It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958)


The argument over whether “It!” inspired the film “Alien” continues to this day. Film buffs alike still debate about “Alien” and the shocking almost inarguable similarities. The similarities of which were so close the producers of this sued Ridley Scott for plagiarism. It isn’t the first time Ridley Scott or Jame Cameron has been accused of plagiarism, and it certainly won’t be the last. Fans are still finding similarities from “Avatar” to other earlier works of science fiction, and there’s still a heavy opinion that James Cameron lifted his concept for “The Terminator” from “Outer Limits.” There’s also the similarities of “Aliens” to “Starship Troopers.” I’m not saying he’s guilty of plagiarism, but I’m not writing off the potential for it, either. Once you see “It!,” it’s not hard to ignore the similarities, and some may even agree it’s a plagiarized film among many.

A group of travelers in space, an alien that is taken aboard and begins wreaking havoc, a bunch of crew members begin scouring the bowels of the ship, and discover the alien they’ve taken aboard has hidden within, and can not find it. As it begins picking them off one by one in the darkness, one of the remaining crew members have to battle it. While I do agree “It!” is the lesser of the two, that doesn’t mean it’s a terrible film. In fact, it’s an awfully entertaining and brooding science fiction film with images that seemed rather edgy for the time. Take for example the alien dragging a dead body across the floor it had just murdered and fed on. There’s also the fact that the story is told through flashbacks as the remaining surviving crew member is questioned for the possibility they murdered their crew and are blaming it on an alien being.

The alien is, of course, an ambiguous plot element until the very end. In the description, it’s written as a space vampire, but it’s much less of a monster that sucks blood, as it is a monster that sucks the fluids from the body of its victims. The film’s pace is held to a halt often, what with the odd trial interludes with actor Marshall Thompson. Though the scenes often do feel like padding, they are also rather grim, as Thompson’s character Carruthers and crew face off this alien, only for Carruthers to return and be blamed for the deaths of his friend, who his government assumes he murdered. Whether or not he actually did indeed murder them is something left up in the air, but then it wouldn’t be fun if we just believed he up and killed them one day.

“It! The Terror from Beyond Space” is antiquated in its ways, with an inherent sexism in the story with the women of the cast often serving men drinks and food, and tending to their wounds, while the men go off to fight the monster. The women are utterly useless to the story, overall. Thus the film is easily dated. But it helps that “It!” feel much more harrowing once we know the men of the group are just as clueless as the women tend to be. It’s really not up to par with “The Thing” in the sense of tension and urgency, either. “It!” does have some great moments of sheer terror particularly when the group are attempting to lure the monster out from hiding so they can force a confrontation.

Director Cahn’s film really does hold up well in the day and age of CGI monster epics, and splatter films, and that’s because its general premise is simple yet musters up the traditional themes that have created some of the better science fiction and horror films of all time: Claustrophobia, paranoia, enveloping darkness, and a monster that is almost impossible to find. It’s a wonderful little horror thriller that will whet the appetites of fans that love claustrophobic genre pictures.