It Came from Outer Space is a 1953 American science fiction film, the first in the 3D process from Universal-International.
It was produced by William Alland, directed by Jack Arnold (Tarantula; Creature from the Black Lagoon; The Incredible Shrinking Man) from a screenplay by Harry Essex (Octaman). The film’s script is based on Ray Bradbury’s original story treatment, The Meteor.
Bradbury said “I wanted to treat the invaders as beings who were not dangerous, and that was very unusual.” He offered two story outlines to the studio, one with malicious aliens, the other with benign aliens. “The studio picked the right concept, and I stayed on.”
In 2004, Bradbury published in one volume all four versions of his screen treatment for It Came From Outer Space.
Universal’s make-up department submitted two alien designs for consideration by studio executives; the rejected design was saved and then later used as the “Metaluna Mutant” in Universal’s 1955 science fiction film This Island Earth.
Author and amateur astronomer John Putnam (Richard Carlson) and schoolteacher Ellen Fields (Barbara Rush) watch a large meteorite crash near the small town of Sand Rock, Arizona. They awaken a neighbor, who has a helicopter, and all three fly to the crash site. Putnam climbs down into the crater and notices a partially buried round object in the crater’s pit.
He comes to the realization, after he sees a six-sided hatchway close, that this isn’t a meteorite but a large alien spaceship. The hatchway noise starts a landslide that completely buries the craft. Putnam’s story is later scoffed at by Sand Rock’s sheriff (Charles Drake) and the local news media. Even Ellen Fields is unsure about what to believe but still agrees to assist Putnam in his investigation…
“Direction by Jack Arnold whips up an air of suspense in putting the Harry Essex screenplay on film, and there is considerable atmosphere of reality created, which stands up well enough if the logic of it all is not examined too closely… story proves to be good science-fiction for the legion of film fans who like scare entertainment, well done.” Variety
“Dark desert roads and sudden moments of fear underline Arnold’s ability as a director of Science Fiction films, and Essex’s/Bradbury’s lines match his images superbly.” Hardy, Phil (editor), The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction, Aurum Press, 1984.
“Although caught between two eras of filmmaking, It Came From Outer Space remains contemporary even to this day because of its theme of xenophobia — the fear of outsiders — a message as apropos in these culturally-divisive times as it was during the Cold War. For as long as mankind can’t seem to get along with itself, It Came From Outer Space‘s plea for tolerance and understanding will remain relevant.” Monstrous Movie Music
“One of the earliest films about this subject (you did already have The Thing from Another World, and The Day the Earth Stood Still at this point, plus some other notables), the angle of aliens that were not evil is something you really need to consider. That was not the norm and quite frankly still isn’t. We have Ray Bradbury to thank for that…” Magazines and Monsters
Cast and characters:
Richard Carlson John Putnam
Barbara Rush Ellen Fields
Charles Drake Sheriff Matt Warren
Joe Sawyer Frank Daylon
Russell Johnson George
Dave Willock Pete Davis
Robert Carson Dugan, reporter
Virginia Mullen Mrs. Daylon
Kathleen Hughes Jane, George’s girl
Paul Fix Councilman (uncredited)
Robert “Buzz” Henry Posseman (uncredited)
- It Came from Outer Space is one of the films mentioned in the opening theme of the musical The Rocky Horror Show and its film adaptation.
- The film is mentioned in a Codec call in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.
- Excerpts of this film are featured in the movie The Nomi Song.
- The narration in the Siouxsie and the Banshees song “92 Degrees” from the 1986 album Tinderbox contains dialog from the film.
- The film is mentioned in the 1984 film Night of the Comet.
John Putnam: “It’s just a Joshua tree.”
John Putnam: “I don’t know what’s odd and what isn’t anymore.”
Palmdale and Victorville, and the Mojave Desert, California
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