It! The Terror from Beyond Space

Lava LampLava LampLava Lamp

Our rating: three LAVA® motion lamps.

(sing to the tune of "The Brady Bunch")

Here's the story of a lonely captain
Took his rocket ship and crew to Mars for fun
But their fun was interrupted by a monster
Now he's the only one.

Here's the story of Cap Van Heusen
He stopped by Mars to find the guy who wasn't dead
But he thought the lone survivor might have killed 'em
Cuz one was shot in the head

So that one day, when the captain met Van Heusen
And Van Heusen's crew they were a pasty bunch
They argued far too long about the thing's existence
That's the way they all became the monster's lunch

The monster's lunch
The monster's lunch
That's the way they became the monster's lunch

In the far-flung future of 1973 man has reached Mars. We know this from the following narration:

Darth Vader's younger cousin,
Darth Scaley.
"This is the planet Mars as my crew and I first saw it. Dangerous, treacherous, alive with something we came to know only as Death."

No, he's not talking about Bette Midler. He's talking about the creature who killed the first crew to land on Mars, leaving only the narrator, Col. Edward Carruthers, alive. Carruthers is rescued by the second ship to land on Mars. However, that crew, led by Col. Van Heusen, comes to the conclusion that Carruthers is the killer, largely on the evidence of a skull they found with a bullet hole in it.

This movie was made in 1958, and the spaceship and the crew are very, very 50's. That is to say, they are all very, very white. We are supposed to believe this is a diverse crew, mainly because there are two women and two Italians aboard. Needless to say, the Italians are family. (They are "bruddas," which is something like brothers but not quite.) The women are scientists, but they are scientists in girly disciplines, like medicine and biology, because the very idea that women could pilot the spaceship or maintain the engine -- what nonsense! You'd better believe that the women's main non-crisis duties are coffee-fetching and dishwashing.

Painted backgrounds...
of the future!
The spaceship itself is a retro-collector's dream, full of brushed, gleaming metal and complicated dials. The movie does a great job of giving the viewer a good idea of how the rooms are related to each other, and the state-of-the-art World War II sets look terrific. Like all such science fiction films (back when they took the "science" part semi-seriously), however, it has some amusing inconsistencies. All of the support struts, and even some of the tables, have circular cutouts, presumably to reduce mass. Yet the crew uses big crystal ashtrays and ceramic dinnerware, none of which are secured in any fashion, so we imagine the kitchen takes a beating during takeoff and landing. Maybe that's why they call it the mess.

While flying past the constellation of Orion, the killings start again. No, Carruthers isn't the killer, it was some kind of giant reptilian humanoid that has now sneaked aboard the ship. Once the crew realizes what is going on, they deduce that the creature is hiding in the air ducts. After a little thought, the crew comes up with a brilliant plan to kill the creature. They booby-trap the air duct opening with tons of grenades.

"Boy, that doctorate in Exo-biology
sure does help you serve coffee good."
Jeez Louise, what kind of plan is that? It's like the crew of a wooden sailing ship deciding to use fire to combat termites. Aren't these people a little bit worried about putting a hole in the side of the ship? (Credit It's cousin "remake," Alien, for having the sense to make this a plot point twenty years later.) Lacking the brains God gave a slug, or perhaps overconfident in the strength of 1970's hull technology, the crewmembers leave the monster alone with the grenades. The monster, with its armor-thick skin, merely enjoys the shrapnel massage and continues hunting the humans.

The next step is for the crew to get all their guns and try to kill the monster. Man, what's the deal? First grenades, and now enough guns to make Charlton Heston nervous. Why were they so heavily armed? Mars is the Red Planet, after all -- perhaps they were expecting Commies. Make that a lying, dirty, shrewd, Godless, murderous, determined, interplanetary criminal conspiracy, Mervyn! The final expression of this gun nuttiness comes in the last scenes of the movie, when Carruthers pulls a bazooka (!) out of storage to use against the alien during their last stand.

"Okay, I think we're ready for
the Republican National Convention."
In a formula that will be familiar to anyone who has seen a few episodes of Star Trek or The X-Files, the stalwart crew holds the beast off with a number of ingenious methods while the brainy chicks try to figure out what makes the monster tick. The only real difference is the 1950's sensibilities evinced by these characters, as when the vindictive Van Heusen loses his girl to the misjudged Carruthers and realizes there's precious little he can do about it because he's been such a heel. A Star Trek villain might have tried to do away with the competition, but Van Heusen takes it like a man.

Some of the methods used to try to kill the creature (played by the former star of The Undersea Kingdom, Ray "Crash" Corrigan) made us laugh, mainly because the characters keep declaring how many people the method would kill:

"Grenades gas and bullets have failed to stop the beast. But perhaps it can be electrocuted. There's enough voltage in these lines to kill thirty human beings."


Safe sex, Fifties-style.
"I know what I'm doing. We can unseal the reactor. The radiation... The radiation will kill it... It's enough to kill a hundred men!"

Pretty impressive, but they would have been better off if they had used a method rated to kill one monster.

As goofy as the details might be, it's tough for us to come down too hard on It! The Terror from Beyond Space, because the goofy details are exactly what make the film endearing. Without them, It! could only be a moderately entertaining space monster movie. But with a ship full of Italian bruddas and valiant ship commanders and lady scientists in bullet bras, this movie is pure b-movie gold. Okay, so the Martian isn't really a terror from beyond space, but it is darned entertaining.

Rent or Buy from Reel.

Review date: 8/5/00

This review is © copyright 2000 Chris Holland & Scott Hamilton. Blah blah blah. Please don't claim that it's yours blah blah, but feel free to e-mail it to friends, or better yet, send them the URL. To reproduce this review in another form, please contact us at Blah blah blah blah. LAVA® , LAVA LITE® and the motion lamp configuration are registered trademarks of Haggerty Enterprises, Inc., Chicago, IL.






































* The only shots we ever see of the ship flying in space all feature Orion in the background. That's what happen when you let men navigate -- they just won't ask for directions. Go back!