It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958)

It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958)

It Breathes. It Hunts. It Kills!

In 1973, the first manned flight to Mars is marooned and by the time the rescue ship arrives, there is only one survivor. He claims that the crew were decimated by an alien life form but no one will believe his story. That is until the life form stows away on the rescue ship for the voyage back to Earth.

 

Don’t let the title fool you into thinking this is just some cheap and trashy 50s sci-fi flick. It! The Terror from Beyond Space is clearly the monster movie blueprint on which Ridley Scott based Alien – trapping a group of people aboard a space ship and letting a deadly alien loose amongst them. It lacks the shocks, the nightmarish creation by H.R. Giger, the great characters and above all, the budget, of Scott’s classic but considering the sort of company that It! The Terror from Beyond Space was keeping at the time it was made (the never-ending scores of atomic monster movies) it was like a breath of fresh air. Just think of how many times this plot has been rehashed and copied over the years. It had to begin somewhere.

It! The Terror from Beyond Space must have one of the shortest running times I’ve seen for a feature film and it’s a pity because I reckon this had plenty more mileage in the tank. Thankfully with the film being so short on length, time isn’t wasted and it’s not too long before the alien begins to kill off the crew. The sets are small and cramped, letting loose with the claustrophobic atmosphere and keeping everything in close quarters. The ship itself isn’t very big and only consists of a few small levels so it’s not like the characters have to play and hide and seek with the alien for too long. It’s this sense of proximity which adds imminent danger to everyone involved. There’s only so many places that they can keep retreating to on the ship as the alien keeps closing in on them and you get the real sense that the alien is within touching distance of the characters at every point during the film.

There is a great deal of suspense to be had when you don’t actually see what is doing the killing. The less you see the better. For instance, the scene inside the air vent is way ahead of its time in terms of suspense and horror and with a bigger budget and a better looking monster, you saw this air vent scene live up to its potential in Alien. The use of lighting, shadows and smoke is also excellent throughout so that we never really get a good shot of the monster for quite some time. In the brief moments you do get a glimpse of it, the creature looks terrifying. It uses its physical strength to smash down steel doors and kills people by breaking their bones and sucking their bodily fluid dry. I remember being scared by this alien as kid.

Unfortunately any sort of fear factor the alien may have had is instantly lost when it finally emerges from the shadows and shows itself in full. I’m guessing it would have looked scary in the 50s but looking back now, it’s one of those ‘look you can see the zipper’ alien costumes that a lot of modern people fondly remember from this era. Once it has been revealed to the audience, the creature obviously likes basking in the limelight because you can’t get rid of the thing off the screen. Less was definitely better and certainly more frightening.

 

It! The Terror from Beyond Space looks extremely dated now but it still manages to deliver the goods and for it’s time, it’s pretty atmospheric. You can’t knock its influence on the sci-fi horror genre, that’s for sure.

 

 ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 

 

 

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