It Came from Outer Space (1953)
Johnny Putnam is a writer and amateur star-gazer. He and his lady friend, Ellen (hot school teacher), are stargazing when suddenly a space ship that looks like a soccer ball crashes in the desert a few miles away. Smoldering in a crater, the space ship's hexagon door slides open and we see the computers inside dim and go silent. From the darkness comes forth a hideous alien with one eye and long stringy hair. The monster glides away from the crater, leaving behind a trail of silver space dust on the ground. There's a really strange scene here: Three animals flee from the creature (this isn't stock footage -- they used animals on a set). First, a wolf runs away. Then a rabbit. But best of all, an owl, standing on the ground, is suddenly yanked by an invisible line tied to his leg and does a 360-degree flip in mid-air! (First off, I don't think owls spend a lot of time just standing around on the ground. Second, I doubt they do summersaults when attacked! (Unless it's the world's worst defense mechanism!)
Johnny wants to get a view from the air so he hitches a helicopter ride from Pete David's Crop Dusting Service. They fly over a smoldering crater and Ellen gushes, "Oh! It's beautiful!" (???) They estimate the crater to be 1,000 yards in diameter. They land, climb to the top of the crater, look down into it and Johnny proclaims, "This is the biggest thing that's ever happened!" (and it won't be the last time this is said.)
Johnny climbs down into the bottom of the crater to investigate. Johnny is dwarfed by the size of the half-buried space ship. He finds a trail of space dust leading to the ship's open door. From inside, we see Johnny through the alien's view. When Johnny gets too close, the door slams shut, creating a rockslide that buries the ship under tons of rock. He tries to tell Ellen and Pete what he saw, (I guess they couldn't see a giant space ship from the top of the crater) but they think he's delusional from perhaps hitting his head during the rock slide. When the sheriff and a reporter arrive to check things out, Johnny repeats, "This is the biggest thing that's ever happened!" Johnny tells the sheriff he should seal off the area. But just his luck, the sheriff happens to be Ellen's old boyfriend. So if it comes down to keeping thousands of civilians safe or dissing Ellen's new boyfriend, guess which one is going to happen?
Johnny decides to call his friend Dr. Snell at the observatory for help. Johnny and Ellen are driving down a desert highway when suddenly the alien floats in front of their car, forcing them off the road. The creature mysteriously vanishes. Johnny searches with a light and when he shines it on a Joshua tree, Ellen screams her head off! (Ellen should be really up for this adventure!)
The next morning, Johnny and Ellen return to the crater and Ellen says, "Oh boy! Here come the reporters!" Johnny replies, "I'll try and head them off." And then THREE reporters walk over to question them. Three reporters and about a dozen people come out to see the biggest meteorite crater ever found on Earth! And they couldn't be more uninterested. One reporter, not as easily impressed as Johnny, says, "It's one of the biggest things that's ever happened!"
Johnny descends to the bottom of the crater and he greets his hero, astronomer Dr. Snell. Johnny asks, "How long have you been here, doctor?" He replies, "Oh, just over an hour." "Then you're just getting started?" asks Johnny. "Well, hardly,” says Snell, “I've seen enough." (SEEN ENOUGH??? HOW MANY THREE THOUSAND FOOT WIDE CRATERS HAVE YOU EXAMINED?) "I'd have thought you'd believe me,” rages Johnny, “you … a man of science!" Snell replies, "I'm not prone to witchcraft, john!" Man, It's pretty bad when you can't even get a b movie scientist to believe your UFO stories!
By the time Johnny gets back to the car, Ellen is being harassed by a gaggle of reporters who's numbers have swelled to FOUR! While riding in their Crestline Sunliner, Johnny and Ellen stop to talk to Frank and George, two telephone line workers. George is played by Russell Johnson, the professor from Gilligan's Island. Frank insists there's a strange transmission traveling through the phone lines, although he can't make out what language it is. It's almost...alien! Later, Frank and George are almost run off the road by the alien, represented by a floating eyeball.
Meanwhile, Johnny inexplicably feels the need to go back and
check on Frank and George. They find their abandoned truck on the side of the road near a trail of space dust. Suddenly, we're seeing through the alien eyeball again, only this time the alien is inside the body of George! George now talks with no emotion and no facial expressions. He might as well wear a sign around his neck reading, “I'm an alien!” Johnny can't help but notice the hand of dead Frank behind a rock. Johnny decides to play it cool and go for help. Ah, but things aren't as they seem, because the hand doesn't belong to Frank,. It's actually the "real" unconscious George! Now there are two George's: the alien George and the real George! The “jig” now “up”, alien George explains the aliens can transform themselves to look like anyone!
Johnny and Ellen bring the Sheriff back to the telephone truck but George and Frank are gone, the trail of space dust is gone and so is Johnny's credibility. Back in town, Johnny sees Frank and George walking around like zombies. Johnny pulls a gun on them but the aliens warn Johnny to leave them alone or “terrible things ... things you have yet to dream of ... will happen!” Johnny, gambling with mankind's future, takes them at their word and lets them go.
Back at the crater, we learn the meteor has crashed into the lower level of a coal mine. Two miners are soon taken over by aliens. Back at Johnny's place, Ellen hears a knock at the door. Standing at the door is a small boy wearing a space helmet. Upon seeing this, Ellen … screams her head off! (What is going on with this chick?!) The sheriff needed to see Johnny so he sent a kid messenger dressed like a space man. (I think the sheriff's a bit of an ass.) Frank's wife and George's girlfriend are at the sheriff's office claiming both their men left saying they were going away on a "special mission". Then the sheriff is informed that the astronomer, Dr. Snell, and his assistant are now missing! (I bet Snell wishes he examined that crater a little better now, eh?)
Alien George flags down Ellen's car and she is rewarded for her generosity by … you guessed it … being kidnapped! The aliens contact Johnny: they want him to come to the mine alone. When Johnny reaches the top of the crater he sees alien-controlled Ellen standing in a dazzling white dress different from the one she was wearing when she picked up George. (Apparently the aliens let Ellen go home and change). The strange voice explains to Johnny that an "error" caused them to crash to Earth and they are using hostages to protect themselves from earthlings until their ship is repaired. Johnny promises to keep people away if the alien reveals his true physiology to him. (Note to self: If I'm ever elected president, don't appoint Johnny as Head of Homeland Security!) The alien comes out of the mine and Johnny turns his head and covers his eyes. Johnny returns to the sheriff visibly shaken by the encounter. The sheriff is peeved that Johnny didn't return with the hostages. Johnny explains why: “See that spider?” (pointing to a fake spider on the ground pulled along by fishing line) “What would you do if it came toward you?" "This!", says the sheriff, stomping the life out of it. "Exactly! That's why they don't trust us!", says Johnny!
When Johnny returns home, he finds a trail of space dust on his floor! But before he can even wonder if his Hoover canister can suck it up, the dust mysteriously vanishes before his eyes. The aliens have stolen all the clothes in his closet. Johnny goes to the sheriff's office to explain, but the sheriff, crazy from the Arizona heat, snaps and tries to confront Frank the alien. Johnny is forced to punch the sheriff and take his gun. When Frank leaves, the sheriff (perhaps not realizing Johnny has just attacked a law-enforcement officer) joins forces with Johnny and they form a posse!
Johnny races to the crater to warn the aliens. The sheriff's posse sets up a road block for Frank. They open fire on George's telephone truck and it goes off the road, exploding into flames. (Well handled, sheriff.) Back at the mine, Johnny meets alien Ellen. Thinking that Johnny is bringing the mob, alien Ellen attacks him with a wand that shoots a power ray! Wielding far-superior technology, she constantly misses him. Johnny fires back and she falls into a deep chasm filled with water. Johnny walks further into the mine and stumbles upon the aliens repairing their ship. There he confronts an alien that's taken on his physiology.
Fearing the approaching alien mob, the aliens threaten to destroy their ship rather than letting it fall into the wrong hands. The aliens were excited about visiting other worlds. It had taken them 1,000 years to develop their ship. Johnny convinces them to release the hostages in exchange for the time they need to repair their ship. At the last minute, Johnny dynamites the mine's entrance, sealing it from the mob. He tells the mob that they're all dead. But then the earth shakes and the ship blasts off, safely leaving earth! The mob, watching the aliens escape, realize Johnny is a traitor and tear him apart! Just kidding. The sheriff is satisfied that they've gone and Johnny promises we haven't seen the last of them pouting under his breath, “I TOLD you it was the biggest thing that's ever happened.”
on this movie
"They" are out there! And "They" are watching us! One of the very best of the 50s sci-fi genre! A well-acted, compelling story that combines the fear of invasion with impressive special effects.
Narration: “This is Sand Rock, Arizona on a late evening in early spring. It's a nice town, knowing its past and sure of its future as it makes ready for the night and the predictable morning.
Sheriff: I'd give anything if things were back the way they were this morning with me calling you a fool.
(Ellen, a Scorpio, uses astrology to explain why she and Johnny, a Sagittarius, belong together.)
Ellen: “A Scorpio always gets along with a Sagittarius. A Sagittarius is philosophical and very positive ... who would starve if someone didn't come along to make him a meal occasionally.”
(Ellen, a teacher, is mad because the principal found out she played hooky to
look for UFOs:)
Ellen: “I wish we had found an alien! Just one little monster we could throw into the principal's bedroom!”
Sheriff: This town doesn't understand you, Putnam. Squintin' up there at the
Alien: “We have souls and minds and we are good.”
Johnny: “I tell you … I saw a ship at the bottom of that crater!”
Dr. Snell: “No, Johnny, you saw something that looks like a ship.”
ometimes it's interesting to learn how things are made. For example, I recently ate at Dairy Queen and I learned how they prepare their hamburgers. From the taste, I just assumed satan himself strolls into the kitchen at around 11 a.m. (in plenty of time for the lunch crowd). He sits in a chair, crosses one leg over the other and tilts his foot upward as if looking for bunions. He is then handed a "beef" patty (of questionable origin) and places it on the bottom of his red-hot foot. The patty is seared until all moisture and flavor is charbroiled out of it. This is how the Dairy Queen "single" gets its black, sooty taste that will remain on your tongue anywhere from 5-7 hours unless you were lucky enough to trip in the parking lot, landing tongue-first on hot asphalt. And while you will never see a DQ burger ad saying, “Cooked with smoky, Brimstone flavor”, I can tell you with certainty it's true. OK, I didn't actually see the devil in the kitchen. I assume he slipped out the back on his way to the next DQ franchise on a frantic, Santa-like pace with many kitchens on his schedule. So there you have it. One mystery solved!
Anyway, without further adieu, we bring you …
The behind-the-scenes making of
IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE
(Info provided by b movie curator Bob Burns
and the It Came from Outer Space DVD
• It Came from Outer Space had a double opening in Hollywood at the Pantages Theatre and the RKO Hillstreet Theatre on May 26, 1953. Wider screens had to be installed at both theatres to accommodate the film which was shot in the 185:1 ratio. Both theatres lost about 50 seats on each side of the screen because of the installation. Celebrities who attended the premiers included Shelly Winters, Mickey Rooney and Edward G. Robinson.
• During the avalanche scene, while the audience was thrilled by the 3D effect, styrofoam rocks were launched at the audience by catapults built on each side of the screen. Director Jack Arnold who was there that night said, “You should've heard the audience scream!”
• It Came from Outer Space cost $532,000 to make and grossed $6.5 million on its original run. It was the biggest hit either theatre had in the
previous seven years.
• The original story, by Ray Bradbury, called for the movie to be viewed
through the eye of the monster to force the audience to use their imagination as to what the monster might look like. But since the movie was planned for 3D, Universal insisted that a monster be developed that the audience could react to and the movie was re-shot. The effect of seeing through the alien's eye was achieved by filming scenes through a
concave bowl filled with oil.
• Universal kept the appearance of the monsters (called “Xenomorphs”) under
wraps from the press. There was tight security for the filming of the monster scenes. The scenes were shot behind locked doors and the crew was sworn to secrecy about the monster's physical appearance. After the final monster segments were shot, the prop was sent to a back lot incinerator.
• It Came from Outer Space opens with a scene of a space ship flying toward
the viewer and exploding. This 3D effect was achieved by mounting the space ship model (about three feet in diameter) on a track and hung on a pulley with cables and pulled into a mirror. Pyrotechnics were ignited inside the hollow model to produce sparks. Viewing the scene frame by frame, you can see a ghosting reflection of the mirror as it was shot at a 45 degree angle.
The final impact smashed the mirror to pieces and this too can be seen in the movie.