Several of my U.K. friends are celebrating today (by watching) one of the most influential horror/science-fiction films ever made: "It! The Terror from Beyond Space". That's because "It!" premiered in their back yard sixty years ago, November 9, 1958. (I've come to learn that the U.S. premiere was August 13; do forgive my tardiness, but one big premiere is as good as another when it comes to famous, monster movies.) Anyway, these dear blokes asked me to fashion a post regarding the anniversary, and well, how could I say no?
"It!" was penned by Jerome Bixby, writer of the chilling "It's a Good Life", produced by horror/fantasy/western kingpin, Robert E. Kent; and directed by Edward L. Cahn, who helmed "The She-Creature", "Invisible Invaders"; "Invasion of the Saucer-Men"; "The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake"; and "Curse of the Faceless Man" (to which "It!" was double-billed on its U.S. run). The film depicts a crew's investigative venture to Mars (in futuristic 1973) and the murderous monster that invades their craft.
"It!", along with Curtis Harrington's "Queen of Blood/Planet of Blood" and Mario Bava's "Planet of the Vampires/Demon Planet", influenced Dan O'Bannon and Ron Shusett's script for Ridley Scott's "Alien". In fact, it's easy to argue that "Alien" is an unofficial remake of "It!". The creatures' relentless pursuits of their crews is uncannily similar.
Like "Alien", "It!" features deft, top-drawer performers, including legendary Marshall "Fiend Without a Face" Thompson; Paul Langton; Dabbs Grear; Shawn Smith (aka, Shirley Patterson); Ann Doran; Robert Brice; Kim Spalding; Richard Benedict; and cowboy/movie-serial icon, Ray "Crash" Corrigan as the rampaging Martian.
As with H.R. Giger's weird specimen, creature-creator Paul Blaisdell's costume is detailed and intimidating, holding its own with Milicent Patrick's "Creature from the Black Lagoon" design. Interestingly enough, the mask proved ill-fitting for big-guy Corrigan, whose protruding chin ended up as the creature's tongue, though remained unobtrusive among Blaisdell's formidable textures.
I recall viewing "It!" in the late '60s/early '70s on any number of Saturday nights (in one instance, before my birthday), enjoying the movie's exquisite air of menace. In my eyes, "It!" was as involving and thrilling as Howard Hawks/Christian Nyby's "The Thing from Another World" or any of the Universal monster classics. To this day, I find "It!" no less significant or remarkable by comparison.
The indie (United Artists-distributed) production also outshines all those modern, computerized counterparts, hitting a disconcerting mark the old-school way, with an unpretentious set-up; identifiable characters; a foreboding, Paul Sawtell/Bert Shefter score; and of course, one helluva impressive man in an alien suit. Today's heap-it-on filmmakers could learn a ton by watching this less-is-more accomplishment.
If you've not seen "It!", get yourself in gear. Check out the trailer at ... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZHrCkEmgFo. A wee taste is all it takes to want more. An undeniable classic!!!