IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE
Review by Michael Jacobson
Richard Carlson, Barbara Rush, Charles Drake
Director: Jack Arnold
Audio: Dolby Digital 3.0
Video: Full Frame 1.33:1
Features: See Review
Length: 81 Minutes
Release Date: May 21, 2002
could be the most significant thing that’s ever happened!”
Came From Outer Space, and it apparently came hanging by a string, if you look closely at the
famous opening shot of the meteor/ship zooming right at you as it crashes to
earth. Once upon a time it was a
3-D effect, but sadly, not anymore.
that’s the bad news, the good news is that Universal has delivered their first
ever alien science fiction film to modern audiences on an outstanding and fun
DVD. More on that further down.
in the early 1950s, a new breed of science fiction film was coming into the
mainstream, as movie makers began to imagine that we were not alone in the
universe. The resulting films about
alien visitors could usually be lumped into one of two categories:
they’re here to destroy us, or they’re here to help us.
Came From Outer Space was Universal’s first offering along in the blossoming genre, and some
half a century later, it tends to stand apart from most of them, simply because
it didn’t fall into either category. The
aliens in this film were not here to hinder or help humanity…the fact was,
they crashed here by mistake, have no interest in us, and simply want to get
back on their way. The irony is
that they DO have the power to destroy us, and our own foolishness could very
well force them to use it!
film also stands out for its story, which was written by Ray Bradbury.
His often poetic sense of science fiction lends an air of respectability
to an era where these kinds of pictures were mostly made for popcorn chomping
fun. The dialogue has quality, and
it helps make the picture more memorable.
aforementioned crashing object is first spotted by amateur astronomer John
Putnam (Carlson) and his lovely fiancée Ellen Fields (Rush).
They go to investigate, as any plucky 50s heroes would do, and John
discovers something startling: the
meteor actually appears to be a ship, and something seems to be alive in it!
Unfortunately, a sudden rockslide covers all the evidence, and as you
might expect, no one believes John’s story, especially the local sheriff
strange occurrences begin to happen. People
John and Ellen know are starting to behave strangely.
Electrical trucks and hardware supplies are going missing.
Clothes are disappearing from closets.
What does it all mean?
that the alien beings want to repair their ship and get underway.
They are xenomoprhs, and can take on the appearance of other beings,
which they do in order to avoid suspicion (it doesn’t work).
They mean us no harm, but will an increasingly paranoid people force them
to use drastic measures to defend themselves?
enough, the original concept of the picture included not ever seeing the
xenomorphs in their true form. It
was going to be left up to our imaginations, as the filmmakers instead employed
lots of cool, watery-looking point of view shots for the aliens, and actor
reaction to them. But this was
going to be a 3-D film, and ultimately, it was decided you couldn’t do that
without having some sort of creature to scare the audience. The final concept, which was created and put into the film at
the thirteenth hour, was quite cool, but who knows which version of the film
might actually have been the more effective one?
controversy aside, It Came From Outer Space remains a solidly
entertaining offering from a genre that usually inspires more giggles than awe.
Fans of classic sci-fi will definitely enjoy this offering, and frankly,
I must add that as a critic, I don’t get to write the word “xenomorph”
TRIVIA: Look for Russell
Johnson, aka The Professor on “Gilligan’s Island”, as one of the telephone
a film this old and of this genre, Universal has delivered a near pristine
quality disc presentation. The
black and white photography renders remarkably well, with good levels of detail
and contrast and no visible grain. The
print is in terrific shape overall…only a few mildly noticeable instances of
spots or scratches exist, and a touch of flicker now and then caused by aging.
For a fifty year old film, I consider that beyond exemplary.
interesting audio track is a three channel stereo mix…in other words, separate
signals to your right, left and center channels on the front stage.
The resulting sound is quite remarkable.
From the opening crashing effect onward, there are plenty of uses of
panning, ranging from full out effects sequences to simple dialogue.
The extra channel makes it sound more wide open than a standard stereo
mix might have. The dynamic range
is fairly strong, and the soundtrack is quite free of any distracting noise.
The music sounds quite good, too…and what would one of these films be
without its creepy electronic sounding score?
Universal could package a disc so well without giving it a special edition
moniker! As with many of their
classic horror films, indications are they are welcoming their alien visitors to
DVD with a red carpet treatment. The
commentary track by historian Tom Weaver is one of the most informative I’ve
heard for any movie…the man simply knows everything there is to know about
this picture! He discusses in great
detail the concepts, the shooting, the studio discussions over the eventual
appearance of the alien, the actors and their backgrounds, and more…it’s
extremely interesting and insightful, and Mr. Weaver has a pleasant voice to
that’s just the beginning. Also
featured is a new documentary, “The Universe According to Universal”.
This half hour piece is hosted by Rudy Behlmer, who also hosted many of
the documentaries on the monster film DVDs.
This is a look at Universal Studios’ foray into science fiction, with
particular emphasis on It Came From Outer Space.
It’s a good piece. There
is also an original trailer, a poster and photo gallery, production notes,
talent files, and some extras for your DVD ROM.
A terrific package overall!