It Came From Outer Space

Year: 1953
Studio: Universal
Director: Jack Arnold
Writer: Harry Essex/Ray Bradbury
Cast: Richard Carlson, Barbara Rush

One of the classic alien invasion movies of the era when you could see what movie budgets bought you at the time. Way too small-scale and constrained to impress 50 years later, but it's an interesting time capsule into the methods and aesthetics of the day.

It also suffers (because of budgets, no doubt) from having the alien 'turn' human. It's undoubtedly supposed to be a scary, McCarthy-esque subtext about the evil among us, but it just means the movie blows its load too early and gets less visually gripping from there. A lot of movies nowadays follow the Jaws method (even though it wasn't planned by Spielberg that way) of giving you glimpses of the monster and then revealing it near the end, but a surprising number still follow the 'turning human' template and devolve from being about monsters to just being about weird people.

Some of the early scenes of the alien coming out into the middle of the road to attack oncoming cars are among the best in the movie (despite film craftsmanship that doesn't stand up today), and by the end of it it's just dead-eyed townspeople shuffling around like it's another remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers .

When amateur astronomer John (Carlson) and his schoolteacher girlfriend Ellen (Rush) see a meteor crash in the desert and go to investigate, John scrambles down into the crater to find a huge craft and a malevolent presence staring out at him. He only just survives the rockfall that buries it so of course when he tries to tell everyone from the stoic sheriff to his professor colleague, nobody believes him.

But when two power line workers are attacked in the desert and return to town talking and walking strangely, John finally has the chance to rally the town that something's going wrong.

From a story by Ray Bradbury, it's either one his early, more mainstream efforts or all the smarts he's known for have been stripped away to make a fairly pedestrian alien movie. All the tropes and cliches are there, and the duct tape and balsa wood production complements it perfectly.

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