Starring Marshall Thompson, Shawn Smith, Kim Spalding, Ann Doran, Dabbs Greer, Paul Langton, Ray "Crash" Corrigan. Directed by Edward L. Cahn. (1958, 69 min). Olive Films
Of course, any sci-fi or horror disciple worth their salt regularly drops to their knees and worships at the alter of Alien. It’s one of the most influential genre films of all time; the list of subsequent movies it has inspired is longer than the Dead Sea Scrolls. Even today, almost 40 years later, countless directors and screenwriters continue to borrow liberally from Ridley Scott’s masterpiece.
But as revered as it is, Alien probably wouldn't exist if not for a small, mostly-forgotten film with the exact same story (and some strikingly-similar scenes) released 21 years earlier. For some, this might be like learning God actually gave the world two sons: the charismatic, good-looking messiah we admire and worship, and the prematurely-balding older brother who lacked the same ambition and remained a simple carpenter for the rest of his life. Still, Jesus may have once looked up to his big brother for inspiration and guidance much like younger siblings generally do when Mom and Dad aren't around.
It! The Terror from Beyond Space is the sci-fi equivalent of that older brother, and Alien fans might be stunned at how liberally their beloved film borrows from this low-budget piece of drive-in fodder. In fact, part of the fun of watching this movie today is discovering the striking similarities between the two. For example:
- A crew of astronauts lands on a hostile planet (in this case, Mars) for a rescue mission.
- After taking off, they discover an alien creature is onboard.
- The creature consists mostly of teeth.
- The creature is sneaking through the air vents to get around in the ship, which one unfortunate crew member discovers when hunting it down.
- Crew members die in a fashion similar to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None.
- The creature turns out to be almost indestructible, impervious to bullets, fire, electricity, radiation and toxic gas.
- In fact, the only way to kill it is to open an airlock and expose it to the vacuum of space.
Okay, so maybe you’re a tad disillusioned that Alien isn’t quite as original as you once thought. Does this mean It! The Terror from Beyond Space a better movie? Of course not. Alien still deserves its status as an all-time classic, yet there’s a lot of fun to be had in checking out this old relic, which is actually pretty entertaining on its own terms. Sure the special effects are archaic, but like Alien, it benefits from low-key performances and smart dialogue, with a story that has since-proven to be timeless.
Any true fan of a particular genre needs to acknowledge and appreciate the older films which make their love possible. While no classic, It! The Terror from Beyond Space deserves a bit of that same love thrown its way, especially since nobody involved with Alien ever did.