It Came from Outer Space

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It Came from Outer Space
Itcamefromouterspace.jpg
film poster by Joseph Smith
Directed by Jack Arnold
Produced by William Alland
Screenplay by Harry Essex
Story by Ray Bradbury
Starring Richard Carlson
Barbara Rush
Charles Drake
Joe Sawyer
Russell Johnson
Music by Herman Stein
Cinematography Clifford Stine
Edited by Paul Weatherwax
Distributed by Universal Studios
Release date(s) May 25, 1953
Running time 81 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $800,000
Box office $1.6 million (rentals)

It Came from Outer Space is a 1953 American black-and-white science fiction film based on the original short story, The Meteor, by Ray Bradbury.[1] The film, the first in the 3-D process from Universal Pictures, was produced by William Alland, directed by Jack Arnold, and starred Richard Carlson, Barbara Rush, and Charles Drake. Filming took place on location in and around the California towns of Palmdale and Victorville, and the Mojave Desert.[2]

Plot[edit]

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. At the crash site, Putnam notices a strange, partially buried object lodged in the large crater; he comes to the realization that it wasn't a meteorite that crashed after all: it was an alien spaceship. After a landslide completely covers the mysterious craft, his story is later scoffed at by the townspeople of Sand Rock, including its sheriff (Charles Drake), and the local media.

Even Ellen Fields is unsure about what to believe but still agrees to assist Putnam in his investigation. Over the next several days, local people disappear; a few return, but they act distant or appear somewhat dazed. Convinced by these and other odd events, Sheriff Warren comes to believe Putnam's story that the meteorite is actually a crashed spaceship with alien inhabitants; he then organizes a posse to hunt down the invaders at their crash site. Putnam, however, hopes to reach a peaceful solution to the looming crisis. Alone, he enters a nearby abandoned mine, which he hopes will eventually connect to the now buried spaceship and its alien occupants.

Putnam finally discovers the spaceship and learns from its crew that they crashed on Earth by accident; the aliens appear benign and only plan to stay on Earth just long enough to repair their damaged craft and then continue on their voyage. The aliens real appearance, when finally revealed to Putnam, is entirely non-human: they are large, single-eyed, jelly fish-like beings that seem to glide across the ground, leaving a glistening trail that soon vanishes. They are also able to shape shift into human form using a mental telepathy screen in order to appear human and move around, unobserved, in order to collect their much needed repair materials. To do this, they copy the human forms of the local townspeople they've secretly kidnapped to help them repair their crippled spaceship. In doing so, however, they fail to reproduce the townspeople's exact personalities, leading to suspicion and eventually to the deaths of two of the aliens.

To protect the aliens from the sheriff and his advancing posse, John Putnam manages to seal off the mine in order to protect the aliens and to give them the time they still need to finish their repairs; they finally do so and leave Earth but not before releasing, unharmed, all of the missing townspeople that "assisted" them.

Cast[edit]

Actor Role
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)

Production[edit]

The screenplay by Harry Essex, with input by Jack Arnold, was derived from an original screen treatment by Ray Bradbury; screen legend says Bradbury wrote the original screenplay and Harry Essex merely changed the dialogue and took the credit.[3] Unusual among science fiction films of the era, the alien "invaders" were portrayed by Bradbury as creatures without malicious intent toward humanity. The film can be interpreted as a metaphorical refutation of the supposedly xenophobic attitudes and ideology of the Cold War. 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."[4] He has called the movie "a good film. Some parts of it are quite nice."[5] In 2004 Bradbury published as a single volume four versions of his screen treatment for It Came From Outer Space.

The uncredited music score for the film was composed by Irving Gertz, Henry Mancini, and Herman Stein.

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.

The special effects created for the in-flight alien spacecraft consisted of a wire-mounted iron ball, with hollowed out 'windows,' with burning magnesium inside.

The Arizona setting and the alien abduction of telephone lineman and two other characters are fictionalized story elements taken from Bradbury's younger life, when his father moved the family to Tucson.

Urban legend has it that an extra in an Army corporal's uniform seen at the "meteor" crash site is comedy writer-performer Morey Amsterdam. While the briefly glimpsed extra does indeed resemble Amsterdam, no hard evidence (e.g., cast call bureau records, interviews with Amsterdam) has ever confirmed this is actually him. The most recent DVD re-release of It Came from Outer Space comes with a documentary, "The Universe According to Universal." It was written and directed by David J. Skal and has audio commentary by Tom Weaver, in which Weaver notes the extra's similarity to Morey Amsterdam.

Reception[edit]

It Came from Outer Space was released in June 1953[6] and by the end of that year had accrued US$1.6 million in distributors' US and Canadian rentals,[7] making it the year's 75th biggest earner.[8]

The New York Times review noted “the adventure…is merely mildly diverting, not stupendous. The space ship and its improbable crew, which keep the citizens of Sand Rock, Ariz., befuddled and terrified, should have the same effect on customers who are passionately devoted to king-sized flying saucers and gremlins."[9] "Brog" in Variety opined that "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."[10]

Since its original release, the critical response to the film has become mostly positive. Bill Warren has written that “Arnold’s vigorous direction and Bradbury’s intriguing ideas meld to produce a genuine classic in its limited field.”[6] Jonathan Rosenbaum described the film as “[A] scary black-and-white SF effort from 1953.”[11] Phil Hardy’s The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction observed “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.”[12] Of the reviews included on Rotten Tomatoes regarding It Came from Outer Space, 81% of critics liked the film.[13] In one of the negative reviews, FilmCritic.com opines that the film “moves terribly slowly (despite an 80 minute running time) because the plot is overly simplistic with absolutely no surprises."[14]

Barbara Rush won the Golden Globe award in 1954 as most promising female newcomer for her role in the film.

The film was nominated for AFI's Top 10 Science Fiction Films list.[15]

Cultural references[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Rux, Bruce. Hollywood Vs. the Aliens. 1997. Frog, Ltd. (North Atlantic Books). ISBN 1-883319-61-7.
  • Strick, Philip. Science Fiction Movies. 1976. Octopus Books Limited. ISBN 0-7064-0470-X.
  • Warren, Bill. Keep Watching the Skies: American Science Fiction Films of the Fifties, 21st Century Edition. 2009. McFarland & Company. ISBN 0-89950-032-3

References[edit]

  1. ^ Turner Classic Movies. Entry: It Came From Outer Space by Jeff Stafford.
  2. ^ http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/79482/It-Came-from-Outer-Space/articles.html
  3. ^ It Came From Outer Space DVD Commentary by film historian Tom Weaver
  4. ^ Weller, Sam (2005). The Bradbury Chronicles. HarperCollins. p. 191. ISBN 0-06-054581-X. 
  5. ^ Bradbury, Ray (2004). Conversations With Ray Bradbury. University Press of Mississippi. p. 60. ISBN 1-57806-641-7. 
  6. ^ a b Warren, Bill. Keep Watching The Skies Vol I: 1950–1957, pgs. 121–130, McFarland, 1982. ISBN 0-89950-032-3.
  7. ^ "The Top Box Office Hits of 1953", Variety, January 13, 1954
  8. ^ Gebert, Michael. The Encyclopedia of Movie Awards (listing of 'Box Office (Domestic Rentals)' for 1953, taken from Variety magazine), St. Martin's Paperbacks, 1996. ISBN 0-668-05308-9. "Rentals" refers to the distributor/studio's share of the box office gross, which, according to Gebert, is roughly half of the money generated by ticket sales.
  9. ^ "It Came From Outer Space (1953) Look Out! The Space Boys Are Loose Again". New York Times, June 15, 1953. Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  10. ^ "Brog". Review from Variety dated May 27, 1953, taken from Variety's Complete Science Fiction Reviews, edited by Don Willis, Garland Publishing, Inc., 1985. ISBN 0-8240-6263-9
  11. ^ Rosenbaum, Jonathan. "It Came From Outer Space capsule review". jonathanrosenbaum.net. Retrieved 2009-01-01. 
  12. ^ Hardy, Phil (editor). The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction, Aurum Press, 1984. Reprinted as The Overlook Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction, Overlook Press, 1995, ISBN 0-87951-626-7
  13. ^ "It Came From Outer Space (1953)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2009-01-01. 
  14. ^ Null, Christopher. "It Came From Outer Space". FilmCritic.com. Retrieved 2010-01-02. 
  15. ^ AFI's "10 Greatest Science Fiction Films: The 50 Nominees"
  16. ^ http://kennelco.com/2006/07/

External links[edit]