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MGM Studios DVD presents
It! The Terror From Beyond Space (1958)

"This was the planet Mars as I and my crew first saw it. Dangerous, treacherous, and alive with something we came to know only as...death."
- Edward Carruthers (Marshall Thompson)

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: August 30, 2001

Stars: Marshall Thompson, Shirley Patterson, Kim Spalding
Other Stars: Ann Doran, Dabbs Greer, Paul Langton
Director: Edward L. Cahn

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild violence)
Run Time: 01h:08m:50s
Release Date: August 28, 2001
UPC: 027616865595
Genre: sci-fi


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C+ C+D+B- D+

DVD Review

It! stands as one of the more memorable films from director Edward Cahn, a man who was at the helm of over 100 pictures in his career, most of which being cheap, Z-grade, quickies. It! probably endures because it actually shows a glimmer of being something beyond the average, cheesy, 1950s horror film. It's also fairly influential in the history of cinema, with a core plotline that's been copied and imitated many times over the years. In fact, I believe at one point, writer Jerome Bixby was involved in a legal dispute with Ronald Shusset and Dan O'Bannon claiming their screenplay for Alien was a direct rip-off. They denied it, of course, but once you've actually seen It!, you really wonder exactly where their inspiration came from.

In the 1970s (the future), mankind finally launches a successful manned mission to Mars and sets up base. Unfortunately, when the second crew arrives to take over the small colony, they find only one original survivor, Col. Carruthers (Marshall Thompson), and the rest of the crew dead. Assuming Carruthers murdered them all, the new crew decides to take him back to Earth for a court-marshal proceeding. As the ship rockets home, things get a little weird as crew members begin to disappear—and are then found dead. Sure enough, the rocket has picked up a stowaway, some kind of creature from Mars that's using the small passageways and air-ducts of the ship to hide in. The crew realize they have to do whatever it takes to trap and stop the creature from progressing, until they can get to Earth where better firepower and resources exist.

Like most movies of this period, the story itself isn't too bad, but ultimately the reliance on incredibly unconvincing special effects brings everything down. It! isn't a bad film, really. It's directed well, considering it takes places in one location, and the plot is handled much less laughably than similar films. Again, though, the rubber monster element is where things go wrong. Rather than not showing the "It" monster, or only showing it sparingly, it's overused and appears everywhere. To add to this flaw, though, the characters do some pretty stupid things. Firing rifles, handguns, and using grenades on board a rocket is probably one of the most dim-witted things I've ever seen in a sci-fi flick like this.

When you look past the cursory problems, though, It! retains a certain level of style you just didn't see too often in 1950s sci-fi/horror films. The experiment with such a claustrophobic setting is perhaps the most interesting thing. There's also some pretty good scare tactics that probably got a lot of people jumping in the theaters. The acting isn't too bad either, avoiding a lot of the melodramatic stuff too often seen. Most characters tend to act fairly naturally, and the sappy, philosophical monologues are kept to a minimum. Lead actor Marshall Thompson would go on to star in two Richard Gordon productions, Fiend Without A Face and First Man Into Space, not to mention several TV shows. Overall, this production rates fairly well amongst its peers.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Let me briefly comment that the low rating is not so much a reflection of the image ON the disc, as much as the image NOT on the disc. While It! looks great, even fantastic, for the black & white film of its age, the presentation on the disc stinks. This was designed to be matted at 1:85:1. If the transfer was 1:85:1, that means it also could have been anamorphically enhanced, and everyone would be happy. Instead, MGM has left a very sour taste in my mouth by simply exposing the full frame, but curiously, cropping the scene selections to 1:85:1. (reminiscent of the properly widescreened chapter images on their Village Of The Giants disc, but failing to do so for the film) All that aside, the current image is sharp, well-defined, and surprisingly low on print damage. I'd be very happy with this transfer if it were an honest-to-goodness 1:33:1 movie.

Image Transfer Grade: D+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The audio is Pro-Logic Mono, and is very clear and functional. Obviously, this is no surround experience, but it comes across solid for the age and this is a good thing, given the film's heavy reliance on sound. In fact, you might recognize many of the electronic sound effects as being recycled in many, many films; some of them even fairly recent.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Subtitles and a theatrical trailer are presented. The trailer is in mildly degraded condition, but servicable. The disc has fairly good art design, but lacks any real punch as it would have been nice to see maybe a promotional art gallery or something of that nature. There is no insert and, strangely, the menus use the Rocky Horror font.

Extras Grade: D+

 

Final Comments

It's hard to see how the Alien creators won't even admit to having been inspired by this film; the comparisons are simply too many to ignore. Certain scenes and conversations seem almost directly lifted from It! and transplanted into the 1979 film. All that aside, though, this stands on its own as something that did things a little differently, and wound up creating the template for imitators that followed. Sadly, the disc isn't too high on the "must buy" scale, though.

 


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