Summer Weekend Review: It Came From Outer Space

They’ll be other nights, and other stars for us to watch. They’ll be back.

The Man from Planet X came first, as did the The Thing From Another World, which may be the best of the genre. The War of the Worlds had a bigger budget, and The Day the Earth Stood Still has become iconic. Never mind. This film may be the archetypal 1950s alien invasion movie, and its influence on later films, and TV’s The Outer Limits, would be difficult to miss. Elements of the story also presage Betty and Barney Hill’s alleged encounter with aliens.

Look for Russell “The Professor” Johnson.

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Directed by Jack Arnold
Written by Harry Essex, from a story by Ray Bradbury

Richard Carlson as John Putnam
Barbara Rush as Ellen Fields
Charles Drake as Sheriff Matt Warren
Joe Sawyer as Frank Daylon
Russell Johnson as George
Kathleen Hughes as June

Available from Amazon.


An extraterrestrial object crashes near a small desert town, bringing with it aliens and paranoia.

High Point:

It features some excellent camera work and suspense. The filmmakers also receive credit for giving us aliens who are neither humanoid in appearance nor especially humanlike in their thinking. They’re also not de facto monsters.

Come to think of it, this film may be the first motion picture to show a non-humanoid alien.

Low Points

The astronomer accepts the existence of extra-terrestrials but has issues with their unearthly ugliness?

The Scores:

Originality: 2/6 The film adapts a short story, and bears more than a passing similarity to The Thing From Another World, released two years earlier. The closing line, while memorable, does not quite measure up to “Keep watching the skies!”

Effects: 4/6 The quality varies here. Many of the effects—most notably, the early shots of the ship— hold up, more than half a century later. Others, such as the ray gun, look goofy; even in 1953, the audience would have recognized the rays as low-budget animation. The film also includes an unnecessarily fake spider. Seriously, they couldn’t just use a real spider?

Unlike many later productions, however, the effects exist here to serve the story. The tail does not wag the BEM.

Production: 5/6 The movie accomplishes a good deal on a limited budget, and uses the alien/other’s-eye-view found most famously in Jaws.

The score incorporates a theremin, which should also be a way to score in an old-time SF movie drinking game.

Acting: 5/6 The best of the early-50s SF creature features took themselves seriously as films, and this one is no exception. The acting and character motivations feel, for the most part, plausible, and grounded in reality.

Story: 5/6 The story works extremely well in the first half; the second does not consistently hold up.

Emotional Response: 4/6

Overall: 5/6

In total, It Came From Outer Space receives 30/42.