– It’s alive.
– And yet it looks so dead out there.
– Oh no, it’s alive and waiting for you, ready to kill you if you go too far. The sun will get you, or the cold at night. A thousand ways the desert can kill. Where are you? What do you look like? What am I supposed to be looking for? I know you’re out there, hiding in the desert. Maybe I’m looking right at you and don’t even see you…
Visitors to this site might get the impression I only watch or appreciate a narrow range of movies, westerns and noir thrillers in the main. Well those happen to be my favorites, and therefore get featured a lot, but it shouldn’t be taken as a dismissal on my part of other genres. The fact is I watch all kinds of stuff, even if it doesn’t get written up here with any kind of regularity. Sci-Fi has only made one other appearance on the site, despite the fact I do enjoy it, and I feel it’s time to offer some company to that solitary post. I should also say that Kristina’s recent flurry of Sci-Fi and horror/fantasy related posts over at Speakeasy encouraged me to do something about it. Let me say right away that my favorites in the genre can be found among the classic era material from the 50s and, to a lesser extent, the 60s and early 70s. As such, I’ve decided to run with It Came from Outer Space (1953), one of the best and most literate of the “fear of the unknown” variety.
Any movie with a relatively short running time owes it to the viewers to grab the attention as abruptly as possible, and this movie does just that by having a glowing spherical object hurtle menacingly towards the screen right at the beginning. We soon learn that this strange sight is an extraterrestrial spacecraft careering blindly towards the desert on the outskirts of a small Arizona town. Sand Rock is one of those close-knit communities where everyone knows everyone else, and strangers generally have to toil in order to overcome the inherent suspicion of the locals. John Putnam (Richard Carlson), an astronomer and relative newcomer, finds himself in that position when, along with his fiancée Ellen (Barbara Rush), he witnesses what looks like a meteor blazing its way across the night sky and ploughing into the arid wastelands beyond the town limits. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on one’s perspective, Putnam is the first to explore the crater gouged out by the impact and also the only one to see the clearly alien craft that caused it. A major rock slide succeeds in burying all trace of the find, and leaves him in the unenviable position of trying to convince others of the significance of what’s just happened. Perhaps not unnaturally, his claims are met with almost universal skepticism, Ellen being the only one not to doubt him, and borderline hostility from one particular quarter. Matt Warren (Charles Drake) is the local sheriff who clearly has feelings for Ellen and this arguably colors his reaction to Putnam’s assertions. However, something otherworldly has landed in Sand Rock, something capable of assuming the form of whoever suits its purposes. Aside from the neat mirroring of attitudes – both Putnam and the alien interlopers are on the receiving end of essentially the same suspicion and paranoia – the plot develops in an interesting, and quite refreshing direction, in terms of the visitors’ motivations and objectives. Before all of this is resolved though, there’s plenty of opportunity for the suspense to build.
The 50s science fiction boom seems to have been a direct result of the mood of the times – a curious cocktail of fear and hope. There was the paranoia stemming from the dread of devastation raining down from the skies coupled with a wariness over the possibility of an enemy within. This was at least partly balanced by the optimism of the post-war era, where the flip side of the technological revolution was the realization that boundless possibilities for progressive discovery also existed. Putnam’s character, as much as the aliens themselves, could be said to represent these twin concepts, and I feel it’s to the filmmakers’ credit that it’s the positive rather than the reactionary aspect which is embraced in the end.
It Came from Outer Space was to be the first Universal picture shot in the new 3D process. I’ve only seen it flat and it plays fine that way, although there’s a documentary on the DVD which points out how certain shots (not just gimmicky, throwing stuff at the screen material) were carefully composed to highlight the added depth of the extra dimension. The film was shot in California, standing in for Arizona, and good use is made of the Mojave Desert locations. The sense of remoteness, and the attendant perils of such a harsh and bleak environment, is woven into the plot, notably through passages of associated dialogue retained from Ray Bradbury’s original screen treatment. Although he had worked on a number of shorts, this was one of Jack Arnold’s earliest full length features, and his assurance as a director is already evident. Clifford Stine’s moody cinematography obviously helps things along, but Arnold sets everything up and keeps the story moving forward smoothly. Initially, it was planned not to show the aliens to the audience (a principle which I feel probably should have been adhered to) and focus on a combination of reaction shots and first person filming via a distorted lens. As it stands, I think some of the most effective scenes in the film are those where the threat is unseen – the sinister figures of Joe Sawyer and Russell Johnson silhouetted in a doorway, or a simple jump scare provoked by a light suddenly illuminating as mundane an object as a Joshua tree.
Richard Carlson had appeared in a whole variety of movies, some memorable and others less so, by the time this picture was made, and it introduced him to the Sci-Fi genre. He had the kind of square-jawed yet thoughtful features that lent themselves to playing heroes with a brain, a quality which would see him cast in a number of other films in this genre in the years to come. In the role of Ellen, Barbara Rush is asked to do little more than provide a supportive and sympathetic presence at first, but she later gets to have a little more fun as her own doppelgänger in the final act. Ms Rush was near the beginning of her long career in this movie and I’ve no doubt her composed performance helped raise her stock as an actress. While her cinema credits are impressive enough, she has worked extensively on TV, including a highly memorable part in a show I can’t seem to get away from mentioning of late – yes, it’s The Fugitive again. Charles Drake took on all kinds of roles over the years, as was the lot of contract actors, though I always feel he was at his best when cast as weaselly or less than sympathetic types. As such, playing the hot-headed, resentful sheriff suited him well and added an intriguing layer to the relationships at the center of the movie.
My DVD of It Came from Outer Space is the old Universal UK release, which is serviceable enough but could be improved. Personally, I’m not that bothered about the absence of a 3D version, although others will likely feel differently, but the open matte transfer is more disappointing. A film like this really needs to get a Blu-ray release in the correct widescreen ratio, and also provide the option of viewing it in 3D for those who wish to do so. On the plus side, there are some good extra features: a commentary track with Tom Weaver and a half-hour documentary on the film and it’s place in 50s Sci-Fi filmmaking. The film remains important as Jack Arnold’s first science fiction project, the genre his name is now most strongly associated with, and also for its position as an early classic in what has become a very crowded field over the years. I think the best, or most interesting, Sci-Fi films use their fantastic or otherworldly elements to tell us something about ourselves above all. It Came from Outer Space neatly challenges expectations and prejudices and encourages us to look within as much as without, which is one of the reasons I enjoy revisiting it. Recommended.
78 thoughts on “It Came from Outer Space”
It’s a surprise and a pleasure to see you going outside of your usual genres to write on this.
As always, you say some very insightful things. I’m not inclined to comment too much here because I am published on this–in THE SCIENCE-FICTION READER in my long piece “U-I Sci-Fi: Studio Aesthetics and 1950s Metaphysics” which is an overview of the studio’s science-fiction cycle in the 1950s. IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE was the initiating film of this and remained one of the best and so for me one of the best sci-fi as I consider Jack Arnold the genre’s finest director; he accounts for half of the U-I ones, including THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN which I’ve always considered the greatest science-fiction movie.
Colin, I always liked this in 2D and still don’t feel it needs to be seen in 3D to be appreciated, but I will say that when I finally saw it in 3D it backed up some of what you’ve written about above. This was the most thoughtfully and effectively that process was ever used IMO–the best 3D film, with the alien’s eye view especially lending itself to images of depth rather than throwing things at the audience.
Also I feel I need to point out that this is definitely not a wide screen film, but academy ratio.
Well, I think we agree here about the golden age of science-fiction. It was a wonderful period for it, especially for the innate idealism as this movie has, and for the resourcefulness with which the movies were made, with imagination doing more than the hi-tech effects of later films.
Barbara Rush is a marvelous actress, still underrated. I saw her in a restaurant once and was moved to speak to her, and especially to mention her performance in BIGGER THAN LIFE (1956; Nicholas Ray) which is sublime. But she’s great in many other things, too, and ever since, I’ve been wishing I had mentioned “Landscape with Running Figures” in THE FUGITIVE to her because I’m guessing that not many people do. But that was a performance worthy of BIGGER THAN LIFE and that two-parter is for me the peak of the series among so many great episodes.
BTW, as long as it came up, I relented and bought THE FUGITIVE–THE COMPLETE SERIES based on assurances of Amazon reviewers that this would surely be the corrected version with all original soundtracks. I was going for the pre-order price but should have waited. Those reviewers were all betrayed and everyone there is dismayed because the set is a copy of the earlier releases with all the replacement music and everyone is returning it. I had not opened the box so just returned it, very disappointed. I’m thinking about the “MOST WANTED” edition because it’s been so much on my mind but the trick is to make sure not to get an earlier, defective edition that might still be floating around–they’re supposed to have been replaced but I’m just nervous about it now.
Thanks, Blake, although I’m not sure how popular the different focus will prove to be in general, not that this is a major consideration for me of course.
I came to 50s Sci-Fi via TV showings of the classic titles when I was still a schoolkid, and the fondness has stuck with me ever since. I love them as pure entertainment pieces, but the depth of the stories, and the craftsmanship of the filmmakers, became more apparent to me as I grew older.
It must have been a privilege to meet Ms Rush – I believe she’s a very fine actress and Bigger Than Life is such a great film.
I received my copy of The Fugitive just the other day, but it’s still unopened. I’m undecided what to do – as far as I can tell, the music replacements are mainly confined to S2V2 and S3V2. I’m weighing up whether I can live with that, we’ll see.
Look at the Amazon reviews, Colin, by people knowledgeable about all the trouble over the years. They all say this release goes back to all the music replacement that was done and so despised. Personally, I care enough about it to be willing to pay for “Most Wanted” (and price dropped just a little on Amazon this week) but if I am paying that much, I don’t want any trouble and want to see and hear everything as it originally was. My wife even offered to get it for me as a birthday present so I’m thinking about how to get some assurance. I have found that I really want to watch the whole series again It’s been a long time and I’m very drawn to it. It was so well-done, and even given its flaws (mostly in the last season) it’s indelible and haunting.
Yes, it was great to meet Barbara Rush. I only singled out one movie but did make it clear that I had always admired her generally, and glad to see the appreciation seemed to mean a lot to her. If I had the opportunity again, I would mention more things. I saw her on the stage in “Steel Magnolias” and she made a potentially maudlin piece very affecting with her fine work. I don’t know if you’ve seen “Strangers When We Meet” a superb melodrama directed by Richard Quine where Kim Novak also shines along with Rush, and for that matter Kirk Douglas, Walter Matthau and Ernie Kovacs.
No, I haven’t seen Strangers When We Meet but I’ll be keeping an eye out for it now that you’ve mentioned and recommended it.
I liked her in another early Sci-Fi movie When Worlds Collide and also the terrific Harry Black and the Tiger, both written for the screen by Sydney Boehm. And of course her films for Sirk.
Yes, HARRY BLACK AND THE TIGER is another of her very best ones–a wonderful movie. Boehm was a terrific writer and worked conspicuously well with director Hugo Fregonese on THE RAID and BLACK TUESDAY as well as HARRY BLACK.
WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE is good too. And there’s CAPTAIN LIGHTFOOT. And a fair number of others. She always hits the right note in any opportunity given.
Boehm was extremely talented, and his name in the credits is always a big draw for me. I’d give a lot for the chance to see Black Tuesday.
Sorry, that book is THE SCIENCE-FICTION FILM READER (ed. Gregg Rickman). I’d encourage aficionados of the genre to get it–and I don’t just say that because I’m in it.
Nice one Colin, great to see you tackling classic, Cold War era science fiction. I don’t even know if I’ve seen this one but if I did it would have been many years ago as a kid, when BBC2 used to screen just this sort of fare on an early evening and my parents wondered what the hell I was doing watching. I did catch the trailer, however, and really liked its breathless pushing for 3D, which appears to have been a great gimmick even then.
I suppose, as you say, it’s the paranoia of the era that really shines through, the mood of the nation transferred to genre cinema in a way that must have been thrilling then and obvious yet entertaining now. Great stuff, I’ll look out for the DVD.
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Thanks, Mike. You probably have seen it way back when – I think I first saw it on a BBC2 season of classic Sci-Fi myself – in fact a quick check of BBC Genome reveals it was broadcast on January 18 1983 at 7:15, so that fits.
The DVD can be had very cheap these days, a few quid usually, so definitely worth checking out.
ETA: That BBC2 Sci-Fi season ran for 13 weeks at the 7:15 slot back in 1983. The full line-up was:
The Creature from the Black Lagoon
It Came from Outer Space
The Forbin Project
When Worlds Collide
The War of the Worlds
Robinson Crusoe on Mars
The Day the Earth Stood Still
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Invaders from Mars
This Island Earth
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That is a mighty line-up and I remember sitting through many of them, I must have been 10 years old! Thanks for posting that, it raises some happy, formative memories. Oh, and disc ordered – I’ve gone for the Universal Cult set with the original The Thing, The Incredible Shrinking Man (great book also) and Creature from the Black Lagoon, all for nostalgic kicks!
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Good choice. You really can’t go wrong with any of those.
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Watched it last night; I’d add ‘again’ but I really don’t remember if I did, however I enjoyed it a lot. The ultimately benign visitors led to some great storytelling, including the naturally suspicious and hostile locals and, in fairness, with the kidnappings I didn’t truly know until its end whether they were to be trusted, all adding nice layers of paranoid psychology. And I quite agree about the benefits of not seeing the aliens – that for me was about the only weak link of the whole show.
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Well I’m glad you liked it, and appreciate that you took the trouble to come back and share your thoughts.
Adding in the shots of the aliens in their true form was a tacked on addition and I’d much prefer they hadn’t bothered; it’s unnecessary and just hokey.
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I make no pretense at being a Sci-Fi buff – books or films – but I also watched a large chunk of that BBC2 season listed above and do have certain specific favourites among them. But I agree with Blake and others that “THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN” (with Jack Arnold’s spot-on direction) is a stand-out film in this genre. Perhaps THE stand-out film.
I also liked “TARANTULA” personally. I guess Arnold specialised somewhat in this genre and made some of the best examples, not forgetting his one solitary western being a stand-out in that genre, “RED SUNDOWN”.
Jack Arnold directed two other Westerns in these years, Jerry–THE MAN FROM BITTER RIDGE (which is pretty good) and NO NAME IN THE BULLET (outstanding–I’m a little surprised you don’t know that one and Colin has written on it). BULLET with Audie Murphy is unusual and I believe compares well with RED SUNDOWN even if personally I like that even more.
MAN IN THE SHADOW in black and white ‘Scope is another Arnold movie–contemporary but its subject is very Western like and I believe Colin has written on this too.
Brain not properly in gear, Blake! Thanks for reminding me of the Lex Barker (pretty good, as you say) and of course “No Name On The Bullet”, a really excellent western.
Yes, Blake, I have done pieces on both those films you mentioned.
I wouldn’t call myself a Sci-Fi buff either, Jerry. However, the classic era stuff, which I saw when I was growing up, does draw me and there are plenty of good examples of classy filmmaking in there – the kind of stuff to attract all types of film fans, regardless of their preferred genre.
Wow! That’s a killer line-up, Colin! Lucky you! I mostly caught these films at odd times on local TV stations growing up. I’m happy to say I own the majority of them on DVD now.
I would have been 14 years old when that season ran, and it really hit the spot for me – maybe the ideal age to be exposed to these movies for the first time.
I did get to see this one in 3-D at an NFT seasons ages and ages ago and liked it a lot it feels like a small version of CLOSE ENCOUNTERS to me … Would the 3-D version have been in widescreen too? I honestly can;t remember. Just watched the new Blu of KISS ME KATE and it looks great at 1.85. I have the DVD but don;t think i have listened to the commentary – look forward to remedying that now – thanks chum.
Good that you got to see it in 3D. Although it’s not a process I’ve ever been that interested in, I wouldn’t mind seeing it that way out of curiosity.
On the AR, Blake reckons it was shot for Academy and I’ve seen Glen Erickson claim it ought to be 1.66:1 – one of those problematic 1953 titles that divides opinion I guess.
I suspect that 1.66 probably makes more sense – but yes, a nice Blu-ray would be fantastic, especially with extras devoted to Bradbury and Arnold – well, i can dream …
You’d think it would get a Blu-ray release at some point, wouldn’t you? The Incredible Shrinking Man is coming in HD from Germany so it may only be a matter of time.
Those Germans really know what they’re doing! Lots of nice Warner classics due out in Spain too! I’ll probably go for those for foreign language dubs!
Of course none of this is good for what I laughingly refer to as my bank account!
I know – I just enjoy adding them to the Amazon wishlist knowing at some will be there for years and that I bloody hate using Amazon!
Agreed on all counts. And I thought I was the only one with one of those wishlists that seems to gather dust for years on end.
Again, IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE is a mid-1953 movie, composed only for 1.37. On 3D fest in L.A. it was shown that way and they were keen to show 1.85 there if there was any ambiguity.
Sometimes these days folks clamor for wide screen and they shouldn’t. Needless to say, I’m not talking about anamorphic and will no longer watch pan and scan.
Hadn’t read all the comments when I wrote above. I may want to write something more substantial here sometime about all this. For now will just say that only a few very late movies in 1953 could be argued for wide screen and those were probably rarely shown that way. Some movies like SHANE and THUNDER BAY were composed for 1.33 and hurt theatrically by being projected wide screen. There are a lot of movies in 1954 and even later where it’s just not as simple as some think it is, and it almost needs to be taken film by film–but by the actual film, not what the studio books said at the time, which was so often not the reality.
Argh! Hadn’t read your reply when I was posting before. Anyway, that’s essentially the point I was trying to make too.
I think those films made around the point where the transition to widescreen filming was coming in cause a lot of confusion. Shane was very nearly released in widescreen on Blu-ray quite recently, for example.
Thanks Blake – I just can’t remember how it was screened in London all those years ago – I know a sliver gets cut off the edge for the 3-D overlap. pretty sure HOUSE OF WAX was shown in Academy and I think there is no doubt about that one, from the same year. KISS ME KATE does look right in widescreen.
And yes, another vote for the lovely Barbara Rush who is great in this – and that shot in the alley is marvellous (and made for an amazing promotional still): http://www.musicboxtheatre.com/images/made/assets/stills/it_came_from_outer_space_still_610_407shar_s_c1.jpg
Nice to see you’re a fan of Ms Rush too, Sergio.
Love that promo shot. Something else I really ought to have mentioned was the very effective use of the Theremin in the film – such a wonderful instrument, particularly in Sci-Fi.
Great review! This is one of my favorite sci-fi films of the ’50s. Jack Arnold did some good stuff during this era. I also love Arnold’s The Incredible Shrinking Man.
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Thanks. Blake said earlier that Arnold was the best of the Sci-Fi directors working at the time, and I’d go along with that. And of course he was making very good films in other genres too.
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Great review and thanks for the kind mention! Love to see you cover this genre and look forward to more– you and me both saw these movies as kids, so the nostalgia factor is very strong. Jack Arnold made some essentials, agreed on all praise for him, this picture and THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN too. Cheers.
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Well your recent postings turned my attention in this direction so I reckoned it was only fair to acknowledge that.
I do hope to return to the genre from time to time – there’s a rich vein to be mined in my opinion – and I agree that growing up with this stuff makes it a bit more special.
Speaking of youth, genre movies are the first ones to bring these actors to us (speaking for myself anyway), and for some of them are the most lasting things they did! Which is a fun irony considering a lot of them probably thought it was so lowbrow 🙂
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Which brings up an interesting point. The term “genre film” seems to be used in a disparaging sense all too often. There’s a certain anti-populist snobbery in the way some critics and writers on film have affected a disdain for genre filmmaking. The fact is though that the vast majority of the films made and seen are genre pictures, and I’d argue that not only are they nothing to be ashamed of, but they frequently represent the best that Hollywood, and cinema in general, has to offer.
To me, a genre is a recognizable format within which a film is made; the structure of said genre is usually an aid in maintaining the focus of the narrative, and what are sometimes referred to as the constraints imposed can function as the complete opposite. So many of the movies we love are genre pictures, and often achieve greatness by playing around with the perceived boundaries.
So well put. Agree on all of it: they did often give us Hollywood’s best, with themes that can be every bit as heavy or meaningful as an art film or drama aiming for Oscar. They’re looked down upon too often, like B’s. On top of those things, when they work, I love to watch an actor who is clearly not ashamed to be there and gives it their all (as opposed to knocking those movies afterwards).
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I think it’s also important to remember that time is a wonderful arbiter of artistic worth. It’s so often the case that the movies we love and cherish, those which speak to us with greater depth and resonance, are the ones which didn’t draw all the critical plaudits at the time. The “Oscar bait” tends not to have the same enduring appeal.
Hadn’t seen this further comment when writing mine of 9:02 and I see we overlapped on your point.
Like Kristina, I completely agree with you. And as I perceive it, not only do genre movies account for most of the greatest movies, and conspicuously so in American cinema, but they are actually at once the most challenging to make and most stimulating to artists’ creativity when approached in the right spirit. Movies heavy with self-importance usually win Oscars and things like that but in the fullness of time, they can date easily and are not the classics most of us love.
The wonderful thing about genres is that they demand respect for their traditions and motifs. The best artists working within them don’t seek to be radically different but to create something individual within existing forms in which a lot is familiar, and the familiar is bent in supple ways to create something expressive, not so obviously different than other movies in the genre but different in subtle ways. Filmmakers who stay in the genres are often a guiding light. Jacques Tourneur is a good example–his filmography looks modest to those who don’t know it and haven’t lived with it, but if you have, it’s extraordinarily rich. The filmmakers I love, and everyone participating on both sides of the camera, are the ones who always take it seriously, never patronize it, knowing that movie can turn out to be rewarding and beautiful no matter its apparent level.
I could live on Westerns, melodramas of all kinds, crime and gangster movies, matinee adventures, comedies, musicals, and some horror and science-fiction too when it’s at its best.
Hmm, I moved that sentence to the next paragraph but I guess I hit “copy” instead of “cut” so that’s why it’s there twice. As I composed and went over it seemed to fit at end of second paragraph.
Anyway, a lot of agreement about all this now, I believe, but it certainly wasn’t always the case.
OK, fixed it for you.
We seem to be in more or less in agreement once again. I like your point about the way genre filmmakers or specialists used subtlety to both work within and simultaneously expand the conventions of their fields. That in itself is art.
I’m an unashamed genre fan – more than that, I’m quite proud of it, and I like to think I’m always open to new genres, or at least those which I struggled with in the past.
Thanks for fixing it, Colin. And it is great to see this subject discussed and be able to participate.
Well it’s a real pleasure to see that it’s generated such a positive response. I did wonder if it mightn’t cause a few skeptically raised eyebrows among the regular readers here by straying a bit from the usual material. It was always my intention to feature as many examples of quality cinema, regardless of genre, so I like to branch out every so often.
I can only second what Kristina said and hope that this is the first of many Sci-Fi “diversions”
Oddly enough I’ve only seen IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE in 3D at a 3D fest about
30 years ago. I’d certainly jump at a Blu-Ray of this film which may not be too long considering
the way that they are releasing these films in Germany. I will certainly get the Koch Blu of
THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN when it surfaces later this month.
The least talked about of Arnold’s Sci-Fi films is MONSTER ON THE CAMPUS which I have
not seen for about fifty years and remember liking it at the time. I’d go for a Blu-Ray of that one too,I remember it as being full of creepy moments and having a very good performance
from Arthur Franz.
A great double bill is the aforementioned RED SUNDOWN coupled with THE MONOLITH
MONSTERS. (co-scripted by Arnold and directed by John Sherwood)
In RED SUNDOWN nasty Grant Williams terrorizes lovable Trevor Bardette and his wife.
In THE MONOLITH MONSTERS the pair team up to save America!
Jack Arnold seems to be very big in Germany at the moment.
The forthcoming Koch Blu-Ray of REVENGE OF THE CREATURE is a must as well.
When done correctly,as the Germans always do it;high definition black and white looks
What’s the next trail RTHC is going to blaze….Hammer Horror perhaps.
I thought it couldn’t hurt to broaden the scope of the site a little, and I’m quite pleasantly surprised at how well it seems to have been received.
John, I have written about a few Hammer films in the past, though not really the horror stuff, although i do enjoy it. I suppose the closest I’ve come is The Hound of the Baskervilles – really looking forward to the forthcoming Blu-ray of that from Arrow. That’s not to say I won’t dig further into the studio’s output in the future, of course.
An afterthought………..I may have mis-read Jerry’s comment above but RED SUNDOWN was
not Arnold’s one solitary Western,for Universal in the Fifties he also made MAN FROM BITTER
RIDGE and NO NAME ON THE BULLET.
The later title is considered by many to be Audie Murphy’s finest Western,.
I am very fond of MAN FROM BITTER RIDGE as well,not as high in quality as the other two
but pretty darn entertaining.
Arnold also directed a classic Rawhide episode “Canliss” which guest starred none other than
Dean Martin. Martin was at the peak of his superstardom at the time and did not need a Rawhide
guest spot;I guess that he must have been a fan of the show.
Sorry, John. I posted above re Arnold Westerns before I read this or wouldn’t have needed to.
An answer to your afterthought, John – please see reference above to my brain!
Dean Martin was a dedicated fan of westerns. After his retirement, it has been reliably reported that he bought prints of old westerns on 16mm and 35mm, built a screening room, and watched them all the time. He owned hundreds of westerns. And of course he acted in as many westerns as he could. I find his devotion to the genre admirable.
Indeed. He seemed to grab every opportunity he could to be involved in westerns.
Like many out here this is one of my earliest recollections of the sci fi genre from afternoon tv while growing up. It’s really essential viewing from the era and really in general. I remember as a kid saying….”Hey that’s the Professor.” in reference to Russell Johnson. 🙂
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Yes, Mike, I think a lot of us of a certain age view this stuff in a similar way, one step removed from those who saw it on release in the theater but with great fondness and appreciation all the same. The fact we still feel the same way about it after all these years is a strong testament to its enduring appeal.
I have to admit though that I didn’t have the same reaction to Russell Johnson’s appearance as I don’t recall Gilligan’s Island being shown on British or Irish TV back then.
Well put and it’s funny how we can identify with actors for different reasons depending on what corner of the earth we hail from.
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Absolutely. There must be a whole raft of performers I recognize and associate with certain roles as a result of their appearances in British TV and movies, while they probably mean much less to viewers from other part of the world.
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Colin, would love to read your take on THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN. The ending always leaves me shattered.
Have seen Black Tuesday which isnt a stretch for Ed.G Robinson, but still interesting.
Having seen how well received this piece has been, I certainly won’t rule out the possibility.
Great to see you turn your attentions to a classic sci-fi staple, Colin – great job! I love these eerie, desert-set 50s monster movies (THEM! for example, being a particular favorite). This is a cornerstone example of the genre. Jack Arnold seemed to really shine in these sorts of sci-fi flicks. ICFOS being among the most famous, along with CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON and possibly the best of them, THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN. TARANTULA, REVENGE OF THE CREATURE and the fairly cheesy but still good fun MONSTER ON CAMPUS are all also worth watching to varying degrees.
I love your western and noir coverage, but will echo the other commenters in hoping you’ll revisit this genre once in a while in the future, when you feel so inclined.
Thanks, Jeff. I’m pretty sure I will include more classic Sci-Fi in the future – this piece was partly intended as a means of testing the water in order to assess how readers here would take to it.
I just ordered a copy of Matheson’s The Shrinking Man the other day as, despite my familiarity with the film version, I’ve never read the original novel.
Thanks for this pleasant surprise, Colin. I didn’t know you were interested in old sci-fi. Your consideration of IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE is the most astute that I’ve read. Look forward to reading the next one.
I’m afraid I’ve been spoiled by the World 3-D Film Expos in Hollywood in 2003, 2006 and 2013. After seeing IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE projected in authentic 3-D at all three Expos I’m unable to watch the standard flat version. It seems so … diminished. It is considered a state-of-the-art stereoscopic film, second only to HOUSE OF WAX (1953) in which visual stereo is used a story-telling tool. I wish you could have seen it projected in 35mm 3-D. All your observations would still apply and then some. The visual story-telling gains so much in 3-D it’s like a different movie. At the last screening, film noir scholar Eddie Mueller introduced the film with a detailed critique that you would have enjoyed. Barbara Rush was also there; so was Julia Adams who came to talk about her 3-D films. Then they were off to San Francisco to do a play together.
THE STRANGER WORE A GUN, GUN FURY, TAZA SON OF COCHISE, THE CHARGE AT FEATHER RIVER, JESSE JAMES VS. THE DALTONS, FOR TI, HONDO and WINGS OF THE HAWK were among the classic 3-D westerns screened at the 3-D Expos, as well as noirs like I THE JURY and SECOND CHANCE. I count myself among the vintage 3-D fans who hope the studios will release all the classic films on 3-D blu-ray. At the top of the list are IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE and REVENGE OF THE CREATURE.
Thanks very much, Richard. I’m not generally a fan of 3D (more a case of not being particularly moved by it as opposed to actively disliking it) although I wouldn’t mind seeing this film in the process after your comment on how it’s further enhanced.
Those 3D Expos sound positively mouth-watering, given the films and the distinguished line-up of guests.
Just an aside, but I love it how Barbara Rush’s normal character wore serviceable business-like clothing suitable for a small town school teacher, her doppelganger flitted around the desert and mine shaft in a lovely evening dress and scarf. It’s a Hollywood gimmick, but fun. Also Richard Carlson’s doppelganger had a wardrobe change to the “Mysterious Stranger” style. Every other character wore the same wardrobe.
Although it was just a mention in the comments, I love to see a comment on “Harry Black and the Tiger” which is one of my favorite Stewart Granger movies. A lovely under-rated film IMHO.
Actually, the wardrobe change bit kind of passed me by – I noticed it but didn’t really think about it.
Nice to see another fan of Harry Black and the Tiger, a movie I keep meaning to feature here.
This one is lots of fun and I always manage to get to it every 3-4 years for a look. Amazing how some of these 50’s sci-fi films blow most of the current crop right out of the water. Nice write-up!
Thanks. I think the enduring quality of movies like this highlight the fallacy of believing that things like effects are such a big deal. Get the writing and direction right and the rest will follow.
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I saw this movie when I was 10 years old and living on an isolated farm in the American West. It was spooky and scary then, and it still is.
I can imagine seeing it under those circumstances must have added to the spooky and scary factor – actually, that was probably the ideal way to watch the movie!
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