Creature Features revisited – Alien Creatures

the thing from another world - pic 19

Creature Features revisited

A look back at the golden age of sci-fi, the 1950‘s. Our subject today…

Alien Creatures:Creature Features logo

The Thing From Another World (1951) –
Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957) –
It! Conquered the World (1956) –


The Thing From Another World (1951)

One of the creepiest openings of any 1950s sci-fi films, ‘The Thing’ logo, burns into existence on screen with powerful, ominous music bolstering the mood. Naturally, this opening sequence was repeated in the 1982 John Carpenter remake. A reporter, Ned Scott (Douglas Spencer), arrives at an Alaskan Air-base to talk to his Air force buddies. A group of scientists and government military have gathered near the north pole where they claim a craft has fallen from the sky. So the small group The thing from another world dvdheads to the outpost site to investigate what Dr Carrington, the scientist, has discovered. Most of you have probably seen the Carpenter remake from 1982 so I am going to make several comparisons to that version. While the effects in this version can’t compare with the remake, this is a version worth seeing if you haven’t. It is very well-written, with some great characters, wonderful acting and a nicely paced plot. What’s more, the ‘science’ is more ‘scientific’ than most of the pseudo-science of convenience in other 1950’s Science Fiction films.

The crew finds a figure trapped in the ice, and bring it back to the outpost camp, frozen in the ice block. Captain Patrick Hendry (Kenneth Tobey), forbids any further investigation or studies until he gets word from his superiors on how to proceed. A storm moving over the area cuts communications off from the world. There’s a definitive love story between Hendry and field scientist, Nikki Nicholson (Margaret Sheridan) which adds a fun, flirty dimension to the story. From the storeroom, the Thing begins to wield its menacing power. A soldier on watch brings an electric blanket into the storage room and accidentally melts the ice with it, waking the creature. It breaks from the storage room and is attacked by the sled dogs in a creepy scene. The creature disappears and the men go on a hunt. They turn up nothing, but soon the Thing is hunting them instead.

This film doesn’t have the paranoia associated with the remake. It has a conflict between the scientists who want to save and study the life force and the military who wants to kill it before it kills anyone else. It attacks several times. The scene where they throw kerosene on it and set it aflame is intense. It bursts out of the room and into the snowstorm, on fire, flames lighting the blizzard swept night. The Thing is not a shape-shifter or assimilator as it is in the remake. It’s a large Frankenstein-like creature, an unstoppable beast that needs human blood to survive. I enjoy this film on a nostalgic level but also think it has a likable quality that can still be watched today. If you have never seen it, it would be worth watching on a Sunday afternoon.

The end delivers the ominous warning from reporter Ned ‘Scotty’ Scott:

Watch the skies everywhere, keep looking. Keep watching the skies!

The film was based on the story, Who Goes There? By John W. Campbell, Jr. which first appeared in Astounding Science Fiction magazine. (Campbell wrote under the pseudonym Don. A. Stuart at the time)


invasion of the saucermen - pic 13


Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957)

This film starts with a purposeful campy style, a comedic narration and cartoon-ish credits, which lowered my expectations for what would follow. So it’s no wonder that I found this film amusing and fun. What’s more I think the big-head designed aliens are fantastic, kooky imagination brought to life for the film.

Johnny and his date leave the local lovers lane in the dark only to run over an alien. They think they’ve killed it but the hand separates from the body, grows an eye and punctures the car tire keeping them from leaving. They go look for help. While Invasion of the saucer men poster 2they’re gone Joe Groden finds that car with the giant mashed head under the bumper. He’s aware of the aliens because he saw the flying saucer land. It’s a nice looking craft that looks like the front of a 55 Chevy Bel Air. Everyone looking for help winds up at the old man farmer’s cabin. He hates teenagers (the hoodlums) but loves his cow and chases them away. They all call the police but who’s gonna believe a bunch of teenagers? Meanwhile, the military has seen the UFO and are winding around the same back woods as our fearless teens. Joe gets attacked by an alien who jabs him with long needles protruding from its long deformed papier-mâché fingers. The military attempts to communicate with the flying saucer, ala Close Encounters, only when it doesn’t answer to, who are you? They pump it full of lead. When the local police finally show up at lovers lane, they make the teens blow into a balloon (sobriety test). They find Joe’s body and arrest Johnny for running him down, ignoring their claims of little green men.

An alien attacks Elsie the cow which infuriates the farmer. The military tries to open the UFO with a blow torch and the thing blows up. So they bury it in the ground. That explains why there’s no evidence of UFO’s. It gets pretty intense as Johnny and Mary are chased through the woods by these aliens. They discover the creatures are injured by light but their car headlights die and they’re on the run again. The police are frustratingly ignorant as this cat and mouse game continues.

Saucer men is an enjoyable nostalgic snapshot of the 1950’s, with cool classic cars and unique Martian creature creations. My DVD version included an old time popcorn stand commercial and a dozen trailers from lesser known horror films. It’s certainly one of the better Samuel Z. Arkoff productions DVD releases out there.


It Conquered the World pic 13

It! Conquered the World (1956)

This early Roger Corman directed sci-fi thriller, starred Peter Graves, Lee Van Cleef, Beverly Garland and Sally Fraser and was distributed by AIP.

A scientist, Dr. Anderson (Lee Van Cleef) is contacted through short wave radio by an alien from Venus named Zontar. The creature from Venus follows a US spacecraft back to earth where it disperses bat-like winged creatures who bite people in the back of their neck’s. All electric and power fails, leaving the small town and surrounding areas with no way to call for help. Thoseit_conquered_the_world who are bitten do the aliens bidding. It becomes a showdown between Lee, thinking the aliens presence is a great thing for mankind and the future of earth, and Dr. Nelson (Peter Graves) who knows freedom is more important than all the scientific advancements imagined.

Despite the strong conflict, the film often falls flat in the acting department, except for a few good scenes with Graves and a commanding scene by Anderson‘s wife (Beverly Garland). The real charm of the film comes at the late hour, when Zontar comes into full view, a creature that seems hard to conceive, a huge face, a cone shaped head, large claw-like arms, and glowing eyes. Although joked about by the actors and critics at the time, Sci-fi fans have come to love the Paul Blaisdell designed creature. Paul earned a good reputation by putting things together in his garage to create rudimentary monsters for low-budget films. Through the movie, a line from a Bugs Bunny cartoon repeated in my head, “The Masked-Carrot!” Seriously, a couple of rabbits would have dispensed with this creature nicely.

When Zontar kills Anderson’s wife, the Dr. is finally convinced to team up with Dr. Nelson to destroy the thing. Nelson goes on a shooting rampage cutting down all the mind controlled citizens in his path. He really kills a lot of people in this film, including his own wife, it‘s bizarre. An army platoon that has not been effected by the space bats finds the cave that Zontar hides in. But it’s Dr. Anderson who puts the final kill on the beast. Dr. Nelson, (Peter Graves) delivers the 1950’s sci-fi requisite speech finale about man finding his own way through the universe.


The Thing From Another World (1951)

Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957)

It! Conquered the World (1956)

Creature Features revisited – the ’It’ Movies

it came from beneath the sea pic 3

Creature Features revisited

A look back at the golden age of sci-fi, the 1950‘s. Our subject today…

The ‘It’ Movies:

Itcamefromouterspace posterIt Came from Outer Space (1953)

Despite the fact that the creature doesn’t seem to be on the same level with special-fx for its time, this film is still a classic because of a good script and some good acting. ‘It’ is a one-eyed bulbous creature with many cottony flaps hanging from it like a jellyfish. It floats across the ground at its victims. Many times it floats toward the camera because this film was Universal’s first 3D movie. A spacecraft crashes in the Arizona desert. A young couple, Carlson and Ellen, see the crash from their cabin in an impressive scene. Convinced it is a meteorite, Carlson heads to the impact site and witnesses a craft of some kind before it is buried in the earth by a cave-in. Soon, several of the townspeople disappear. When they come back they are mindless automatons collecting various metal and electronic devices for unknown reasons. Sherriff Warren becomes suspicious and forms a posse to hunt down the intruders. Carlson descends into an abandoned mine where he makes contact with the beings. They communicate to him that they have crash landed by accident and will leave as soon as they collect enough items to rebuild the damaged ship. However, the posse has killed two aliens and it is not known how the creatures will retaliate. The film was based on a short story by Ray Bradbury called ‘The Meteor.’ It was directed by Jack Arnold (Creature From the Black Lagoon) and stars, Richard Carlson (Creature from the…) and Barbara Rush (When Worlds Collide). There are a couple of scenes where you can see the wires, especially in HD, but it still holds up as a good 50’s sci-fi/horror classic.

it-came-from-beneath-the sea posterIt Came from Beneath the Sea (1955)

This is a joint venture between Sam Katzman and Charles Schneer. It features the stop motion effects of the late, great Ray Harryhausen. Hydrogen bomb testing in the Pacific Ocean drives the Giant Octopus out of its natural habitat. As radioactivity drives away its food supplies the beast finds nutrition from other sources. Getting the taste for humans early in the film when it attacks a shipping vessel, it then heads to the populous areas on the US west coast. It attacks San Francisco in a dramatic scene on The Golden Gate Bridge. There is the classic 1950’s love triangle mingled into this film between Navy Officer, Pete Mathews, Professor Carter and marine biologist, Leslie Joyce but it is somewhat underdeveloped. In the end the two men have to work together to detonate a hand delivered torpedo deep within the brain of the Giant Octopus in a tense underwater scenario. Stars Kenneth Tobey (The Thing from Another World), Donald Curtis (Earth vs. The Flying Saucers) and Faith Doumergue (This Island Earth). The dvd features wonderful special features which include Harryhausen talking about budget restraints making it only possible for him to animate six tentacles on the beast, instead of eight. He also talks about the San Francisco mayor’s reluctance to have the Golden Gate Bridge seen in the film being destroyed. This forced the film to scrap several shots that were to be taken on the bridge itself.

It-The-Terror-from-Beyond-Space-posterIt, The Terror from Beyond Space (1958)

I love that this film starts with a narrator telling us it is the future, 1973, and man has landed on Mars. A spaceship is sent to rescue a previous mission that has gone bad. They find one survivor, Col. Carruthers, and inform him that he is suspected of murdering the rest of his crew. He insists that it wasn’t him; that it was some alien life form, but the crew argue that no life has been found on the planet. He is confined to his cabin for the four month journey home but the crew soon realize they have made a mistake. The humanoid creature enters the ship before take off.  Now it hunts and kills the crew members one at a time as it makes its way though each locked level of the ship. It seems indestructible until a dangerous and sketchy plan to destroy it is devised. There are only a few crewmembers left and at their last level, with no where else to run. The similarities to the plot of Riddley Scott’s Alien are notable. The scaly reptilian creature design was very good. There are some fantastic set designs and the director’s use of shadow and light creates much of the tension and suspense. You are rooting for the crew members to defeat this ugly creature but ‘It’ keeps coming like an unstoppable terror. Directed by Edward L. Cahn, who also did She-Creature, which wasn’t quite as good.


Past Creature Feature Posts:

There Be Giants! 

Giant Robots

Giant Bugs!