|Pick of the Week:|
Reviewed by Ivana Redwine
Length: 81 minutes
Depending on who you talk to, "It Came From Outer Space" (1953) is either a science fiction classic or a campy B-movie. I didn't know what to expect when I watched the DVD version of this film and was pleasantly surprised at how evocative and thought-provoking it was at times. The movie is based on a story by Ray Bradbury, who-according to the DVD commentary-also wrote a lengthy screen treatment for the film, which might account for some of the poetic dialogue in the script that Harry Essex is credited with.
Although I liked "It Came From Outer Space" overall, it has some awkward moments, many of which occur when the one-eyed space aliens are on screen-creatures more laughable than fearsome. Originally the script called for the creatures to be left to the audience's imagination. Too bad they didn't stick to that plan, because the movie loses credibility when the space aliens are shown.
The story's not a complicated one. While stargazing with his girlfriend (Barbara Rush) one evening, an amateur astronomer (Richard Carlson) sees something that looks like a meteor streak across the sky and crash to the ground in the Arizona desert. His investigation reveals a craft of extraterrestrial origin, but when he tries to explain to the authorities, he's dismissed as a crackpot with a vivid imagination and is turned into a laughing stock by the press.
Uninterested in taking over the planet, the space aliens want to go incognito long enough to repair their ship and head back home. Of course, nothing in science fiction movies can ever be that simple. The aliens need help repairing their spacecraft, and things start to get complicated when the otherwise peaceful creatures take over the bodies of humans and steal electrical equipment.
There's a lot to like about "It Came From Outer Space." In spite of the fact that I couldn't help groaning when I saw the space creatures, one of my favorite things about the film was its look. Although the cinematography was designed to look its best in the 3-D of the movie's original theatrical release, the DVD version still looks terrific. I liked the elegantly composed, stark black-and-white photography, especially the sweeping shots of otherworldly desert landscapes and Joshua trees.
The acting by the two leads-Richard Carlson and Barbara Rush-is competent. Fans of 1960s television will probably recognize Russell Johnson-better known as the Professor on "Gilligan's Island"-in a supporting role.
The special features on the DVD enhanced my enjoyment of the movie, especially film historian Tom Weaver's entertaining and informative commentary. Also, the documentary "The Universe According to Universal" gives some interesting historical background on science fiction movies.
Special Features on the DVD: