A spaceship crashes in the Arizona desert and aliens pretend to be nearby townspeople to repair their craft undiscovered.
"If we've been seeing things, it's because we did see them!"
You've got to hand it to Hollywood for grabbing onto the hysteria of an era. When people are at their most fearful, they're that much easier to entertain! By the end of the 1940s and into the 1950s, Americans were on the edge of their seats with news of atomic weaponry and the looming threat of communists. While we had our own weapons, we were still open to attack. School kids were taught to duck and cover and at the height of the Red Scare, people were building flimsy ramshackle bomb shelters in their backyards just to feel some sense of security. Through it all, Hollywood was there to exploit it. Movies with mysterious alien invaders threatening to end our way of life proved to be a popular sight at movie theaters and Drive-In screens. Jack Arnold's 1953 film 'It Came From Outer Space' was no exception. As Universal Studio's first 3-D feature, it hit on all of the popular paranoia aspects of the era while providing an interesting twist thanks to legendary sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury.
Sand Rock, Arizona is a quiet sort of place. The people keep to themselves and have their own private way of doing things. They don't take to city life or trappings and that's just the way writer and amateur astronomer John Putnam (Richard Carlson) likes it. The people of Sand Rock, including Sheriff Matt Warren (Charles Drake), haven't quite warmed up to John, but the beautiful young schoolteacher Ellen Fields (Barbara Rush) has. As the romance between John and Ellen blooms, some uninvited visitors threaten to spoil things.
One evening while the pair are doing a little stargazing, John spots a gigantic meteor slam into an old mine out in the desert. When they reach the massive crater, John goes down alone to see what he can find. What he sees is the greatest discovery by man, a large spherical spaceship, and one of its doors is open! For a brief moment, John thinks he can see something alive inside - but when the door closes, a rockslide buries the spacecraft. When he tells the sheriff and the local newspaperman of what he saw, they write him off as the mysterious crackpot they've always taken him for. As the butt of jokes in the paper and on the radio, John is the only one that knows the truth. Alien visitors are here on Earth! When various townspeople start to act strangely or disappear altogether, the right people finally start to listen to John, but it may be too late to save humanity from a technologically superior alien race.
Like 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers,' 'The Earth Dies Screaming,' 'The Day The Earth Stood Still,' or any number of other science fiction films produced during the late 1940s and through the 1950s, 'It Came From Outer Space' tapped into the fears of an era. At a time when people were excited about the future, they were equally afraid of the unknown, afraid of a different political ideology and the threat of invasion. Hollywood stoked those fears with some terrific entertainment. While the vast majority of films stuck to the tried and true route of humanity triumphing over an evil invader, Jack Arnold's 'It Came From Outer Space' played things a tad differently. Working from an original story by Ray Bradbury, 'It Came From Outer Space' paints the titular alien race not as malevolent or benevolent but indifferent to us. These creatures, no matter how horrific they may appear, actually want nothing to do with us. Their landing on earth was an accident and their actions are strictly intended to facilitate their escape from the planet.
While the cycloptic alien invaders take the form of humans in order to go about their work, this is the rare case where they have no intention to assimilate or destroy. What's particularly fun and exciting about this film is the idea that we must take them at their word that their intentions are entirely peaceful. When you get right down to it, the film is actually a perfect mirror to the politics of the time. Just as much as people were afraid of being nuked out of existence, people were itching for a fight because that would at least provide some finality to the situation. The few people willing to sit down and negotiate were cast off as sympathizers or discredited because the only way to deal with any problem no matter how small is to pick up a rifle and force the desired result. Richard Carlson's John Putnam is that sympathizer, an educated man who only wants to learn and understand. He's put in the middle of two forces, one who wants to destroy outright and the other who will destroy when provoked. He must force both sides to see reason and it's a difficult task when they're both armed and extremely dangerous.
As much fun as it is to examine and dissect the intricate story ideas and characters, the true fun of 'It Came From Outer Space' is finally being able to see the film in 3D. There are some incredible uses of the format where objects protrude from the screen or the vast desert vistas that look like they go on into the distance for miles. Some of these little bits can feel like gimmicks or tricks, but the added sense of depth and dimension really goes a long towards sucking you into the film. It makes watching 'It Came From Outer Space' an experience rather than just another science fiction film you sit down and watch for 80 minutes of diverting entertainment. I have vague memories of seeing this movie as a kid but didn't remember much of it. While that bug-eyed creature is iconic and leaves a lasting impression, it was the story that caught my attention this time around. I loved how it played with familiar science fiction themes but had a unique spin on them. I appreciated the idea that humans could be just as much of a threat as an alien and how the rational-minded individuals are stuck in the middle. 'It Came From Outer Space' is classic science fiction at its best, and now that it can be seen as intended in 3D. The experience feels complete and genre fans should get a real kick out of the visuals.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'It Came From Outer Space' arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Universal Studios. Pressed on an apparently Region Free BD50 disc, the disc is housed in a standard Blu-ray case. The disc opens directly to a static image main menu with traditional navigation options. The disc automatically defaults to the 2D presentation, the 3D option can be selected when you hit "Play" on the main menu. All video and audio restoration work were performed by the 3-D Film Archive.
As someone who loves 3D and has an ever-growing collection of 3D Blu-ray discs. I'm always a little bit excited and worried every time a classic 3D film comes to disc. On one hand, I hope for the best and expect to be whisked away by the effects, while on the other hand, I can't get my hopes up too high because so many vintage 3D films have been so poorly maintained over the years that one must settle for "the best viewing experience possible." Then you have groups like 3-D Film Archive who go above and beyond expectations to restore these films to their full glory. As they demonstrated with 'Gog,' they're the leaders in this effort and their gorgeous restoration 1.33:1 1080p transfer for 'It Came From Outer Space' only cements that fact. This is a near flawless viewing experience as the image much of the time looks like it was recently shot and not over 60 years ago. For both the 2D and 3D experiences, fine film grain has been retained and provides an incredible amount of detail. Facial features, clothing, the desert landscape, the aliens - all come through with terrific clarity and without any horrendous DNR or smoothing that I can see. The greyscale is healthy providing some deep and inky black levels and plenty of shadow separation.
That said, the real star of the show is the 3D presentation. If 'It Came From Outer Space' required a lot of restoration work, it doesn't show. This film is simply beautiful to look at. The sense of depth and dimension throughout is fantastic. There is plenty of deep Z-Axis depth to appreciate where the background can fade off into the distance while there are several smart uses of foreground objects that appear to leap out of the screen. The first time you see that telescope sets the tone for the entire presentation! There is also some very impressive optical layering effects that maintain their depth as well - the shot where Richard Carlson meets his alien doppelganger is a real treat. During transitions and some of the effects shots, there are some very fine scratches, but they're so minimal they don't impact the viewing experience. Ghosting or crosstalk were never issues I had to contend with. As far as vintage 3D presentations go, this is among the best of the best. 3-D Film Archive have matched their best efforts with 'Gog' and 'The Mask' with this incredible 3D Blu-ray transfer.
Let's hope you don't have easily irritated neighbors! 3-D Film Archive gives 'It Came From Outer Space' an incredible English DTS-HD MA 3.0 mix. This sucker gets loud in all of the best ways. When the film needs to be quiet and conversational allowing the characters to set themselves up or state their fears, the mix is nice and even allowing the background effects to provide a nice sense of space and atmosphere. When the action picks up, that theremin score kicks in, expect your system to get a little extra workout! Restored from the original stereophonic elements, this track is loud in all of the best ways. From the first big impact explosion to the rock slide to the thrilling conclusion, this track punches up the LFE tones giving the audio an unsettling sense of immersion. In all honesty, you may feel compelled to turn down the film during these moments - don't do that! Even if your neighbors are knocking on your door - keep the movie loud! While the audio has it's notable ebbs and flows, it doesn't overpower the mix. Dialogue is still audible without any interference and the rich background audio only complements the impressive 3D experience.
Audio Commentary: Film Historian Tom Weaver provides an entertaining and informative commentary track. He keeps the commentary light and full of facts and quotes from the later filmmakers who were inspired by this film.
The Universe According to Universal: (SD 31:36) This is a very entertaining and interesting look back at all of the space and alien-related movies Universal produced throughout its history. Much of the feature focuses on 'It Came From Outer Space' but also draws in other filmmakers to give examples of how their work was influenced by this film.
Theatrical Trailer: (HD 2:41) Available in 2D or 3D.
Getting to sit back and enjoy a classic science fiction film is always a joy. It's made even better when you can watch the film as it was always intended to be seen. 'It Came From Outer Space' isn't only one of the best science fiction films of the 1950s, it's one of the best 3D films. The story is rock solid and the visuals are engaging. Universal and 3-D Film Archive have done an incredible job restoring this film for 3D Blu-ray. The image transfer is immaculate, the audio is booming, and there are some pretty good bonus features worth picking through. Sure, you can watch this film in 2D, but you're not experiencing the full film that way. If you can, always go 3D. Fans of classic sci-fi will love 'It Came From Outer Space.' If you're a lover of vintage 3-D, this is a must own disc. If you're just after the movie, this Blu-ray release is still highly recommended.