There is daring do, risk and heroism - also cheap acting, man-in-a-rubber- suit and smoking
Mars is almost as big as Texas. Maybe it's got monstersThe first manned mission to Mars has ended in failure; nine out of the ten astronauts have been killed while the commander, Col. Edward Carruthers, managed to survive. The rescue mission assumes he killed everyone and arrests him to face a court martial once back on Earth, but little do they know that something has boarded their ship, and that something has other plans for our crew. Could Carruthers, in fact, be telling the truth and is everyone’s life now in danger? Trapped in their rocket with no way out until they get back to Earth, will anyone survive It? The basic story premise is very familiar (group of individuals trapped with a monster) and has been used countless times both before and since; indeed this very premise was a major influence on Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) (unstoppable monster cutting swathes through a trapped crew) and it is that association that has kept It! The Terror from Beyond Space alive and well in cult fandom. It is also lovingly basic and fun in a ‘roll-your-eyes’ kind of way.The film is pure ‘Drive-in’ fodder and very much a product of its time; the women astronauts are there to cook, clean up and play nursemaid to all the men, for example. The obvious rocket sets are very basic (why is nothing battened down) and a rescue mission would obviously pack pistols, assault rifles, grenades and bazookas – and use them in the confines of a ship hurtling through space. Typically the monster is unstoppable and there are plenty of deaths until a missed revelation happens to save the day. There is daring do, risk and heroism. There is also cheap and nasty acting, an oh-so-obvious man-in-a-suit monster and after dinner smoking. Director Edward L. Cahn, however, does eek out some tension in amongst the nonsense, the early shadow filled scenes of the monster skulking are skilfully done, and the pace is incredibly high due to the 70 minute run time. As such there is precious little character development, motivation or narrative, it is very simple: don’t get eaten. The film is not without its charm and, if you can get over the effects and hokey acting, there is something to enjoy in the sheer madness of it all.
Picture QualityThe disc presents a theatrically correct widescreen 1.85:1 1080p transfer using the AVC codec and is Region free (box states Region B).
It is clear there has been little to no clean-up of this picture, which is a shame as similar vintage films have come out looking spectacular, but in this case there is little merit at all. Detail, such as it is, is satisfactory, there is some skin texture and the leather in the space suits is keen enough, while the obvious sets of the space ship are brisk and sharp enough. However, there are plenty of times when the picture softens dramatically (sometimes within the same scene) giving an image not much better than VHS quality. And yet, when the detail is sharp it is great; the texture of ‘It’ has never looked more rubbery, and the wires shutting doors are as clear as a bell!
Shame there has been no clean-up to the image
Contrast and brightness are set to give a reasonable grey scale, there are never any real blacks, but well positioned camera moves do enhance the depth on show, even if ultimately there isn’t much to begin with. Shadow detail is OK, the early scenes of the ‘It’ skulking in the cargo hold probably show the best examples. There is no crush and at the other end no clipping either; check out the radioactive engine when the shielding is removed.
The original print, though, is in a pretty poor state, there are nicks, scratches, hairs, tramlines all over the show. The frame is stable, thankfully, but there are plenty of brightness fluctuations. At least there are no compression issues to make things worse.
Sound QualityJust the one track: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono. Like the picture this has probably had no clean up either, although on the face of it, it fairs a little better; there are no pops or cracks, no distortion or hiss. However it is missing a fair amount of top end fidelity, the whole thing sounding like the ‘tone’ knob has been turned too low. On the plus side it gives some decent bass to the vocals, score and effects, but it has the detrimental effect of making everything sound too thick, as if recorded under water. It is not terrible, everything is audible, the mix is stable and the effects stand out, but against tracks of a similar vintage it is clearly lacking.
Blu-ray VerdictIt! The Terror from Beyond Space is pure ‘drive-in’ fodder and will probably be best remembered for its influence on Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979). The story is very simple, astronauts trapped in their spacecraft being menaced by an unstoppable alien, and director Edward L. Cahn does manage to get some tension out of the screenplay despite the obvious sets, less than stellar acting and clear man-in-a-suit monster. It is very much a film of its time, the women are there to clear up, cook and play nurse while the men take on all the action, but it is not without its charm, and at only 70 minutes there is no let-up in the pace.
Best remembered for its influence on Ridley Scott’s AlienThe Blu-ray is a bit of a let-down, however, neither picture nor sound have had any clean up, thus the image, while bright with a reasonable black level, is covered in print damage and softens to near VHS levels at times. The sound has almost no high end fidelity, so everything, while being a good mix and clearly audible, sounds like it has had the ‘tone’ knob turned way down. And to top it off there are no extras. A shame as the film does hold a place for many.
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