A Film Rumination: It! The Terror from Beyond Space, Edward L. Cahn (1958)

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5/10 (Bad — but definitely watch if you’re a B-film sci-fi fan)

I think the most important lesson I learned from the hilariously (occasionally) bad 50s sci-fi alien monster caper It! The Terror from Beyond Space is that in future female scientists and doctors still serve coffee and lunch… That and female doctors and scientists do very little doctoring and science related things but instead clutch and fawn over the men the entire time and moan (well, one) about failed marriages (hence the obsession with science)…  But, this isn’t much off the norm for 50s sci-fi — this is certainly not close to the misogynistic extremes of the era.  At least the future has FEMALE SCIENTISTS and DOCTORS!

It! The Terror from Beyond Space is known mainly as the inspiration for the Alien films and their sequels.  But, the parallels are rather minimal.  So, in short don’t go into the film expecting a 1950s movie with an alien leaping out of someone’s chest — we’re still in the age of large men running (or rather slowly lurching) around in flexible (frequently wiggly) rubber costumes making loud growling/gurgling/grunting dubbed sounds with the main cast walking slowly away from them aiming their guns at the floor or ceiling or anywhere besides AT THE ALIEN!

And, “beyond space”… what does that even mean?  The alien is FROM Mars…. Mars is not… well, logic is rarely important when putting together a 69 minute alien feature.

And this is in NO way the worst out there..

Brief Plot Summary (spoilers due to the predictable/simplistic nature of the plot)

A spaceship is sent from Earth to Mars to pick up Carruthers (Marshall Thompson) stranded on the planet with a dead crew.  Carruthers is suspected of killing his crew and is wanted back home for a court-martial.  However, he knows the real cause of his crew’s death….

After leaving Mars, the rescue ship captain is suspicious of Carruthers.  However, after the deaths of a few of the fellow astronauts the real cause of the destruction becomes apparent.  A mutated Mars martian — the last of its kind? — has creeped into the ship through an access hatch.

So, the next fifty or so minutes follows various attempts to kill the creature.  Gas grenades, shooting it, electrocuting it, regular grenades, and logically, venting all the oxygen out of the ship…

In between the female scientists serve the men coffee, some people occasionally get angry that their friends have died, two crewman get sink with a bacterial infection resulting from the monster’s claws (this actually MAKES SENSE!), there’s a “spacewalk”, and a silly tagline sort of spiel back on Earth concludes the endeavor in a mere 69 minutes.

Final Thoughts

For a sci-fi B-film this isn’t so bad!  The spaceship set is perfectly fine with multiple levels and a central access shaft and control panels.  I’m kind of confused why mankind hasn’t developed sophisticated weapons beyond pistols and grenade launchers — I guess that was beyond the budget.  I guess my problem is kind of a silly one — it’s just not bad enough throughout to be constantly funny (besides the coffee scene).  It actually tries to create a feel of dread and tries to do all the right things — very poorly.

Definitely an under-appreciated 50s caper.  Check it out if you like bad sci-fi films!

12 Replies to “A Film Rumination: It! The Terror from Beyond Space, Edward L. Cahn (1958)”

  1. Great review! The sexism of 50’s b-movies is pretty consistent in many ways. A number of them employ females in “non-traditional” science/medicine roles. But in the end they are like you said, still housewives except in space. Cat Women of the Moon does a similar thing. Did the women need to be constantly rescued? Because that is a common trope as well.

  2. Well, actually not — they are NEVER captured by the alien (some posters show the monster holding one of the women — which is incorrect) — the women are instead always far away from the danger trying to prevent the men from doing stupid things like run and attack the monster or irradiate the ship by opening the reactor…. It’s weird.

  3. Interesting! There’s an almost maternal thing going on there. The role of women in early sci-fi is fascinating to me as a study of gender. It is often very similar to the role of women in early Westerns as well (much of sci-fi is transplanted Westerns in certain respects). That is really interesting though. Bizarre, but interesting. I’m not entirely sure what to make of that.

  4. One of the women is supposed to be older than the other — if I were writing something about gender more specifically I would pay more attention to which woman was doing what (the the male response to them of course). Well, there are some fantastic studies of gender in sci-fi — however, I only saw them (and not read them) on the shelves in the various university libraries I’ve perused so, I’ve since forgotten their titles…

  5. That is a good point. Gender and age often intersect. The only gender studies I have read of sci-fi have largely focused on the similarities between sci-fi and Westerns, which is why I brought it up. There is a surprising amount of scholarship on the subject, which is really cool. I’m all for expanding the cannon of studied materials, and often sci-fi was neglected.

  6. I quick peek in the film section reveals an ENTIRE book about female scientists in 1950s sci-fi! ‘Women Scientists in Fifties Science Fiction Films” by Bonnie Noonan….

  7. Awesome! That is surprisingly specific! I also found a copy near me, so I may pick it up when I have the time.

  8. I finished reading the book. It was quite good! I might write my first non-fiction sci-fi related review on this blog…. I usually let things sink in a bit though before I do…

  9. I love the part when they are around the battered hatch with everything piled on it, the camera pans out and behold they are aiming a bazooka at the hatch, in a space ship mind you.

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