It Came from Outer Space
|It Came from Outer Space|
film poster by Joseph Smith
|Directed by||Jack Arnold|
|Produced by||William Alland|
|Screenplay by||Harry Essex|
|Story by||Ray Bradbury|
|Music by||Herman Stein|
|Editing by||Paul Weatherwax|
|Distributed by||Universal Studios|
|Release date(s)||May 25, 1953 (U.S. release)|
|Running time||81 min.|
|Box office||$1.6 million (US)|
Author and amateur astronomer John Putnam (Carlson) and schoolteacher Ellen Fields (Rush) watch a meteorite crash near the small town of Sand Rock, Arizona. After visiting the crash site, John notices a strange object in the crater and believes that it wasn't a meteorite that crashed after all, but an alien spaceship. After a landslide covers the mysterious craft, John's story is ridiculed by the townspeople, sheriff (Drake), and local media.
Even Ellen is unsure of what to believe, but agrees to assist John in his investigation. Over the next several days, a number of local people disappear. A few return but they seem distant and dazed. Eventually, Sheriff Warren becomes convinced that a meteorite wasn't involved and he organizes a posse to hunt down the invaders. Alone, John hopes to reach a peaceful solution, so he goes into a mine which he hopes will lead him to the buried spacecraft and its occupants.
It transpires that the aliens are benign beings whose spacecraft crashed because of malfunctioning components. They planned to stay on Earth just long enough to replace the parts, and then to continue their voyage. Whilst the aliens true appearance resembles a large one-eyed jelly-like being that glides over the ground, leaving a glistening trail, they are also able to shape shift. To allow themselves to move freely in human society to collect the parts they need to repair their ship, they subsequently kidnap and take the form of some of the local townspeople. However, they are unable to reproduce the townspeople's personalities, leading to suspicion, and eventually the deaths of two of the alien crew members. After John Putnam manages to seal them off in an abandoned mine to protect them from the advancing posse, and to give them time to repair their ship, they do so and leave, but not before releasing all of the missing townspeople unharmed.
|Richard Carlson||John Putnam|
|Barbara Rush||Ellen Fields|
|Charles Drake||Sheriff Matt Warren|
|Joe Sawyer||Frank Daylon|
|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)|
The screenplay was by Harry Essex, with input by Jack Arnold, and was derived from an original screen treatment by Ray Bradbury (although it is said Ray Bradbury wrote the original screenplay and Harry Essex merely changed the dialogue and took the credit). Unusual among sci-fi films of the day, the alien "invaders" were portrayed as creatures without malicious intent. The film has been interpreted[who?] as a metaphorical refutation of supposedly xenophobic attitudes and ideology of the Cold War.
"I wanted to treat the invaders as beings who were not dangerous, and that was very unusual", Bradbury said. He offered two outlines to the studio, one with malicious aliens, the other with benign aliens. "The studio picked the right concept, and I stayed on." He has called the movie "a good film. Some parts of it are quite nice."
In 2004, Bradbury published four versions of his screen treatment for the movie as a single volume, It Came From Outer Space.
The Universal make-up department submitted two alien designs for consideration by the studio executives. The design that was rejected was saved and then later used as the Metaluna Mutant in Universal's This Island Earth (1955). The special effects created for the spacecraft in flight consisted of a wire-mounted iron ball, with hollowed out 'windows', and ignited magnesium inside. The Arizona setting and the telephone lineman occupation of two of the characters are elements 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 at the "meteor" crash site is comedy writer-performer Morey Amsterdam. While the briefly glimpsed man does indeed resemble Amsterdam, no hard evidence (e.g., cast call bureau records, interviews with Amsterdam) has ever confirmed it is actually him. The most recent of Universal's 2002 DVD release of the movie comes with a documentary, "The Universe According to Universal," written and directed by David J. Skal, and an audio commentary by Tom Weaver, in which Weaver also notes the similarity of Morey Amsterdam.
It Came from Outer Space was released in June 1953 and by the end of that year had accrued US$ 1,600,000 in distributors' domestic (U.S. and Canada) rentals, making it the year's 75th biggest earner.
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." "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."
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.” Jonathan Rosenbaum described the film as “[A] scary black-and-white SF effort from 1953.” 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.” However, of the 20 reviews included in a Rotten Tomatoes survey of critics regarding the title, 19% reflect negative reactions. 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."
Barbara Rush won the Golden Globe award in 1954 as most promising female newcomer for her role.
- It Came from Outer Space is one of the classic films mentioned in the opening theme ("Science Fiction/Double Feature") of the musical The Rocky Horror Show and its film adaptation.
- Excerpts of this film are featured in the movie The Nomi Song.
- The narration in the Siouxsie and the Banshees song "92 Degrees" from the 1986 album Tinderbox contains dialog from this movie.
- "The Top Box Office Hits of 1953", Variety, January 13, 1954
- It Came From Outer Space DVD Commentary by film historian Tom Weaver
- Weller, Sam (2005). The Bradbury Chronicles. HarperCollins. p. 191. ISBN 0-06-054581-X.
- Bradbury, Ray (2004). Conversations With Ray Bradbury. University Press of Mississippi. p. 60. ISBN 1-57806-641-7.
- Warren, Bill. Keep Watching The Skies Vol I: 1950–1957, pgs. 121–130, McFarland, 1982. ISBN 0-89950-032-3.
- 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.
- "It Came From Outer Space (1953) Look Out! The Space Boys Are Loose Again". New York Times, June 15, 1953. Retrieved 2012-03-24.
- "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
- Rosenbaum, Jonathan. "It Came From Outer Space capsule review". jonathanrosenbaum.com. Retrieved 2009-01-01.
- 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
- "It Came From Outer Space (1953)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2009-01-01.
- Null, Christopher. "It Came From Outer Space". FilmCritic.com. Retrieved 2010-01-02.
- AFI's "10 Greatest Science Fiction Films: The 50 Nominees"
- It Came from Outer Space at the American Film Institute Catalog
- It Came from Outer Space at the Internet Movie Database
- It Came from Outer Space at AllRovi
- Suite of the film score re-recorded on "Monstrous Movie Music" label (sound samples available)