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)


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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)

The Remake Scoreboard – Creature Features

The Remake Scoreboard – Horror movie remakes – the good and bad list. Thumbs up or thumbs down and a few sentences why.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (remake – 2011)
(original 1973)

This is a movie that should’ve been ripe for a remake. The original, made for TV movie, had a very low-key script with not much back story, and little special effects. Somehow that low-key film managed to be creepy as hell. In the remake, the protagonist was a ten-year-old girl instead of the wife, which should’ve made it even scarier. It wasn’t. The little girl was too brooding and dark for us empathize with her. It would have been much more effective if the girl was happy and when she moved into the house, the creatures turned her darker.  The mansion was too big and exotic for me to associate with my own life. IMO, This film missed its mark by a mile.

The Thing (2011)
(original 1951 & 1982)

While billed as a prequel, it may as well be viewed as a remake because, aside form the last 15 minutes, every aspect and plot point from the 1982 version is repeated in this film. The cold, the isolation, the human/monster test, the flamethrowers, the distrust & paranoia; all are aspects common to both films.  Aside from the finale, the digi-fx were kept to a minimum. I believe the realism in the effects (as opposed to other recent CGI laden films), is that they filmed the scenes with physical animatronics and props, and the CGI was only used to enhance the real props. Is it better than the previous two versions? No, not at all. But, it is entertaining with good suspense, gore, monster-fx, and thrills & chills. However, I do find it unneccesary. If you want to watch or own just one, go with the 1982 Carpenter version.

Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein (1994)
(original 1931)

Despite baring her name, this film is not true to Mary Shelley’s novel. To  differentiate the film from the Universal classic, the studio added the original author’s name to the title, but the film deviates quite a bit from the original story. (No-one can even give Frankie a flat-top head; it is a fiercely protected trademark by Universal.) This film is a combined hybrid of the original and “The Bride of…”. Kenneth Branagh plays a conflicted Doctor Victor Frankenstein, torn between his scientific obsession and his love, Elizabeth, played by Helena Bonham Carter. Robert DeNiro plays the Frankenstein monster, a fully self-aware, coherent, character, struggling to find his place in the world and his purpose in life. It is an exciting film filled with beautiful Victorian atmosphere and the philosophical concepts of life that made the original novel so powerful.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
(original 1956)

Even though the original is the classic paranoia, alien, quiet-invasion film, this remake has something strong going for it too. The incredibly real and likable characters portrayed by, Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams and Jeff Goldblum are exceptional. You can’t help but root for their escape as the world goes mad around them. Coupled with some great special-effects, cinematography, and sound track (effects and music), the remake is a solid, must-see film. Some of the sound effects really get under your skin. I would be hard pressed to make a decision between the two, my suggestion would be to see them both.

The Wolfman (2010)
(original 1941)

I appreciate the nods to the classic here; the gypsy woman and the look of the Wolfman himself, but I think this film missed the mark of becoming a new classic. With Lon Chaney Jr. you had the sense of a deeply conflicted character harboring quite a bit of emotional pain. I think this remake tried too hard and tried to fit too much into the script. It never gave the viewer a sufficient chance to feel the torment of the man-turned-monster. Despite a great cast The Wolfman is just a good movie, not a great one IMO. It doesn’t compare to the elegance and success of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) or, Mary Shelly‘s Frankenstein (1994).