RAY BRADBURY:
IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE
edited by DONN ALBRIGHT

It Came From Outer Space is a limited edition hardcover collecting various materials relevant to the development of the film. An even more limited edition, the Lettered Edition, contains additional bonus materials.

For details and to purchase visit Gauntlet Press

 

Times Daily review of It Came From Outer Space
by Terry Pace

Gauntlet Press' new collectors-edition volumes of "It Came from Outer Space" - available as a signed, numbered edition or a signed, traycased lettered edition - marks the first publication of Ray Bradbury's original outlines and screen treatments for the influential 3D science-fiction thriller from 1953. The cover design features Bradbury's original painting of a space creature.

To his vast audience of admirers, Ray Bradbury's name resonates with the soaring sound of rocket ships, visions of distant futures and the wondrous thrill of space travel.

Although he's written popular fiction ranging from tender comedies to harrowing chillers, the 83-year-old author is best known for elevating the science-fiction genre to the level of fine art with "The Martian Chronicles" and "Fahrenheit 451," two metaphorical masterworks from the early 1950s. Five decades later, both books - hailed for their imaginative force, poetic language and humanistic power - are still taught in classrooms across the country.

As he made the leap from the pages of the pulps to mainstream literary fame, Bradbury - who has lived in Los Angeles since 1934 - accepted a Hollywood screenwriting assignment that would alter the course of science-fiction cinema. In 1952, Universal hired the lifelong movie buff to develop a scenario for the studio's first foray into tales of intergalactic exploration and earthly contact with alien intelligence.

"I was thrilled to be at Universal, where 'Hunchback of Notre Dame' and 'Dracula' and 'The Mummy' and so many films I loved had been made in the '20s and '30s," Bradbury recalled in a telephone interview this week. "As soon as I moved into the studio bungalow and started work, I went over to the 'Phantom of the Opera' stage and stood in the middle of the theater where they filmed the opera house scenes. It was glorious to be there, standing with the ghost of Lon Chaney. I felt like I was five years old again."

Gauntlet Press recently published two collectors' editions of "It Came from Outer Space," a new coffee-table book that examines the evolution of Bradbury's richly textured and intricately detailed outlines and screen treatments into one of the most influential science-fiction films of the Atomic Age.

"I was very young and naïve - I didn't know where the treatment should end and the screenplay should begin," Bradbury explained. "I wrote an outline, plus a treatment, but it got away from me. I got so excited, I couldn't stop myself. So I did 85 or 90 pages of treatment, which was a screenplay, but I didn't know it. I turned it in, and they fired me and hired a studio screenwriter, Harry Essex, to retype my treatment into a screenplay."

When the two writers finally met face to face, Bradbury says Essex was candid about their odd and frequently misinterpreted screen collaboration.

"He was always very fair about it," Bradbury remembered. "He came to me later and said, 'What's wrong with you? You're really foolish.' I said, 'What do you mean?' He said, 'You did a screenplay, and you called it a treatment. You didn't realize what you did, but that made it easy for me.' He told everyone that story, but he never took more credit than he should have. There was never any friction between us for a moment. He was a very sweet man - he just let me know how stupid I was."

Along with "The Day the Earth Stood Still," "The Thing from Another World" and "War of the Worlds," the Bradbury-driven 1953 thriller - directed by Jack Arnold, the genre's foremost filmmaker of the day - helped define sci-fi cinema of the 1950s. Eerie, atmospheric and understated, "It Came from Outer Space" has lost little of its haunting movie mystique.

"It was a pioneering picture in many ways - that's why I thought Ray's contribution to it would make a terrific book," says Bradbury authority and longtime archivist Donn Albright, who edited the new Gauntlet volumes. "It was Jack Arnold's first science-fiction film, it was the first 3D science-fiction film, and it's believed to be the first one done in widescreen. It also occupies a very interesting and rather controversial place in Ray's career because there's been so much confusion over where his treatment ended and Harry Essex's screenplay began."

Set in a small town in the American Southwest, "It Came from Outer Space" focuses on maverick astronomer and social outcast John Putnam (played by Richard Carlson, in the first of many roles as an intense, brainy and robust '50s sci-fi hero). In the film's opening scene, Putnam and his girlfriend, teacher Ellen Fields (Barbara Rush), witness what they first conclude to be the crash of a flaming meteor into the depths of a desert mining site.

"I made a deal with the studio - they saw the meteor story one way, and I saw it another," Bradbury remembered. "I said, 'I don't much care for your idea, but I'll do my version of it, and then I'll do your version of it. Then I'll turn them both in, and if you like the wrong one, I'll quit.' They said, 'Wait a minute - won't you do better work on your idea?' And I said, 'Yes, I will, because it's a better idea. I hate to be blunt, but your idea's dumb.' "

The giant object turns out to be an extraterrestrial spacecraft making an unexpected emergency landing on Earth. In a narrative device that foreshadows 1956's "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," townspeople start disappearing, then gradually reappear in colder, creepier form. At the end of the film, the aliens' true nature and predicament are revealed in sympathetic terms as the conflict between the fearful humans and the stranded "Xenomorphs" is peacefully resolved.

"I just took off and came up with the idea of the creatures taking over the people of a small town, which is a variation of what I did with 'The Third Expedition' in 'The Martian Chronicles,' " Bradbury noted. "Theirs was much more forward and blunt and obvious, and I turned it into a much more subtle form of takeover. So when I finished, they went ahead with my idea instead of theirs."

Two years earlier, Bradbury had been intrigued by the powerful story of a peaceful alien race visiting Earth in Robert Wise's intelligent, thought-provoking science-fiction film, "The Day the Earth Stood Still." In Bradbury's mind, that movie set a high standard of quality for his own screen vision of direct contact between earthly beings and alien visitors.

" 'The Day the Earth Stood Still' was a very fine film, and it had a message - it talked about war and peace and making a friendly invasion instead of an evil one," Bradbury recalled. "I don't know to what extent I was influenced by 'The Day the Earth Stood Still,' but it made a very strong point, and I did a variation on that with 'It Came from Outer Space.' At the end of my film, you realize that these creatures are not evil. They just want to get the hell out before they get destroyed. They're not interested in destroying the Earth - they're afraid of being destroyed themselves."

From 1949 through 1955, Albright's family embarked on an annual summer road trip to San Bernardino, Calif., from their home in Muncie, Ind. Albright was 16 and already an avid Bradbury collector when his family arrived in San Bernardino after "five long, hot days on the road" in June 1953 - just in time for a trip to a California drive-in for a 3D screening of a new film inspired by his favorite author.

"I have fond memories of the first time I saw it - I still remember it like it was yesterday," Albright explained. "We'd just gotten to the hotel, and my dad was in the bathroom. I was looking through the newspaper, and I saw the listing for 'It Came from Outer Space.' I screamed, 'What's this? Dad, we've got to go!' And we did. We went to the movie that Friday night, and I saw 'It Came from Outer Space' at the Baseline Drive-In, wearing those 3D glasses. It was so exciting for me - I'll remember it till the day I die."

Albright's book on "It Came From Outer Space" represents a 50-year labor of love for the world's premier Bradbury collector, who edited Gauntlet's landmark 2001 revival of "Dark Carnival," Bradbury's first short-story collection from 1947. Two years ago, Bradbury agent Don Congdon suggested that Gauntlet - a Colorado-based publishing house that specializes in high-quality editions of dark fantasy and horror - consider publishing one of the author's screenplays.

"I wasn't especially interested in doing 'Moby Dick,' which Ray wrote for John Huston," Albright remarked. "The others that were mentioned didn't seem right, either. Francois Truffaut wrote the screenplay for 'Fahrenheit,' and Richard Matheson adapted 'Martian Chronicles' - so they weren't Ray's scripts, anyway. So when I asked Ray what he wanted to do, he said, 'No, no, no. Screenplays are not literature. They shouldn't be published. They should be looked at on the screen.' "

Poring over his collection of unpublished Bradbury material, Albright seized upon an alternate idea - one that he found far more inspired. Since the 1970s, much had been written about "It Came from Outer Space," mostly by movie historians speculating over the true nature of the collaboration between Bradbury and screenwriter Essex (who went on to pen the script for an even better-known science-fiction thriller, Arnold's 1954 classic "The Creature from the Black Lagoon").

"I actually had two mimeos of the original 'It Came from Outer Space' script from Universal, and then I had the three outlines that Ray did, plus his first draft and 'A Matter of Taste,' a short story that seemed to be the earliest version of the idea," Albright noted.

"I also had this painting that Ray had done of a space creature that I thought would make a great cover, and I had letters between Ray and Essex that cleared the air and showed they really had a good relationship. It occurred to me, 'None of this has ever been published. It would make a great book.' I suggested it to Ray, and he said, 'That's a great idea - do it.' "

The finished version of Gauntlet's "It Came from Outer Space" - available in a signed-and-numbered edition as well as a deluxe lettered edition - offers reproductions of Bradbury's manuscript for "A Matter of Taste" as well as a 39-page screen treatment called "Ground Zero (Atomic Monster)," two outlines (one 37 pages, the other 49 pages) and a final 119-page treatment called "It Came from Outer Space: A Story for Films." The volume also includes a recent interview between Albright and Bradbury as well as magazine adaptations of the story and reprints of posters, ads and reviews related to the film's 1953 release.

"So much has been written over the years on the actual making of the movie - Bill Warren did a great job of that in his 'Keep Watching the Skies!' book back in the late '70s," Albright explained. "He was the first guy to talk about the fact that it was really Ray's script, that Harry Essex had done minor changes and written some dialogue and fleshed out some of the characters, but it was really Ray's idea and story. Doing this book, I didn't want to use anything from Bill Warren's book or anybody else's - they're are all interesting and all accessible, so if people want those, they can get them from other sources."

Instead, Albright and Gauntlet decided to produce a different kind of book that examines "It Came from Outer Space" from a previously unexplored literary perspective. The primary material is supplemented with essays by Bradbury scholars William F. Touponce ("Our Harvest is Fear: Aspects of Carnival in Bradbury's Screen Treatment") and Jonathan Eller ("Bradbury's Web of Fear").

"This is not a movie book - it's a Bradbury book," Albright stressed. "I wanted to do a book that focused on the content of Ray's outlines and treatments and how the script developed from there. I don't care about how they put Vaseline on the lenses or how they created the fireball flying toward the screen. Those are not things I care to know - that's for other books and other writers. This book is about Ray's relationship to the script for 'It Came from Outer Space' and how this breakthrough film fits into the context of his work."

Shattering a number of misconceptions, Albright's book also presents the most complete portrait yet of the personal and professional relationship between Bradbury and Essex.

"The assumptions always were that the poeticness of the script was Ray's, and the concept was probably Ray's, but a lot of people gave Harry Essex credit for having much deeper involvement in the screenplay than he did," Albright explained. "That's because they didn't realize the extent of Ray's outlines. His final treatment is practically a film. There's been conjecture about that for years."

Although they never met during preparation for "It Came from Outer Space," the two writers worked together 20 years later on an unrealized screen version of "Chrysalis." Essex adapted Bradbury's science-fiction story - dealing with another man of science confronting mysterious, unseen forces - into a script that was never produced.

"There's been this assumption that the relationship between Ray and Essex was not very friendly, and that both were upset that the other had taken undue credit for 'It Came from Outer Space,' " Albright observed. "I think the book pretty well dispels the myth that for many years they had an adversarial relationship, when in fact they had a very friendly relationship and tried to develop another project together that never happened. There was never any hint of malice between them."

The Gauntlet volume also features a reminiscence from "It Came from Outer Space" actor Russell Johnson, one of the film's few surviving cast members. Johnson (best known as the Professor on the '60s sitcom "Gilligan's Island," a series often directed by Arnold) and fellow character actor Joe Sawyer (of "Rin Tin Tin" fame) play a pair of telephone linemen whose identities are taken over by the alien visitors.

"Barbara Rush is still around - she played the grandmother in 'Seventh Heaven' a couple of years ago," Albright noted. "I wrote her a love letter, because I always thought she beautiful. I wrote to her and never heard from her, and then Ray wrote to her and never heard from her. So she obviously didn't want to be involved. But Russell Johnson was very sweet and wrote what he remembered about being on the set and making the film. It turned out he had been in one of Ray's early plays, 'The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit.' So that was exactly what I needed."

The book also includes another previously unpublished short story, "Troll Charge." Bradbury co-wrote the tale with Sam Rolfe, a screenwriter who shared his bungalow on the Universal lot. Rolfe was working on a script for a Universal Western while Bradbury was developing the outlines for "It Came from Outer Space." The two devoted some spare time to collaborating on the tale.

"When they hired me in August of 1952, the story had no title - I think we just called it 'The Meteor,' " recalled Bradbury, who discovered an unexpected home away from home hidden within the studio. "I wasn't there more than a few days when I discovered there was a small town out on the back lot. I walked down there with a bag lunch, and I found my grandparents' house. So I sat on the front steps there and had my lunch every day by myself, because the house was an exact duplicate of the house in Waukegan, Illinois, where I had grown up. So I was surrounded by familiar territory, and it made me very happy."

Bradbury was also happy - though not completely satisfied - when he saw the final cut of "It Came from Outer Space." In pre-production, both Bradbury and director Arnold had urged the studio to use a suggestive approach to the creatures' actual alien appearance.

"I liked it, but I wanted a pair of scissors so I could go in and cut 15 or 20 seconds out of the film," Bradbury remarked. "I warned the studio people, 'Don't bring the monster out in the light.' But they thought they had to have the monster right up front in the camera at two or three different places to scare people. So this dumb-looking one-eyed creature came into the light two or three times, for just a few seconds. If you cut those shots, then you'd have a film that's really scary. They didn't learn from Hitchcock or the original version of 'The Haunting,' where you don't see anything - but it manages to scare the hell out of you as a result."

Antoher scene from the film, a 3D-oriented shock sequence created by Essex, still bothers the author of the story

"It's the scene where Barbara Rush goes to answer Richard Carlson's door," Bradbury explained. "When she opens it, she screams when she sees a boy standing there in this spaceman's costume and helmet. Well, it doesn't work, because she screams like crazy, and there's nothing to be scared of. So I say, 'Give me the scissors and let me take care of that right-now.' "

In the mid-1980s, Albright attended a New York screening of the film with an audience made up primarily of college students. The Carnegie Theater at Carnegie Hall revived "It Came from Outer Space" on a double bill with Arnold's other 3D favorite, "The Creature from the Black Lagoon."

"There was a lot of laughing and snickering through 'Creature from the Black Lagoon' - which I think is a terrific film - but there was no snickering through 'It Came from Outer Space,' " Albright remembered. "They took it very seriously."

Bradbury maintains that the highest tribute paid to "It Came from Outer Space" occurred during the 1977 release of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," a groundbreaking, big-budget science-fiction epic exploring "first contact" between human beings and visitors from another world.

"I called Spielberg at the studio the day after I saw the film," Bradbury remarked. "I'd never met him, and he'd never met me. I said, 'Can I have your permission to visit this afternoon for about five minutes?' He said, 'What's this about?' I said, 'I want to come tell you you're a genius and hug you and kiss you and tell you how great you are - you've made the best film of its kind ever made.' He said, 'Come out - come out!' "

As soon as he entered the young moviemaker's office, Bradbury received an unanticipated accolade.

"When I walked in he said, 'Well, I'm glad you're here. What do you think of your film?' " Bradbury recalled. "I said, 'What do you mean, my film?' He said, 'If you had never made "It Came from Outer Space," which I saw when I was a kid, I would never have made "Close Encounters." ' That was a very sweet thing for him to say, because his film is so breathtaking and beautiful. The ending is just transcendent."

Terry Pace. 2004

 



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