It! The Terror From Beyond Space

It! The Terror From Beyond Space (1958)
MGM Home Entertainment
Cast: Marshall Thompson, Kim Spalding
Extras: Theatrical Trailer

’It!: The Terror From Beyond Space’ is best remembered for having served as the inspiration for the 1979 sci-fi classic, ’Alien.’ Although the creative talent behind ’Alien’ deny any connection between the films, there’s no arguing that the two movies share very similar storylines.

’It!’ opens with a rescue mission sent to Mars to recover the sole survivor of the first Mars expedition, Colonel Edward Carruthers (Marshall Thompson), who is thought to have murdered his own crew in order to survive on the limited supplies left after their ship became stranded on the planet’s surface. Carruthers tries to warn the crew of the rescue ship that a hideous monster was responsible for the death of his shipmates but no one believes him until their own crew begins to disappear one by one. The commander of the rescue mission, Colonel Van Heusen (Kim Spalding) soon realizes that Carruthers is telling the truth and rallies what’s left of his crew in a last ditch effort to destroy the monster before it destroys them.

’It!’ is easy to dismiss as just another run-of-the-mill 1950s sci-fi flick as it exhibits many of the characteristics that make certain films from that era so laughable now. The nice, roomy spaceship looks like the inside of a warehouse with fragile supplies haphazardly stacked floor to ceiling — must be a real smooth ride. Add to that the female crewmembers who are there to serve as nurses and stewardesses and the end result is a film that illicits its fair share of unintended chuckles.

But beneath this superficial surface is hidden an engaging story that rewards those viewers who can look beyond the somewhat dated facade. ’It!’ is actually able to build up a fair share of suspense and dread during its very short runtime. The monster is like Frankenstein in that it’s slow and plodding but all but unstoppable. There is plenty of breathing room between attacks to allow the crew to anticipate what’s coming next and it’s this knowledge of their own impending doom that gives ’It!’ its dark edge.

’It!’ is presented in a full frame format with an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The DVD indicates that the film has been altered to fit your screen but I’ve been unable to confirm that it was ever meant to be shown widescreen. Only the reissue United Artists logo during the opening credits appears letterboxed and the film itself, including the credits, looks properly framed. In any case, I detected no panning and scanning so at worst this is an open matte transfer. The DVD case also states that the film is in color — which it most assuredly is not — so it’s not like mistakes by MGM are unheard of.

The overall image is very sharp with surprisingly good black levels that really make the image stand out. There are a fair number of physical defects on the film elements that appear in the form of white specks and small tears but they are never too distracting. Questions regarding the proper aspect ratio aside, ’It!’ looks quite good on DVD.

Audio is an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono mix that seems to have been recorded at a very low level. The soundtrack is fairly clean with only a bit of distortion and hiss but dialogue often tends to fade off into hard-to-hear whispers. There is, of course, very little dynamic range but this sounds on par with most unremixed 1950s sci-fi soundtracks I’ve heard so I have no major complaints.

’It!: The Terror From Beyond Space’ is a very entertaining blend of sci-fi and horror laced with some peculiar 1950s sensibilities. The DVD offers up a decent video transfer and adequate audio and, as part of MGM’s Midnite Movies line of bargain discs, can be had for under ten dollars. Fans of classic sci-fi shouldn’t be disappointed.