It! The Terror From Beyond Space (1958)

“You honestly believe I’d murder nine of my closest friends in order to survive on Mars?”

Synopsis:
The lone survival (Marshall Thompson) of a manned mission to Mars is accused of murdering his crewmates — until a vicious alien (Ray Corrigan) shows up on the ship sent to take him back to Earth, and the lives of everyone on board are threatened.

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Review:
It! is primarily known for its sandwiched reputation as the film inspired by Howard Hawks’ The Thing (1951), and as the unofficial inspiration for Ridley Scott’s bigger-budget variation on the same theme — Alien (1979). Despite its labeling by Peary as a Camp Classic — due to its obviously low budget and stereotypically one-dimensional characters — It! remains a surprisingly effective little sci-fi thriller, one which packs a fairly scary wallop and makes good use of a smart, economical script by Jerome Bixby. Once it’s established that Corrigan DIDN’T murder his original crewmates in a fit of survivalist panic (yeah, right — how likely is THAT?!), we’re able to focus on the very-real menace of a seemingly un-killable alien presence on board the claustrophobic quarters of a spaceship. As with Alien, we’re kept in suspense about which character will be the next to bite the dust — and we genuinely feel for the predicament of one astronaut stuck in close quarters with the beast as his air supply slowly dwindles. Don’t dismiss this one out of hand as simply Alien-on-a-diet; it’s actually worth a look.

Note: Director Edward L. Cahn’s follow-up film — well, one of SEVEN films he made the next year! (Take that, Roger Corman!) — was The Invisible Invaders (1959), which (somewhat surprisingly) received full Criterion treatment for its release onto DVD.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Effectively creepy low-budget special effects

Must See?
Yes, for its historical importance, and as a fine little B-flick in its own right. Listed as a Camp Classic in the back of Peary’s book.

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