Universal // 1953 // 81 Minutes // Rated G
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // July 5th, 2002
You'll remember it...as your most startling motion picture experience!
Amateur astronomer John Putnam (Richard Carlson) and his fiancée Ellen (Barbara Rush) are out on their patio enjoying the evening breeze. As John peers though his telescope, he spots something in the sky that appears to be a comet...or a shooting star...or maybe an alien spacecraft! After it crash lands in the desert (why is it they only land near hicks?), John checks out the occurrence and finds an extra-terrestrial ship in the enormous crater left in its wake. When a creature scurries away and the ship is buried under a falling landslide, John rushes to town and where he becomes rightly freaked out. John spills the beans to the town's sheriff (Charles Drake) about the alien, but to his amazement, he's seen as a laughing stock. No one seems to believe John, not even his dear girlfriend Ellen. But things are about to change when strange happenings start taking place in John Putnam's little town. People are acting weird. Trails of sparkle dust are popping up. And what's the deal with those one-eyed, green skinned SLIME MONSTERS FROM SPACE?!??!
It Came From Outer Space is classic 1950s science fiction hokum. Derived from a story by famed author Ray Bradbury, the movie provides the viewer with a few original twits and turns by the time it reaches its climatic ending (complete with the usual group of leads standing around pontificating on what just happened). It Came From Outer Space was made at the height of the whole atom bomb/red scare phenomenon, so of course the viewer will get his fair share of dialogue discussing the dangers of aliens and man's meddling in "things he doesn't understand" (a parallel to the real scares that were going on at the time). The actors all play their roles with convincing stiffness, especially Richard Carlson as our handsome steel jawed hero John (Carlson would also be spotted a few years later in Universal's monster hit -- no pun intended -- Creature from the Black Lagoon). The leading ladies of the film (Kathleen Hughes, Barbara Rush) all do a fine job of throwing their arms over their face while screeching like banshees when trouble arrives. If you look closely, you'll also spot a young Russell Johnson, also known as the Professor from the classic TV show Gilligan's Island. Of course, changing tastes and times insure It Came From Outer Space includes little-to-no scares in 2002 -- though the cycloptic space creatures are creepy in a cheesy, wood-'n'-plaster kind of way. In the end, It Came From Outer Space is exactly what fans of 1950 movies have come to expect and love: a dash of goofiness mixed with a hearty dose of fun. Mystery Science Theater 3000, eat your heart out.
It Came From Outer Space is presented in a black and white 1.33:1 full frame version. Ah, the glorious look of the golden age of Hollywood! Universal has done a fine job of cleaning up this print and making sure that there is only a minimal amount of grain, dirt, or scratches in the image. The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 3.0 Stereo and sounds better than expected. I was anticipating a flat mono soundtrack for this film, and was quite pleased with the dynamic range though the front and center speakers (and no '50s sci-fi flick would be complete without a humming, spooky electronic "woooo-eeee-oooo" sound effect when the aliens arrive). Overall, Universal has done a fine job on both the video and audio portions of this disc. Also impressive is the amount of bonus material available for you wacky sci-fi fanatics. Starting off the disc is the half hour documentary "The Universe According to Universal" which includes interviews with sci-fi illustrator/historian Vincent Di Fate, collector Bob Burns, 3-D historian Bob Furmanek, and is hosted by Rudy Behlmer. This is a very through and unique look at what made It Came From Outer Space so special. As a bonus, it also includes clips from many other Universal horror/sci-fi themed films. The commentary track by film historian Tom Weaver is both engaging and briskly paced, much like Universal's other classic monster DVD commentaries. Weaver hardly takes a breath before he's onto some new gem of information about the making of the film. Finally there is neat little photo and poster gallery put to music, a funny theatrical trailer for the film, some production notes, Universal DVD recommendations, and some info on the cast and crew.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 3.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 81 Minutes
Release Year: 1953
MPAA Rating: Rated G
* "The Universe According to Universal" Documentary
* Commentary Track by Film Historian Tom Weaver
* Photo and Poster Gallery
* Theatrical Trailer
* Production Notes
* Cast and Filmmaker Information