Lovingly basic in a ‘roll-your-eyes’ kind of way
Mars is almost as big as Texas. Maybe it's got monsters
The 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 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.
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