favourites as The Creature with the Atom Brain (1955) and Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957). Cahn’s eerie use of shadow and light builds the menace surrounding the monster, aided by the intense emoting of stalwart character actors like Marshall Thompson and Dabbs Greer. Whereas some Fifties science fiction movies look at space as the place where mankind is left alone with their own troubled psyche, neuroses and fears, this remains sci-fi to jangle your nerves rather than stimulate your brain cells.

The rubber monster is a memorably muscular, fanged nightmare, but works best when confined to the shadows. Cahn pulls many of the same tricks Ridley Scott later used: a lifeless arm dangles above Caruthers, the creature sneaks through air vents, claws steal shutters and drags corpses around the ship’s hull. Like The Thing from Another World (1951), the monster is a kind of space vampire that drains bodily fluids, and also inflicts victims with a nasty alien bacteria. Cahn keeps up the pace, with deaths that are shocking and creepy, if not always emotionally engaging since we barely get to know the crew before the monster rips through them with frightening ease.

Characterisation is kept pretty minimal, aside from a mild love triangle between Caruthers, Ann (Shawn Smith) and Van (Kim Spalding). Everyone gets on with their jobs with brisk, square-jawed efficiency. Although supposedly a scientist, Ann starts out serving coffee and winds up screaming hysterically. More interesting is Dr. Mary Royce (Ann Doran), who admirably suggests using gas grenades that temporarily stall the creature. Also of note is hardboiled Jim Caulder (Paul Langton) who gets trapped in the engine room for a tense standoff with the creature, aided by a handy flamethrower. Panicky idiot Van does no-one any favours when he tries to zap it with a radiation blast, and winds up getting poor Bob (Richard Benedict) killed. The clod. After a slightly stage-bound, but nonetheless exciting finale, the film ends - as these things must - with an ominous warning for mankind to stay away from Mars. Did they listen? Hell, no.

Click here for the trailer

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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Edward L. Cahn  (1899 - 1963)

Hugely prolific, underrrated American director specialising in crime and sci-fi, who turned in some 120 B-movies over 30 years. Cahn began directing for Universal in 1930, and over the next two decades worked at most of the major studios, turning in films like Emergency Call, Main Street After Dark and I Cheated the Law.

In 1956, his efficient, economic style led him to Samuel Z. Arkoff’s American International Pictures where he turned in his best films, such as The She Creature, Invasion of the Saucer Men, Invisible Invaders and It! The Terror from Beyond Space (the latter two big influences on Night of the Living Dead and Alien).

 
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