Archive for It! The Terror from Beyond Space

They Came From Beyond Poverty

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2011 by dcairns

INVISIBLE INVADERS was one of a mere handful of movies (how many movies can you fit in a hand?) still to be viewed in my demented ongoing quest to se every damn film illustrated in Denis Gifford’s Pictorial History of Horror Movies, a quest I have termed See Reptilicus and Die.

Reader, I watched it.

Edward L Cahn was a Z-list schlockmeister with a mildly redemptive actual interest in sci-fi, leading him to make the above-average space monster outing IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE. Consequently, his 1959 invasion from space cardboard epic has a few intriguing ideas floating around in it, albeit all mismatched and ill-thought-through.

As Joe Dante points out over at Trailers From Hell, II shares a plot motor with the legendary PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE — alien invaders (who have colonized the moon) reanimate the dead, turning our own deceased relatives against us. Since this is an available location + stock footage kind of epic, the visual effect here is a little more like the later NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, so we can say that the movie has combined two cheap tricks of the B movie: monsters you can’t see, and monsters which are just zombified guys in suits. For some reason, the possessed corpses in this movie are all male.

A very special episode of  Little House on the Prairie…

Immediate problems are apparent: the aliens attack by sabotaging us and turning our own weapons against us — “Holland, Finland and Russia have been blown up!” — which means they’re only really effective when invisible. The possessed corpses are a cumbersome add-on who seem to add nothing to the invasion beyond a bad odour. It’s also not clear how the aliens can become intangible enough to enter the corpses, but leave dragging footsteps in the dirt, and can be sealed inside locked rooms.

Similar confusion arises when our heroes fight back with an acrylic spray. This might easily be used to make the invisible invaders visible, but instead they use it to seal one into his futile corpse-vehicle, transporting him back to their underground lab (shades of Darabont’s Walking Dead show, and indeed the phrase “the walking dead” is used throughout), where they crack the plastic shell with high pressure and attempt to destroy their prisoner with a battery of experimental techniques. Finally, sound waves reduce the poor invisiblite to a soapy mound of foam.

What’s not clear is why they assume the alien will survive being hermetically sealed in an acrylic coating. Wouldn’t they go the way of Shirley Eaton in GOLDFINGER?

John Agar wears a terry-cloth hazmat suit.

Ah, John Agar, his very presence the stamp of low, low quality. In biology class, agar means is a jelly used to cultivate germs. In movies, it’s roughly the same. Agar’s last movie, THE NAKED MONSTER, came out three years after his physical death, which is always a sure sign of a very special kind of career. Also, he was married to Shirley Temple. In my book, that makes him a pedophile. That may not be fair, or true, but since when did that stop anybody?

True star of this movie is wattled scientist and pacifist Philip Tonge, in a dignified and sincere turn that manages to inject a bit of humanity into the thing. He’s joined, briefly, by John Carradine as the first victim of alien resurrection, Dr Karol Noymann — a name previously assigned to Edgar Barrier in writer Samuel Newman’s earlier THE GIANT CLAW. Again, this info comes from Joe Dante. It was nice to see Carradine as he’d just appeared, via stolen clips from VOODOO MAN, in Craig Baldwin’s MOCK UP ON MU, which I watched not five minutes earlier, thus adding to my ongoing sensation of being trapped in an uncanny web of coincidence. This is the feeling that’s held sway since I started reading Ulysses, “the book with everything in it,” and I wondered if the invisibility theme encountered in Cahn’s film and Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentleman and another film I watched, THE AMAZING MR BLUNDEN (directed by Lionel Jeffries, who’s also excerpted in MOCK UP ON MU) had anything to do with Joyce. It does!

“For I’m the boy / Who can enjoy / Invisibility!”

Thanks to the mysterious Andrew deSelby for pointing this out.

Observe the sonic death ray. It’s clearly made of wood. Since it’s been hastily improvised in response to an unexpected alien invasion, that’s actually reasonable. But the wily humans, not wishing to give away their ultimate weapon’s jerry-built origins, have painted it silver.

Smart.

Can anyone explain why I find the above image so funny?

Joe Dante also claims that the zombie motif is reprised from Cahn’s CREATURE WITH THE ATOM BRAIN (scripted by Curt Siodmak), “but without that film’s squibbing” — in the print we saw, the squib effects were present and correct, providing some slight added value as little explosions puncture the zombie army’s business suits.

Usually Hollywood movies with pacifist characters exist in order to show the pacifist either learning the error of his ways and wading in, fists a-flying, or getting disintegrated, thus illustrating the necessity for violent action. This movie’s take is more nuanced, or one might say fucked up, since the pic ends with Tonge’s dewlapped peacemonger uniting the nations of the Earth — against the common enemy, those invisible bastards from the Moon.

Control

Posted in FILM, literature, Science, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 25, 2009 by dcairns

Or, Things I Read Off The Screen in IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE.

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Control.

In fact, the terror isn’t from beyond space at all, it’s from Mars, which I believe to be IN space. Nevertheless, this nifty little sci-fi monsterpiece may be the jewel in the cardboard crown of Schlockmeister General Edward L. Cahn, the nitwit behind THE FOUR SKULLS OF JONATHAN DRAKE (which had some nifty-ish images but moved like a slug). I have returned, after what seems like months but is in reality only… months… to my quest to see all the films illustrated in Denis Gifford’s seminal work, A Pictorial History of Horror Movies, a quest I have named See Reptilicus and Die.

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Blower Motor No. 4.

The reason why IT! is so decidedly less-poor-than-most-Cahn-films may be found in its script, by respected genre scribe Jerome Bixby, author of It’s a Good Life, a blood-chilling little story about an omnipotent child filmed for The Twilight Zone TV show, and again for the movie (by Joe Dante, a guest at this year’s upcoming Edinburgh Film Festival). Bixby also plotted FANTASTIC VOYAGE (another Dante influence, since this was the original “inject a shrunken submarine into someone’s bloodstream” movie, and thus the inspiration for the entertaining INNERSPACE), and several classic Star Trek episodes.

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Landing Platform Controls.

This movie’s quite Trek-like, with its space crew jeopardised by a heavy-breathing man in a suit, and the suspense interwoven with a mild intellectual puzzle — how to kill the apparently indestructible monster. The other point of comparison is ALIEN, which follows the monster-on-a spaceship template pretty closely, only with better design, photography, acting, and man-in-suit. Both ALIEN and IT! may be influenced by a common source, AE Van Vogt’s novel The Voyage of the Space Beagle, which introduces the big idea in ALIEN of the creature that lays eggs inside human hosts. Both Bixby and ALIEN writer Dan O’Bannon seem likely to have been familiar with Van Vogt’s writing. Another influence is likely to be THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD — just change the antarctic base for a spaceship, and James Arness in a bald cap for Ray “Crash” Corrigan in a rubber Halloween cossie. The Howard Hawks-produced movie has his trademark group of professionals living and struggling together as its focus, and that holds true for the Cahn-Bixby flick also.

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Atomic Reactor No. 3. 

Hand in hand with the good points in this movie are the weaker ones, which are plenty entertaining themselves: the date is 1973 (the future!); everybody smokes in the spaceship; the female crewmembers double as cook and cleaner; when the airlock is opened, it blows lots of papers around, like a mild gust of wind.

But the film is really not excessively ridiculous, and the tension is generated and sustained nicely: by the situations, rather than Cahn’s pedestrian direction. His major contribution is to keep the monster shadowy, which is a smart choice. Scenes like the guy trapped in a confined space with a broken leg, fending off the beast with an oxyacetylene torch, have a real sweaty discomfort to them. “‘Good for up to three hours continuous use,'” says our man, reading the torch’s instructions. “It says to return it for your money back if unsatisfied.”

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Grrr!

Fall of the Curse of the Horrors of the Coughing Man Without a Body from Beyond Space (With Sledgehammers)

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2009 by dcairns

So, my “See REPTILICUS and Die” quest to watch all the films depicted in Denis Gifford’s A Pictorial History of Horror Movies goes on — here is the fourth and final list of entries I haven’t told you about. This was completed on the laptop of our young ward, Louis. As I see the movies, I will change the titles here to RED. A few earlier entries have already changed hue.

Page 162. I think I tried to watch KING OF THE ZOMBIES online once, but the combination of bad, low-res image and sound, and bad, low-res film-making was too much for me. If I can get a decent copy I suppose I’ll have to try again.

Page 163. VOODOO MAN is a quickie from Poverty Row kings Monogram, which brings George Zucco and Bela Lugosi together and attempts to keep them sober.

Beautiful zombies at the mercy of a madman! I like the idea of the screenwriter hero — poverty row goes pomo!

164-165. THE NEANDERTHAL MAN has a fun make-up, but I don’t know anything else about it. CRY OF THE WEREWOLF stars Nina Foch, which is good news, but is this one of those’40s monster movies without an actual monster? THE HYPNOTIC EYE is such a good title, I would be satisfied if the movie itself were just a lingering close-up of a dripping eyeball. That would be pretty hypnotic. In fact, it’s possibly the only film shot in Hypno-Magic, “the thrill you see and feel”. I wonder if, after the word “feel”, in very very small microdot writing, is the word “cheated”. It seems possible.

167. VENGEANCE, with Anne Heywood is an Anglo-German brain movie, which strongly suggests to me that it must be at least as good as Ozu’s LATE SPRING. But I could be wrong there.

171. I’ve kind of seen FIEND WITHOUT A FACE, but “kind of” doesn’t cut it here, and I’m actually intrigued to experience it properly. Director Arthur Crabtree’s career starts with erotic Freudian Gainsborough melodrama MADONNA OF THE SEVEN MOONS and ends with sadeian thick-ear HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM, making him a genuine God of Trash. Crazy trash, the kind that Douglas Sirk reckons can sometimes approach art.

172-3. It’s actually quite hard to recall which Universal ’50s giant animal films I’ve seen, but I think it’s, like, all of them. But from Japan comes SPACE AMOEBA, GAMERA VERSUS JIGER, and DESTROY ALL MONSTERS. The last-named was probably the film my seven-year-old self was ulcerating to see above all others.

175. IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE, is a precursor to ALIEN in many ways. I’ve seen the last half-hour and actually found it tense, which is practically unheard-of for these things. Even though it’s by the generally rather useless Edward L Cahn, I’m psyched to see the whole show. PHANTOM FROM SPACE looks like one of the big-heads from Metaluna has been working out at Muscle Beach. Has to be worth a chuckle at least.

180. Here we have REPTILICUS, the only Danish dinosaur movie I can think of. An IMDb reviewer writes, “This is the movie that we Danes can be proud of!! It is the worst movie ever made but it is so funny that I am about to die.” So I’m right to hold off on watching this until the instant of my death. I shall complete my meaningless Gifford-based quest by choking on my own brains as I watch Copenhagen flattened by a prehistoric glove puppet. Incidentally, REPTILICUS is directed by Poul Bang and Sidney Pink, so when I do blog about it, from the afterlife, I can joke about it being a Pink/Bang movie. Something for us all to look forward to.

184. FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD is an endearingly stupid idea, a Japanese giant monster movie (kaiju) in which the giant monster is the Frankenstein monster, somehow grown to 100ft in height, battling a big squid.

187. 1957’s THE VAMPIRE again, for some reason. Was Gifford just randomly throwing publicity snaps together?

190. INVISIBLE INVADERS is not only directed by Edward L Cahn (THE FOUR SKULLS OF JONATHAN DRAKE), but almost as if that weren’t enough, it stars John Agar. The mark of greatness. The still shows a bunch of zombie-type guys advancing through scrubland, and I can so easily imagine them singing the lyrics of Frank Zappa’s The Radio is Broken: “They need to reproduce! With John Agar… They need to reproduce! With Sonny Tufts… They need to reproduce! With Jackie Coogan…”

191. WILLARD. Rats. Lots of rats. Is this the one with the Michael Jackson song?

194. A couple of serious rarities: posters for a 1902 version of MARIA MARTEN, OR THE MURDER IN THE RED BARN (I’ve seen the later Tod Slaughter version) and FIGHT WITH SLEDGEHAMMERS, billed as “The most thrilling film ever taken.” I can totally believe it. It’s certainly the most thrilling title ever written, and why it hasn’t been used for every film made since, I can’t imagine. I suppose that would eventually cause confusion.

196. THE MAN WITHOUT A BODY deals with a reanimated head of Nostradamus. Rather than getting an actor to stick his head up through a hole in a table, the producers appear to have assembled an unconvincing puppet head, and fastened that to a table. Either that, or it’s an actor cunningly disguised to resemble a puppet head. THE CURSE OF THE LIVING CORPSE shows a rather attractive severed head on a plate. She may actually be the sexiest severed head I’ve ever seen. Who is she? I don’t know, but this movie does feature Candace Hilligoss from CARNIVAL OF SOULS, in what’s basically her only other role, so I have to see it. And it stars a nubile Roy Scheider! It’s directed by Del Tenney, who seems to have specialised in utter shit, but I’ll give this one a go.

197 features a bit of our personal history — a spooky image of a little girl at a window, her hands pressed against the glass. Fiona did a painting of this at art school. Gifford mislabels the still CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED (a nice movie, underrated) but it’s actually from Mario Bava’s brilliant OPERAZIONE PAURA / KILL BABY KILL! Fiona was thrilled to finally see the movie and recognise the image.

198. Oscar Homolka Akim Tamiroff as THE VULTURE? Count me in! Basically a stout, elderly Russian in a feather boa, not the most obviously terrifying image in the world, but I believe I could get into the spirit of the thing. TROG is the movie that inspired John Landis’s entire career — he saw it, and was convinced he could do better. Freddie Francis, the greatly embarrassed director of TROG, is therefore indirectly responsible for BEVERLY HILLS COP III and THE STUPIDS.

200. A movie from 1924 which I suspect may be hard to track down: THE COUGHING HORROR. Adapted from a Sax Rohmer potboiler, it’s a silent movie, which means that it absolutely MUST feature intertitles that read “Cough. Cough. Cough.” If I can find this beauty, I promise to feature it in Intertitle of the Week.

202. THE PHANTOM OF SOHO looks neat-o, being a German adaptation from a Bryan Edgar Wallace story.

203. THE MURDER CLINIC is an Alfredo Leone production, which means I extend the hand of friendship to it without a second thought. CASTLE SINISTER is a British movie from 1948 that I’ve never come across. That’s going to be a tough one to find.

206. THE BLACK CAT. An IMDB reviewer says  — “This version of “The Black Cat” was filmed in Texas in the mid-60’s and is probably one of the few Poe adaptations to have go-go dancers and rock and roll.” He also points out that the image used in Gifford, a girl with an axe embedded in her skull, was used as an album cover by a band rejoicing in the name The Angry Samoans. SEDDOK is another memorable title, but the movie (true title SEDDOK, L’EREDE DI SATANA) is a knock-off of EYES WITHOUT A FACE.

207. THE SPECTRE is the follow-up to THE HORRIBLE DR HITCHCOCK. Haven’t seen either of them. I bought a tape of the last-named in Camden Town a few years ago, but it crapped out shortly after the titles (featuring a credit for somebody called “Frank Smokecocks”). These are Riccardo Freda films, and therefore definite must-sees. Freda is a cinematic Sultan of Wrongness. I keep missing THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR, only catching bits, but maybe it’ll be worth seeing if a decent transfer turns up — I seem to recall it’s one of those Tigon productions that always seems impenetrably dark when aired on TV. MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND is another Philippino favourite, and another graphic image I tried to protect my little friend from in childhood.

208. 1949 British version of FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER sounds very intriguing — Britain really wasn’t known for horror in those days. This is a tatty “quota quickie” that sounds kind of appealing.

216. Last page of the index, and Gifford manages one more still (although he forgets to list it IN the index): the 1923 WARNING SHADOWS, which I have and which I intend to watch very soon.