It! The Terror From Beyond Space (1958)
Welcome everyone. It is time, once again, to step back in time and visit an earlier era. An era known as the 1950’s. It was a time when B-movies were made very differently compared to today. The special effects may be considered primitive nowadays…and yadda, yadda, yadda. You all know the drill by now. We split the cost for the services of Time Travel Enterprises, founded by Dr. Emmitt Brown, and I act as a tour guide in a look back to the B-movies of the 1950’s. This service is not cheap, so I have only been able to re-introduce so many forgotten B-movies. But I have tried to cover the better known and more popular examples of the genre. Incidentally, this is the last trip I will personally be taking for a while. Between these time travel reviews and personal trips to the 1980’s, I’m running out of dough. Anyway, this last subject is “It! The Terror From Beyond Space” from 1958. But before arriving to 1958, our first stop will be in 1979.
“In space, no one can care hear you scream.”
Remember that tagline? It belongs to “Alien,” and that 1979 sci-fi hit owes a lot to its 1950’s counterpart. Without “It!,” there would be no “Alien” franchise today. They are not the exact same movies, but they share familiar plots and situations. This cannot be disputed. “Alien,” itself, was a return to 1950’s formula but with updated special effects. And it did that well. As for “It!,” it carries out the alien-in-a-spaceship premise as well as it could have in 1958.
Once again, man dreams about the future of space exploration. Apparently, by 1973, man has visited Mars. But not successfully. In the first expedition, Commander Carruthers’ space shuttle crash-landed and his crew was supposedly killed by a monster. He was unable to contact Earth. A second expedition was launched and the crew came to believe that Carruthers is guilty of murder. Unfortunately, there is evidence to suggest that he did kill the others to save himself. And he is now being sent back to Earth to be tried for his actions. Did he really kill his crew? Of course not! It was the alien creature that has just crept onto the space shuttle before taking off from Mars.
This B-movie is short and to point. At one hour and ten minutes, it wastes no time with any characters and their quirks. As soon as the monster makes its presence known early on, the crew scrambles about and scrambles about again in attempt to kill it. Naturally, nothing will stop it. There are four or more levels to the space shuttle, and the crew keeps climbing higher and higher as the monster claws its way through every center hatch. There is no time for character development, nor is there a need for it. It is about their odds for survival. It is a monster that can be taken seriously enough and the cast knows how to act with straight faces around it. Beyond that, there isn’t a whole lot to say. It is a quick 70 minutes that is tightly-paced and delivers well enough.
This monster is unlike the alien. It is a tall, lurking creature with claws. It slightly resembles the Gill-Man from “Creature from the Black Lagoon.” There is no tongue within its tongue, no chest-bursting scene, and no creepy face-huggers. For that matter, I don’t think the mouth piece on the monster costume ever moved. It is not the most believable monster, but it is a man in a suit that will do - especially compared to the crawling eye creatures from the last B-movie. This is another B-movie to not benefit from a generous budget. This aspect shows, but it does as good a job as possible to disguise it.
“It! The Terror From Beyond Space” is the barebones version of “Alien.” Its 1970’s counterpart would feature a lot more than just its title villain. It had a crew with their own interesting quirks to learn about, a lot of suspense before the alien struck, and a secret plot by the big people in charge. And it was definitely more violent. It was not terribly violent, but it was allowed to show the alien going in for a kill and do its job. This monster was naturally not allowed to do such a thing. The few death scenes are off-camera or cut-aways. It is just as well. When one gets accustomed to older movies, they know not to expect much violence. Acting as the “Alien” of its day, “It!” is a decent watch. It barely earns a positive rating but, when considering what it was up against in its heyday, it deserves it. If you know the “Alien” movies inside and out, and are still recovering from the “Alien vs. Predator” cross-over nonsense, this might be a good diversion.
*** out of 4
The Keep (1983)
During World War II, Nazi soldiers take over a fortress in Romania and get exactly what they deserve. The fortress was keeping in a demon and it is now free. I will first say what the movie isn’t. It is not a fun, light, breezy time. That is because it was directed by Michael Mann, who is best known for gritty crime dramas. This was his third film, and even then, he was determined to not to go the easy, conventional way out. What he does provide for the material is drenching atmosphere, a heavy-handed approach, a slow pace, dramatics and dynamics between two Nazis, and an effective-if-overbearing score. The demon is a dark figure and kills most of the Nazis off-screen. And it’s not like they’re cut-aways. There is some violence and gore, but the filmmakers were not interested in a bodycount movie. Meanwhile, another supernatural figure in the human form of Scott Glenn shows up to put the demon back where it belongs. This film ultimately serves as a showcase for four notable actors. There is Ian McKellen as a Jewish man, Jurgen Prochnow as a Nazi with a conscience, and Gabriel Byrne as a sadistic Nazi. They put in an effort and gave decent performances. Scott Glenn is the weak link. Both his performance and character are one-dimensional. Perhaps it was intended. His sole purpose seems to be to stand by in the event someone disturbs the demon in the fortress. This movie is not for everyone. It has a premise that easily could have been more fun and predictable. And for mostly better and not worse, it wound up being tackled by a more ambitious director.
**1/2 out of 4
Great reviews, Duke! Hope that you can get more moneys soon to support your movie-viewing habits, and all else that one may need in order to survive!
Thanks, Genie. But the way things are looking, the rest of you will have to survive without me for a while. I am down to one last movie, and I'm just about burned out. One more review and I'm taking a much-needed break.
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