Cinema Sunday: It Came from Outer Space (1953)

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Title: It Came from Outer Space

Distributor: Universal-International

Writer: Harry Essex (novel by Ray Bradbury, and perhaps the screenplay as well)

Director: Jack Arnold

Producer: William Alland

Starring: Richard Carlson, Barbara Rush, Charles Drake, Russell Johnson, Joe Sawyer

Released: May 1953

MPAA: Approved

 

 

After a long winter hiatus, I wanted to return to my roots and review a film from the classic sci-fi (B-movie) genre! Along with classic horror, this category is near and dear to my heart, for reasons that would take forever to explain. Suffice to say they both are treasures from my youth that I still hold close, and got me through some adverse times.

One thing that makes B-movies from the 1950s and 1960s so good, was the “tough guy” lead actors. Perhaps none more so than Richard Carlson. A real life bad apple, serving in the United States Navy as a pilot, Carlson brought his fearlessness to the big screen (and small screen). A cigarette smoking, fist fighting, ladies man who had a very short list of peers in those categories (probably only John Agar), Carlson epitomized everything about that far gone era of films.

In this film however, Carlson is more of the reasonable man, than throwing punches every five minutes. Yes there is some action on his part, but he’s mostly the voice of reason that doesn’t use violence. OK, let’s get on with the show!

 

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The film begins with a spaceship crashing to Earth, on the outskirts of a small, middle-American town. A voice tells us that a little about the town, and the scenery there. We see inside the voice’s home, and as John Putnam (Richard Carlson), and his girlfriend, Ellen Fields (Barbara Rush) are sharing a quiet moment together, they head outside to stargaze. Putnam has a huge telescope, and he peeks through it, hoping to see something. Ass the two are about to start making out, they see a meteorite (or so the think)rocketing towards the nearby desert. It smashes into the Earth, and Putnam, being an amateur astronomer gets riled up about it.

 

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We the viewers get to see that it was no meteorite, but a space ship that crashed. As the smoke clears, we see a terrifying looking alien pop out of a door on the ship! It searches the nearby area, leaving a trail of slime behind it as it scares off the desert animals. The following day, John, Ellen, and a chopper pilot (Dave Willock) investigate. John heads down inside the crater to get a closer look, and when he does, he’s shocked to see an alien space craft! He approaches the open door, but it slams shut, causing some loose rocks to slide down over the craft. John manages to crawl out unscathed, but Ellen and Pete don’t believe him.

 

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As they’re trying to figure things out, Sheriff Matt Warren (Charles Drake) shows up with his deputy, and of course they laugh at Putnam, saying he’s nuts. Of course Ellen and Pete can’t verify the story since they didn’t go down to see it themselves. As they’re driving home, one of the creatures is standing right in the middle of the highway! It forces them off of the road, causing them to almost smash into a rock. As John gets out to investigate, the creature is in the brush, watching him.

The following day, the news media has found out about the “meteorite” crash, and is going crazy. Scientists, the military, and even the sheriff and his men are there lurking around. They continue to make fun of John, and even harass Ellen. The sheriff also tries to warn off John about being with Ellen (as he worked for her father and told him he’d look out for her after his death). John tells the sheriff that Ellen does what she wants, and that he isn’t telling her to do anything she doesn’t want to do.

 

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On their way home, John and Ellen run into a couple of friends that work for the utilities company. One of them, George (Russell Johnson) tells them that everything has been calm as far as they’ve seen. He and Frank (Joe Sawyer) let John listen to some strange noises over the phone lines, but they can’t figure out what is causing it.

Over the next few days, townspeople, begin to disappear for a day or so, only to return in a dazed state like they’ve been hypnotized. They seem to have an ulterior motive for everything they do, and that eventually gets the skeptical sheriff to wonder what is going on. John eventually searches the desert area by the crater, and finds an old abandoned mine. He tries to enter but is confronted by one of the aliens. The alien tells him they mean no harm but recruited the townspeople to help repair their ship, so they can return to the cosmos. Putnam believes the creature, but will the sheriff?

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

One of the earliest films about this subject (you did already have The Thing from Another World, and The Day the Earth Stood Still at this point, plus some other notables), the angle of aliens that were not evil is something you really need to consider. That was not the norm and quite frankly still isn’t. We have Ray Bradbury to thank for that, and from some reading I’ve done, the man credited as screenwriter pretty much just took what Bradbury wrote and made extremely minor changes. We all know Bradbury is a beast at writing scary, weird stories, but he should get the credit for this one.

Most of the films from this era don’t have very notable music but Herman Stein did a good job on this one. Very threatening, and melodramatic when needed. Clifford Stine was on top of his game with the cinematography as well, especially in the scenes with the aliens.

Carlson is his usual awesome self. He’s a very strong presence in every film he’s been the lead in, and that is a fact. Barbara Rush is quite good as well. She does a fantastic job as John’s girlfriend, a concerned citizen, trying to balance being a school teacher and that usual form of reasoning versus her feelings for John and his beliefs and so on. It doesn’t hurt that she’s a very beautiful woman either (image below), as she’s basically the only woman in the entire film!

 

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Don’t hesitate, look this one up and give it a viewing. Set aside a rainy afternoon and check out this classic! You won’t be disappointed!

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

 

 

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Cinema Sunday: Tormented (1960)

Tormented

Title: Tormented

Distributor: Allied Artists

Writer: Bert I. Gordon (and George Worthing Yates – screenplay)

Director: Bert I. Gordon

Producers: Bert I. Gordon, Joe Steinberg

Starring: Richard Carlson, Susan Gordon, Juli Reding, Lugene Sanders, Joe Turkel

Released: September 1960

MPAA: UR

 

I’m sure everyone out there has a movie star crush. Well, in this case, I’m spotlighting a movie with one of my “man crush” movie stars in Richard Carlson! This guy was quite the tough guy/leading man back in the day, and when you look at his resumé, you cannot deny his place in movie history. And honestly, he fought the ‘Gill Man’ in Creature from the Black Lagoon, so does he really need anything else to be said about him? Exactly.

In this film Carlson is somewhat of a cad, and you don’t feel one bit sorry for him when he gets what’s coming to his way. He’s typically the strong, macho type, that is the hero, but not in this film, oh no. Rather than boring you, why don’t we get to the plot!

 

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The film opens with a voice telling that the nearby island (near Cape Cod) holds secrets, voices from the dead! Close by, a lighthouse has two people in it. A beautiful woman, Vi Mason (Juli Reding), and Tom Stewart (Richard Carlson), argue over their past relationship. Vi wants Tom back, but he’s engaged to be married to a much younger, and more wealthy woman now, so he couldn’t care less about Vi. This infuriates her, so she tells him that if he doesn’t consent to be her husband, she’ll produce a letter that he gave her a while back, stating his lover for Vi, and it will ruin his engagement to his new lover. You can see the desperation in Tom’s eyes, and then the two continue to have a back and forth argument on the gallery. She even threatens to ruin his musical career (he’s a successful jazz pianist apparently), and this really twists Tom’s nips. He throws her a really evil look, and she remarks that he looks as though he wants to kill her. Just as she smirks at him, the railing she’s leaning against lets loose, and she falls. She manages to grab on to the deck but needs help getting up…but Tom realizes her “accident” means an easy way out for him. He watches as she plummets to her death on the rocky shore below.

 

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The next morning, Tom dives into the waters to recover her corpse. He does, and then brings it to shore. Once there though, it turns into a pile of seaweed! A voice then cries out and startles Tom. We see a little girl (Susan Gordon) approach who’s the younger sister of the woman whom he’s going to marry. Sandy wants to hang out with him, but Tom is quite shaken over recent events, and wants to be alone, so he asks her to get lost. As she’s ready to leave, she notices something shiny nearby. She picks it up and shows it to Tom. It’s a very nice watch with the name Vi on the back, and she asks him if he knows anyone by that name…Tom denies knowing anyone by that name of course, but wonders what is going on. Sandy runs off to play.

 

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Tom begins to have an internal monologue and thinks his imagination is getting the better of him, so just leaves the beach and heads over to the lighthouse. He heads up to retrace the steps from the night before, and then tries to pull the railing back in place, but it wont stay, and keeps going right back into the same spot. A seagull flies by and scares the crap out of him, and then he hears someone enter the lighthouse. As the steps get closer, Tom’s sphincter tightens. We then see a gorgeous young woman approach, and Tom can breathe easy. It’s his fiancée, Meg, and she’s elated to see her man. The two have a few moments, but then she decides it’s too creepy in there, so she wants to go back to the beach. As they leave, you hear a mysterious whaling noise from the lighthouse.

 

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As the two lovers walk along the beach talking about their wedding ceremony (one week away), the camera pans down towards their footprints in the sand. As they continue on, we see that just behind them is another set of footprints being made, but from no one we can see. As the two stop to make out, Tom notices the extra set of prints, and freaks out. Meg doesn’t understand, and when Tom tries to point them out, the ocean washes up and erases the tracks. Tom gets frantic, and begs Meg to go away with him to the mainland now and get married, but she refuses, and tells him that her father would go berserk. Tom is left wondering what to do, and again, we see a set of footprints right next to him!

 

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The next day, Sandy is trying to show Tom her new magic show, but he couldn’t care less. Sandy gets angry, but forgives him. He asks her to get the magic show ready for another time while he practices his music. He begins to play, but out of nowhere, the record player turns on by itself. Tom notices the name of the song is “Tormented” by an artist with the first name “Vi” so he unplugs the record player. He heads back over to the piano, and just as he’s about to begin playing again, the record player starts up again! He runs over and smashes the record. Just then, he hears a knock, so he calls out, and gets an answer from Mrs. Ellis (Lillian Addams). She’s was a local real estate agent that he knows, and she just stopped by to pay him a visit and see how he’s doing. She’s blind, but knows the area very well. He begins to ask her questions about local ghost stories and her personal superstition. She tells him that there is a strong presence in this area, and just down the block they had an incident years earlier.

 

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That night, Tom is dreaming (or is he) that Vi’s ghost is calling out to him, begging for help on the lighthouse once again and just flat-out taunting him. After wetting the bed, Tom wakes up, and that watch is on the nightstand. As he looks out of his window, he sees the light is on up at the lighthouse, so he bolts up there to check it out. He calls out to Vi, and initially gets no answer. As he heads out, a voice answers him, but it’s too late. The next day, he’s doing his thing again at the piano, and Sandy drops by to annoy him. He shows her the wedding ring and she asks if she can try it on. He turns away, and gets the ring out of the case, and thinks he’s slipping it on to the child’s finger. A minute later, she again asks if she can try it on, and he tells her that he just gave it to her, but she tells him that he didn’t. Just as he turns back around, he sees Vi’s floating hand wearing the ring! He freaks out, slaps the hand down, and backs up. Sand y doesn’t understand what’s going on, and she thinks he’s dropped it. She looks under the piano, and then Tom can see the creepy hand crawling around with the ring. As Sandy gets near, he pulls her away, and the hand then disappears.

Will Tom make it to his wedding day? Or will the ghost of Vi get her revenge?!?

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

Being a film that’s in public domain, give it a look. Richard Carlson is a strong actor, and gives a very solid performance. Nothing Oscar worthy, but definitely worth giving this one a try. The rest of the cast isn’t anything to write home about, well, the little girl has some funny scenes, and the ladies are very beautiful, but they could’ve been anyone. Lillian Addams was pretty good, not only at portraying a blind woman, but also at being a sort of medium.

The sets were OK, but the real cool scenes were in the lighthouse. That was something cool, and really added the atmosphere to the flick. There wasn’t much else, and the music score was kind of generic, but hey, Bert I. Gordon films aren’t really known for the big budgets and elaborate music scores. The special effects were decent for a low-budget film, and didn’t pull down the supernatural tone that the movie was trying to give you. Seeing Carlson’s character mentally decline is half the fun of the movie, but once the blind lady senses something wrong, then it gets really interesting. I’ll add a link to the full movie so you can decide for yourself!

 

Click here for the full movie!

 

 

 

Cinema Sunday: Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954)

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Title: Creature From The Black Lagoon

Distributor: Universal Studios

Writer: Maurice Zimm (Screenplay by Harry Essex & Arthur A. Ross)

Director: Jack Arnold

Producer: William Alland

Starring: Richard Carlson, Julie Adams, Richard Denning, Antonio Moreno, Ricou Browning

Released: February 12th, 1954

MPAA: PG (NR)

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First, let’s get something out of the way before we get to the synopsis, and then my thoughts. This film is one of those few, that are perfect. For its time, it was scary, intriguing, thought-provoking, and just an all around great experience. To movie lovers, it still is, and that will never change. This film stands the test of time. OK, now that we’ve got that aside, let’s get to it!

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Creature from the Black Lagoon was released in 1954, amidst the big sci-fi boom of the 1950’s. Many studios were putting out films with space exploration, otherworldly creatures, alien invasions, giant radiation mutated bugs, etc. It was definitely the best decade for new films of that genre. With household names like Richard Carlson, and the gorgeous Julie Adams! This movie was also very cool because it was filmed in 3-D! Alright, enough of the posturing, let’s get to the movie!

The film begins with a research party looking for fossils in the Amazon Basin. Dr. Carl Maia (Antonio Moreno), finds a fossil of a webbed hand, that appears to be part human, part amphibian. He rushes back to the institute where he works, and finds Dr. David Reed (Richard Carlson -far right, image above), and his assistant/lover, Kay Lawrence (Julie Adams), as they are doing research at the institute on marine life. He shows them and two other doctors the fossil, and they all conclude that this might be an evolutionary missing link, and it must be found. They get Dr. Mark Williams (Richard Denning -far left, image above) to finance the trip, and head down to the Amazon Basin. While they’re away, two of Dr. Maia’s laborers are brutally attacked by some strange and mysterious creature!

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As the expedition arrives, they seek out the laborers, but find their bodies have been torn apart by something unseen. They dig for eight days, but find absolutely nothing. Mark is getting frustrated, but then David theorizes that some of this basin must have been washed away at some point, so they travel a little more down the river, to a lagoon. The boat (Rita), is captained by a man named Lucas, who seems to be a bit unscrupulous, but knows the waters very well. Mark and David head into the murky waters to check things out, and soon realize, that they are not alone. As they explore the depths of this mighty river, they find a fascinating creature, that looks half human and half amphibian. Mark shoots it with his harpoon gun, but it doesn’t even seem to faze the creature. It swims away, and the two men head back to the boat. They tell the others of this incredible creature, and they formulate a plan to capture it.

They fashion a cage from bamboo, and then use a drug that the captain uses to catch fish when the nets aren’t working to well. It’s a kind of powder that they spread through the water, and it will hopefully slow the creature down enough to be captured. Mark still wants to kill it, but David is adamantly against that action. As they put the plan into motion, the creature attempts to enter the boat, but is driven off by fire. It dives back into the river, and they follow it to its lair. It attacks Kay, but then falls to the ground, passing out from the drug. AS it regains consciousness in the cage aboard the ship, it sees Kay talking to one of the other scientists. The creatures strength returns, and it busts out of the cage easily. It savagely attacks the scientist, but gets lit on fire by a lamp. It retreats into the river, and the team is left in shock.

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Mark wants desperately to go after the creature, but David tells him that it’s too dangerous, and that they are leaving. As they proceed back up river, they see that their exit is blocked by a fallen tree. David thinks that it was the creatures doing, and he and Mark argue over a plan of action. As David tells him that he’s going to go into the water to tie a rope around the tree, so they can pull it out of the way with the ship’s wench, Mark attacks David, but ends up getting punched out by David. David then goes into the water, but is attacked by the creature. Luckily for him, Mark has decided to come into the water, and help. He uses his harpoon gun to fight off the creature’s attack, but eventually gets killed by it in the end. This leaves David and the others to find a way to stop the creature, and try get out alive!

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OK, here are my thoughts on the film:

As I said in the beginning, this film is perfect. The story is fantastic, but unlike a lot of horror, sci-fi movies, it doesn’t leave you guessing about what the creature looks like very long. Sometimes that can take all the suspense out of a movie, but it certainly does not in this one. The tension between Richard Carlson’s character and Richard Denning’s character is great! Throw in the gorgeous Julie Adams, and you have a really solid chemistry. Even Antonio Moreno and the others lend their strengths to the dialogue.

A great soundtrack, with an overall thunderous tone, gives a suspenseful feeling to this movie. I can’t imagine this one in color either, the black and white print is outstanding, and the 3-D “effects” were good for their time, no doubt. Honestly though, it could have easily done without that tag, but it was a sign of the times, so who cares. The underwater scenes in particular were really incredible. You can find this movie just about anywhere and for a decent price as well, so there’s no excuse to not own this classic Universal flick! With guys like Jack Arnold and William Alland!

Click here for the trailer!