It Conquered the World

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It Conquered the World
It Conquered the World.jpg
Theatrical release poster by Albert Kallis
Directed by Roger Corman
Produced by Roger Corman
Written by Lou Rusoff
Charles B. Griffith (uncredited)
Starring Peter Graves
Lee Van Cleef
Beverly Garland
Sally Fraser
Music by Ronald Stein
Cinematography Fred E. West
Editing by Charles Gross
Distributed by American International Pictures
Release dates July 15, 1956
Running time 71 minutes
Country United States
Language English

It Conquered the World is an independently made 1956 American science fiction film about an alien from Venus trying to take over the world with the help of a disillusioned human scientist. It was distributed by AIP, directed by Roger Corman, written by Lou Rusoff (with uncredited contributions by Charles B. Griffith, who didn't want his name to be credited on screen [1]), and starred Peter Graves, Lee Van Cleef, Beverly Garland, and Sally Fraser.

Plot[edit]

Dr. Tom Anderson (Van Cleef), an embittered scientist, has made contact with a Venusian alien with his radio transmitter. The alien wants to take over the world using mind control devices, but claims it only wants to bring peace to the world by eliminating emotions. Anderson agrees to help the creature and even intends to allow it to assimilate his wife (Garland) and friend Dr. Nelson (Graves). The alien then disrupts all electric power on Earth, including motor vehicles, leaving Dr. Nelson to resort to riding around on a bicycle.

After killing a flying bat-like creature which carries the mind control device, Nelson returns home to find his wife assimilated. She attempts to force assimilation on him with another bat, and he ends up killing her. By then the only people who are free of control are Nelson, Anderson, Anderson's wife and a group of soldiers camping in the woods. Dr. Nelson finally persuades the paranoid Anderson that he made a horrible mistake about the alien's motives, allying himself with a creature bent on world domination. When they discover Tom's wife took a rifle to the alien's cave to kill it, they hurriedly follow her. The monster kills Mrs. Anderson before the two doctors can rescue her. Finally seeing the loss of everything he holds dear, Dr. Anderson kills the monster himself, dying in the process.

Cast[edit]

  • Peter Graves as Dr. Paul Nelson
  • Lee Van Cleef as Dr. Tom Anderson
  • Beverly Garland as Claire Anderson
  • Sally Fraser as Joan Nelson
  • Russ Bender as General James Pattick
  • Taggart Casey as Sheriff N.J. Shallert
  • Karen Kadler as Dr. Ellen Peters
  • Dick Miller as First Sergeant
  • Jonathan Haze as Corporal Manuel Ortiz
  • Paul Harbor as Dr. Floyd Mason
  • Charles B. Griffith as Dr. Pete Shelton
  • Thomas E. Jackson as George Haskell

Production[edit]

The script was originally written by Lou Rusoff, but before it was finished his brother died and he had to leave for Canada. Roger Corman called in Charles Griffith to rewrite it two days before filming commenced.[2]

The creature design was an idea of Corman's. He thought that since the creature came from a big planet, it would have been designed to deal with heavy gravity and would be built low to the ground. Corman later admitted this was a mistake, saying the creature would have been more frightening if it was bigger or taller. When Beverly Garland first saw the creature she commented "That conquered the world?" and kicked it over.[3] Griffith:

I called it Denny Dimwit and somebody else called it an ice-cream cone. I was around when Paul Blaisdell was building it and he thought the camera would make it look bigger. I have some photographs of it in construction, probably the only ones in existence. I asked for my name not to be on that picture, so I was unbilled. Surprisingly, it got good reviews.[2]

Release History[edit]

It Conquered the World was released theatrically by American International Pictures in July 1956.[4] During the 1960s the title was syndicated to television by American International Television. In the 1990s, VHS versions appeared on the US home video market (by RCA Columbia Home Video)[5] and in the UK,[6] but these are no longer in distribution, nor is the film available on DVD.

The British censor had concerns about the scene where the monster is destroyed by a blowtorch, on the grounds that it depicted cruelty to animals. AIP successfully argued an alien from outer space was not an animal.[7]

Reception[edit]

Reviews[edit]

Chicago Reader gave the film a generally positive review, saying "Amazingly, this 1953 picture isn't half bad […]".[8]

Time Out magazine, however, gave the film a negative review, criticising the film for its poor special effects.[9]

Leonard Maltin called the film "well acted and interesting but awkwardly plotted".[10]

All Movie Guide gave the film three out of five stars, calling it an "above-average quickie".[11]

Rotten Tomatoes gave the film 80%, regarding it "fresh", based on 5 Reviews,[12] while the Rotten Tomatoes User Community gave the film 60%, also regarding it "fresh", based on 5 reviews.[13]

Legacy[edit]

In 1966, a remake of It Conquered the World was produced for television under the name Zontar, The Thing from Venus.

Frank Zappa's 1974 live album Roxy & Elsewhere refers to the film in the introduction for the song "Cheepnis".

The end of the film is shown at the beginning of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1988).

In 1991, it was the subject of the television series Mystery Science Theater 3000; joke topics included poor monster props, occasionally wooden acting and an overblown closing monologue.

Audio samples from the film are played in the song "Facing That" from M83's self titled debut album, released in 2001.

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.sensesofcinema.com/2005/35/charles_b_griffith/
  2. ^ a b Aaron W. Graham, 'Little Shop of Genres: An interview with Charles B. Griffith', Senses of Cinema, 15 April, 2005 accessed 25 June 2012
  3. ^ Mark McGee, Faster and Furiouser: The Revised and Fattened Fable of American International Pictures, McFarland, 1996 p58
  4. ^ It Conquered the World at the Internet Movie Database
  5. ^ US-American VHS of It Conquered the World at Amazon.com
  6. ^ British VHS of It Conquered the World at Amazon.co.uk
  7. ^ BOYS MEET GHOULS, MAKE MONEY By IRVING RUBINEHOLLYWOOD.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 16 Mar 1958: X7.
  8. ^ Review by Dave Kehr in the Chicago Reader.
  9. ^ Review by Tony Rayns in Time Out magazine.
  10. ^ Leonard Maltin's 2008 Movie Guide, Signet/New American Library, New York 2008.
  11. ^ Review by Hal Erickson in All Movie Guide, online at Allrovi.com
  12. ^ Online reviews at Rottentomatoes.com
  13. ^ User reviews at Rottentomatoes.com

External links[edit]