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It Came From Outer Space/Review

From The Grindhouse Cinema Database

< It Came From Outer Space

3-D is a gimmick that became popular in three different periods of time. First, it was the 50’s. Bwana Devil kickstarted the trend and shortly after that Hollywood was flooded with three-dimensional features. From House of Wax to Robot Monster, it was a very successful attraction at the time. Remember that iconic photo from Life Magazine in which a theater full of moviegoers are wearing 3-D glasses? The fact that everyone knows about it proves that 3-D was in fact a successful marketing plan. Then, in the 1980’s after Comin’ At Ya! hit the theater, we had a resurgence with Jaws 3-D, Friday the 13th Pt 3 in 3-D, and Amityville Horror in 3-D. It wasn’t as charming as the first wave, but still attracted enough people to watch them. Finally, it was only a few years ago when James Cameron's Avatar was released. Many studios admitted that they did it to prevent piracy, but in reality it was the only sure fire way to bring audiences to the theaters. Many 3-D films rely solely on the gimmick aspect and forget to make a good movie as well. It Came From Outer Space, however, is a memorable sci-fi flick from 1953 that has a strong plot and doesn’t feel awkward when you watch it without glasses.

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The set up sounds exactly like tons of sci-fi films from the era. A mysterious meteor crashes somewhere near a town and only John, an astronomer, and Ellen, his girlfriend who works as a teacher, see it. A short while later, John investigates the site and sees not only a spaceship, but also what is supposed to be an alien. Unfortunately, there was a landslide due to loud sound from the spaceship and everything is buried. That’s why John can’t convince the sheriff that there’s something mysterious outside the town. Meanwhile, more and more people become hypnotized by a space alien. They turn emotionless and then mysteriously disappear. You may think that this is another anti-Commie flick, but no. Actually, one of the people that gets indoctrinated warns John that he and the sheriff must not attack the "visitors", otherwise they will attack the Earth. With more and more citizens being lost, will the authorities listen to John? What will happen first: The aliens attacking the Earth or will they reveal secrets about their trip?

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As I mentioned, this is not one of those films in which people are turned into Marxist robots. There’s a good reason why the citizens join them and, believe me, it’s one of the coolest plot twists from 50’s movies I’ve seen in a while. Moreover, this movie has its own political message about living in peace, which kind of reminded me of the original The Day The Earth Stood Still and even Night of the Living Dead as well. Yes, after John finds out that the alien doesn’t want to be attacked he has an argument with the sheriff about using armed force to rescue the townspeople. For whatever reason, it reminded me of that scene in NOTLD where Ben, our African-American hero, loudly argues with Harry, an old man, about how they should deal with the zombies. They debate over staying in the basement or blocking the doors and windows so they can use facilities like the radio and television to get information. In both films, it’s implied that in the worst case scenarios humans are way scarier than the monsters coming after them. As another example, remember that famous episode of the classic Twilight Zone in which the whole town has a fight about who is an alien among them? It’s my all-time favorite episode of the show and its message is somehow similar more or less.

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Speaking of The Twilight Zone, the setting and the tone of the film could fit in easily as an episode of the show. It's set in a nice small town, then something strange happens, and finally there’s a twist ending with an in-your-face message. Also, the atmosphere of the film is eerie due to the fact that the film shows only the alien’s eye for the most part until the end. Pay attention to the first time this alien appears, it’s an effective way to creep an audience out! Also, they used the POV shot as a way to hide the real body of the alien and continue the plot at the same time. A really nice technique for that period of filmmaking. What about the 3D technique? We have objects that are being poked at the audience from time to time, but with the strong plot and atmosphere I pay less and less attention to that gimmick and look closely at what’s going on instead.

Overall, I enjoyed this movie. It’s something distinctive from the films of the 50’s. Also, if you love the original The Day The Earth Stood Still, you are going to love this too. Highly recommended.

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Nuttawut Permpithak is a Thai student who's spending his final year in university studying marketing. In his free time he watches exploitation films...or any films from the past, writing articles, taking photos and reviewing films for the GCDb.
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