It! The Terror From Beyond Space
Beyond space? I have no idea where that might be. I mean, space is pretty big. Whenever you get anywhere, there’s still a hell of a lot of it left.
But in this case the “Terror” comes from Mars, in the form of one of the cheesier monsters ever to haunt the drive-ins of the 1950s. (Not the cheesiest. That would have to be the one from Robot Monster, which was a gorilla with a space helmet.) This movie is a mess, really bad, and I’m not normally a fan of bad cinema, but every once in a while they can be fun. And they might give you a few surprises. In this case, though it was made with an ultra-low budget, the sets are actually quite elaborate and interesting. It takes places entirely aboard a spaceship returning from Mars, where an angry Martian critter has secretly boarded. (It is said that this movie was one of the influences on the writers of Alien.) There are many levels in the ship, and the monster is working its way up, knocking off crew members as it goes. It all looks pretty good.
The fun here is in seeing what people in the ‘50s thought space travel would look like, what would be taken along on a trip to Mars, and the social roles of the crew. Among their equipment are rifles, handguns for every person, hand grenades (all of this is obviously WWII surplus), a box full of gas grenades that one of the crew cooked up “just for fun,” and a bazooka! Loaded for bear? Hell, these guys could have single-handedly wiped out the Martians from H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds and saved everybody a lot of trouble. They use this weaponry with complete abandon. The ship must be built of some very strong material.
And they brought their cigarettes! They light up often. Well, in 1958 I guess it sounded reasonable. One of the two women aboard is a doctor (it’s not clear what the other is, but she performs nursing duties on wounded crew) and she smokes. And there’s the most striking thing, to me. The women. Before the shit hits the fan, we see them shuttling back and forth from the galley to the dinner table. Not only are they doing all the cooking, they are serving, clearing the table, and doing the dishes! I just assume they are also sweeping, mopping, doing the laundry, making the beds, and leaving mints on the pillows. Oh, my.
An interesting footnote: It! is played by Raymond Benard, better known as Ray Corrigan, even better known as “Crash” Corrigan. The dude has a long list of screen credits, playing western heroes and such in serials and B pictures. He also owned a gorilla suit, and appeared in a bunch of films wearing it. He had a very early (1950) TV show called “Crash Corrigan’s Ranch,” and after the role of It, his last movie, opened a movie ranch in the Simi Valley called Corriganville, a little like the early Knott’s Berry Farm, with western buildings and a saloon where many TV shows and movies were shot. It was just down the road from the soon-to-be-infamous Spahn Movie Ranch, residence of the Manson Family in 1968 and ’69.