Plot: As part of the first expedition on Mars, Edward Carruthers (Marshall Thompson) was thrilled to be involved, but he is soon accused of murder, with his own crew as the victims. He knows he is an innocent man, but his claims of an alien creature are dismissed by his superiors. But as the rescue ship heads back toward Earth, this crew begins to die off as well, one by one it seems. As Carruthers is not behind these murders, the crew starts to realize he is innocent, but with a killer on the loose, no one is safe. It seems someone or something is stalking the ship’s crew and it seems to be everywhere, from the main rooms to the air vents, just waiting to strike. But when the killer is revealed to be a hideous alien creature, the crew’s situation goes from bad to worse. Now the crew must not only fight to survive, but also demolish the beast before the ship lands. As if they don’t, the creature will reign terror down on the entire planet, which could be disastrous indeed.
Entertainment Value: This one is likely best known as the inspiration for Ridley Scott’s Alien, but It! The Terror from Beyond Space stands on its own merits as a fun, well crafted b movie. The narrative traps our intrepid space travelers on a ship with a bloodsucking alien monster, so the focus is on survival, though it starts off a little on the slow side. The exposition is handled well enough, but setting the stage for the alien mayhem does take a bit to prepare, so I can see some viewers being a little bored with the early stretches. Even in those scenes however, the characters are well done and the performances are passable, so while slow to build momentum, it is by no means a dull experience to start off. Of course, once the alien arrives, the movie picks up steam and becomes a fun ride. The low budget roots are evident, but the special effects are better than you might think and the alien monster looks super cool, which is crucial to a movie like this one. There is some campiness involved, but there is also some solid suspense and the air vent scenes are the stuff of legend. So this might be a b movie, but it brings a lot to the table. Fans of Alien will appreciate seeing the origins of that movie, while anyone with an interest in old school sci/fi or horror, monster movies, or rubber suit hijinks should have some fun here.
The cast in It! The Terror from Beyond Space is a cut above the usual b movie fare of this kind, but I still wouldn’t call the performances remarkable or overly memorable. I think the writing is solid and avoids some of the cookie cutter stereotypes often seen in these kind of movies, which allows the performers some room to work. Marshall Thompson has the lead role and he performs well, giving us a capable hero to root for in the battle against the alien menace. Of course, things lean toward the campy side to be sure, but Thompson is restrained when he needs to be. I wouldn’t have minded a more tuned up effort, but his work is fine. Shirley Patterson is fun to watch as well, bringing some feminine energy to the space squad and her performance is also competent. She and Thompson have a good dynamic and while the movie doesn’t have a lot of time for that angle, their chemistry is effective when it is glimpsed. The cast also includes Ann Doran and Kim Spalding, while genre veteran Edward L. Cahn directs.