Greatest Golden Age Sci-Fi Movies -1953: It came from outer space
This film marks the directorial debut of a Hollywood legend whose name would turn out to be indelibly associated with B-movies: the prolific Jack Arnold. This is a director who, despite never having directed a masterpiece, is arguably the best among the many who in the wild and wacky Fifties directed countless B-movies with extraordinarily low production budgets and with even lower pretensions.
Having said all that, It came from outer space is a pretty good movie, specifically because it is the first to show the alien able to actually change its shape and assume human form. It is on this issue, rather than the usual stereotypical struggle against the evil space monsters against, which becomes the key to developing the plot. Unfortunately the shapeshifting, as totally unlikely it is in actual science, has become an sorry staple of science fiction ever since. This usually indicates that the writer is a hack leaning on a literary crutch rather than actually coming up with something both original and believable. And yes, that applies to some of my favorite characters in modern science fiction, such as Odo from Star Trek Deep Space Nine, and Sylar from Heroes.
These particular bunch of aliens, unlike the conventional "we're gonna kill you all" Fifties garden variety, do not attempt to exterminate the human race. They ended up on Earth not as part of a nefarious invasion, but for a mechanical failure to their vehicle. Just think of it as "Damn... why did I let my Spacecraft Planetside Assistance lapse last month?" Once they got stranded here they started to kidnap random individuals that they encounter and take over their forms not for any outward subterfuge, but only to not be discovered, and thus complete the repairs needed to restart their flying saucer.
The plot turns on the time that despite their precautions they are discovered by the protagonist (Richard Carlson), a writer who does not let the outward appearance of what appear to his friends fool him. The situation soon becomes more complicated: While the local police are preparing to attack the cave where the aliens are hiding and risking a massacre on both sides, the protagonist who is also greatly concerned because his girlfriend has been kidnapped, is desperately seeking a compromise. In the end, with a little luck, the aliens are able to get their motor runnin' and take off back into the vastness of space, while those who had been kidnapped are released. Once again the Earth is safe, even if the danger posed to mankind was far more apparent than real.
It came from outer space springs from a fairly good science fiction idea at the time, and benefits from a fairly well developed plot, but not much more. After all, this is It came from outer space after all, a movie which has taken on a certain aura as the prototypical crappy Fifties science fiction film. At no point in It came from outer space do we even begin to approach the level of tension that is achieved in The thing from another world, and we are light years away from the profound depth of motion picture artistry demonstrated in The day the Earth stood still. However, to expect more from a fairly run of the mill low budget B-movie, all things considered, it would be excessive. Indeed, for a film shot for the amount of money that would have barely bought the donuts on the set of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, this little science fiction movie delivers much more than anyone has a right to expect.
1953: It came from outer space
Ray Bradbury (for the story)
Harry Essex (for the screenplay)
John Putnam - Richard Carlson
Ellen Fields - Barbara Rush
Sheriff Matt Warren - Charles Drake
Frank Daylon - Joe Sawyer
George - Russell Johnson
Jane - Kathleen Hughes
Posseman (not shown in the credits) - Ralph Brooks
Tom (not shown in the credits) - Budd Buster
Dugan (not shown in the credits) - Robert Carson