It Came from Outer Space – USA, 1953

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It Came from Outer Space is a 1953 American science fiction film, the first in the 3D process from Universal-International.

It was produced by William Alland, directed by Jack Arnold (Tarantula; Creature from the Black Lagoon; The Incredible Shrinking Man) from a screenplay by Harry Essex (Octaman). The film’s script is based on Ray Bradbury’s original story treatment, The Meteor.

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Bradbury said “I wanted to treat the invaders as beings who were not dangerous, and that was very unusual.” He offered two story outlines to the studio, one with malicious aliens, the other with benign aliens. “The studio picked the right concept, and I stayed on.”

In 2004, Bradbury published in one volume all four versions of his screen treatment for It Came From Outer Space.

Universal’s make-up department submitted two alien designs for consideration by studio executives; the rejected design was saved and then later used as the “Metaluna Mutant” in Universal’s 1955 science fiction film This Island Earth.

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The theremin heavy score was composed by Herman Stein who also composed the eerie music for, among others, the sci-fi and horror movies Revenge of the Creature and This Island Earth.

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Buy: Amazon.com

Plot:

Author and amateur astronomer John Putnam (Richard Carlson) and schoolteacher Ellen Fields (Barbara Rush) watch a large meteorite crash near the small town of Sand Rock, Arizona. They awaken a neighbor, who has a helicopter, and all three fly to the crash site. Putnam climbs down into the crater and notices a partially buried round object in the crater’s pit.

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He comes to the realization, after he sees a six-sided hatchway close, that this isn’t a meteorite but a large alien spaceship. The hatchway noise starts a landslide that completely buries the craft. Putnam’s story is later scoffed at by Sand Rock’s sheriff (Charles Drake) and the local news media. Even Ellen Fields is unsure about what to believe but still agrees to assist Putnam in his investigation…

Reviews:

“Direction by Jack Arnold whips up an air of suspense in putting the Harry Essex screenplay on film, and there is considerable atmosphere of reality created, which stands up well enough if the logic of it all is not examined too closely… story proves to be good science-fiction for the legion of film fans who like scare entertainment, well done.” Variety

“Dark desert roads and sudden moments of fear underline Arnold’s ability as a director of Science Fiction films, and Essex’s/Bradbury’s lines match his images superbly.” Hardy, Phil (editor), The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction, Aurum Press, 1984.

“Although caught between two eras of filmmaking, It Came From Outer Space remains contemporary even to this day because of its theme of xenophobia — the fear of outsiders — a message as apropos in these culturally-divisive times as it was during the Cold War. For as long as mankind can’t seem to get along with itself, It Came From Outer Space‘s plea for tolerance and understanding will remain relevant.” Monstrous Movie Music

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“One of the earliest films about this subject (you did already have The Thing from Another World, and The Day the Earth Stood Still at this point, plus some other notables), the angle of aliens that were not evil is something you really need to consider. That was not the norm and quite frankly still isn’t. We have Ray Bradbury to thank for that…” Magazines and Monsters

Cast and characters:

Richard Carlson John Putnam
Barbara Rush Ellen Fields
Charles Drake Sheriff Matt Warren
Joe Sawyer Frank Daylon
Russell Johnson George
Dave Willock Pete Davis
Robert Carson Dugan, reporter
Virginia Mullen Mrs. Daylon
Kathleen Hughes Jane, George’s girl
Paul Fix Councilman (uncredited)
Robert “Buzz” Henry Posseman (uncredited)

Cultural references:

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Choice dialogue:

John Putnam: “It’s just a Joshua tree.”

John Putnam: “I don’t know what’s odd and what isn’t anymore.”

Filming locations:

Palmdale and Victorville, and the Mojave Desert, California, USA

Wikipedia | IMDb | AFI

2 Comments on “It Came from Outer Space – USA, 1953”

  1. Howdy, It would be difficult to say something that has not been said before about this movie. The plot – great. The special effects – pretty darn good. The acting – superb. The Barbra Rush scream scenes – okay. The conflict/banter between Richard Carlson and Charles Drake – don’t miss it. A great way to escape the turmoil of 2017. In my top ten favorites.

  2. The classic of all classic sci-fi marvels. It could only have been originated by none other than Ray Bradbury, my fave sci-fi writer! These were quite scary for the times and the theremin music did give it a shove in that scary direction.

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