It! The Terror From Beyond Space (Edward L Cahn, 1958)
The crew of a lone spaceship headed back from Mars (after picking up the single survivor of a previous mission there, who keeps insisting that a ruthless monster killed the rest), doesn’t realize until it’s too late that they’ve also picked up said super-powered creature (who would have thought a monster who looks just like a guy in a very stiff rubber suit with zero facial expression would have such abilities) who occasionally hides in the ship’s air ducts in-between picking off the crew members (by ‘sucking out their life essence’, leaving them with lots of black makeup around their eyes reminiscent of that creepy ghoul guy from Carnival of Souls).
Out of the triple feature of sci-fi space monster movies I recently watched said to have inspired Ridley Scott’s masterpiece Alien, It! clearly has the closest narrative backbone to the 1979 horror/sci-fi masterwork and yet, ironically, is also the most inferior of the three (and not by a little bit).
The similarities are there — the crew fending off a seemingly undefeatable monster (it may not have the Alien Xenomorph’s acid for blood, but It certainly has a lot going for it in standing up to humans trying to kill it), the monster doing time in the ship’s vents, as well as a certain democratic approach in its handling of the ‘crew members all together’ scenes (though, it’s pretty clear no kick-ass bitch like Ripley is gonna emerge from the female crew members whose main functions here from what we see is to serve coffee and sandwiches to the decision-making males – obviously, the film clearly didn’t imagine the most progressive agenda in crewing up for space travel in the future, that’s for sure) — but, yeesh, it is cheaply made and awfully clunky, with things like the poor actors continuously pretending to travel up and down multiple decks, while it’s entirely obvious they keep just re-using the same two or so floors and (marginally) re-dressing them.
Now I’ll always have a vast well of a soft spot for the old school man in a rubber suit monster, but the film could have helped out a bit more with disguising how difficult it is for the man in the suit to move and how entirely frozen It’s face is. There’s a few familiar 1950’s character actor faces amongst the crew (like 60’s through 80’s TV mainstay Dabbs Greer, who it feels must have done at least one guest spot in just about every single American major network television show broadcast during that period) who do their best while stuck doing a lot of things and making decisions that just don’t really make a whole lot of sense.
Saying that, it’s still got a shit ton more to offer than anything coming out of the hipster audiences-programmed-to-laugh-maniacally-in-response-to-it at your local rep house screening, that for sure. Which is why this is one film you’d never catch me seeing at a place like the New York Alamo Drafthouse. Home viewing only… and definitely not with the MST3000 guys.