We’re between summer genre releases, so this weekend’s review takes you back to 1958 and a noteworthy B-pic of SF’s drive-in days—one with ties to more lasting, familiar films.

Title: It! The Terror from Beyond Space

Available from Amazon.

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Directed by Edward L. Cahn
Written by Edgar Wright, Jerome Bixby.

Cast

Marshall Thompson as Carruthers
Shirley Patterson as Ann Anderson
Kim Spalding as Van Heusen
Ann Doran as Mary Royce
Dabbs Greer as Eric Royce
Paul Langton as Calder
Robert Bice as Purdue
Richard Benedict as Bob Finelli
Richard Hervey as Gino
Thom Carney as Kienholz
Ray “Crash” Corrigan as It

Full Cast and Crew information is here.

Premise:

The second mission to Mars (in 1973) goes to rescue the first, only to find a lone survivor. They don’t believe his tale that a Martian monster killed the others—until the monster turns up on their ship.

High Points:

For all its flaws and dated references, the film still has a strong concept: monster on the loose on board a spaceship. The film creates some suspense when it succeeds, and quite a few laughs when it fails.

One immediately sees the basis for a better movie. So did Ridley Scott, whose Alien falls so close that it prompted the threat of a lawsuit.

Low Points:

I know it’s 1950s SF, and I know that era produced far worse, but this film raises too many of the wrong questions. Why did they take guns, bazookas, and grenades to Mars? Why can they fire off same on board a spaceborne ship without causing any serious damage?

Did the Time Lords help design the spaceship? The interiors seem far larger than would seem possible for the dinky cardboard rocket used for the exterior.

Why do astronauts send a cryptic message back to earth at the end, instead of just reporting what happened?

Why is a Martian creature “from beyond space?”

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6 The Thing from Another World influenced many films, but the similarities here get too close for comfort. They’ve basically reworked that classic for a spaceship instead of an isolated base (although the astronauts certainly act like they’re on a base), and stripped away most of what makes that film work.

Effects: 3/6 Mars and the rocket are illustrations, possibly on cardboard. The monster is a zipper-up-the-back rubber suit, the love-child of The Thing from Another World and the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and the ancestor of the reptilian bounty hunter in The Empire Strikes Back (close enough that the latter could be a deliberate tribute). This comes a couple years after Forbidden Planet; they could have done a little better, even at that time and on an obviously limited budget.

Story: 4/6 The film has a good premise with rather uneven development.

Acting: 4/6 Some performances verge on the wooden, but they’re passable.

Production: 4/6 This score makes certain allowances for the era. Feel free to substitute a 3.

Emotional Response: 4/6 See “High” and “Low” Points.

Overall: 3/6 Like a lot of SF, the creators could conceive a ship (with artificial gravity) going to Mars by 1973, but they had difficulty imagining our social attitudes or even fashions would change much. We do have two female astronauts on board (at least one a doctor), but they spend much of their time becoming scared, providing love interest, and pouring coffee.

In total, It! The Terror from Beyond Space receives 25/42.