Released almost 50 years ago, "It Came From Outer Space", based on a 110 page "Story for films by Ray Bradbury" and subsequently modified for the screen by Harry Essex, remains the granddaddy of the 50s atomic-scare pictures. It's relatively easy to pinpoint the metaphors at work, yet "It Came From Outer Space" remains especially evocative thanks to Jack Arnold's 3-D savvy direction and the poetic tonality of the film's dialogue. Astronomer John Putnam (Richard Carlson, perhaps an early prototype for David Duchovny's Fox Mulder) spends a comfortable night at home with his girlfriend Ellen Fields (Barbara Rush). His opening voiceover suggests a man both wary of the future and convinced that truth lies somewhere in the stars. A meteor crashes into a secluded desert area just outside his home. At the crash site, Jack discovers an alien spacecraft and is convinced of a foreign threat when the film's gelatinous eye creatures begin to turn the townsfolk into host bodies. Though the sheriff is respectfully mindful of John's individual mantra ("He's an individual and lonely, he thinks for himself"), he still sees the "young astronomer" as a crackpot. When schoolteacher Ellen skips class to go alien-hunting, the sheriff's assistant questions her "responsibility to the community" when he's clearly oblivious to John's own concerns for the well-being of the town. Beyond the poetry of its words, "It Came from Outer Space" evokes an American landscape unprepared for friendly alien contact and takes a look at the genre that would become unpopular in later years. Instead of working as an anti-communist allegory where the aliens possess wholesome Americans and slowly convert the Great Nation to something awful, the USA got one of its first look at aliens as the good guys, and the human race as the ones messing things up.

Universal would later insist on the addition of 3-D compliable scenes of the actual aliens but the human "xenomorphs" would egregiously emphasize the film's subtle indictment of human prejudice: that we seek to destroy what we don't understand.

Ed Gonzalez
© slant magazine, 2002.


Released on May 25th 1953, "It Came form Outer Space" was filmed in Universal 3-D (dual 35mm 1.33:1 aspect) and presented in Wide-Vision (cropped 1.85:1 ratio) non-anamorphic widescreen, with stereophonic sound and black & white image tinted into "Scientifically perfected eye-resting FULL-SEPIA mono-color". 3D Viewing was by means of polarised filter image separation with projection onto aluminium coated "silver" screen. The audience wore polarised filter glasses.

In 1972 the film was converted by Universal into Deep Vision single strip anaglyphic duo-colour (red/green) format - technically less scrupulous in its stereoscopic separation than the original Polaroid system but benefiting from an economy and simplicity of projection, the fringed red/green vision, system, almost X-ray in its intensity, was identical in concept to the original lost experiments in stereoscopic filmmaking of the early 20th century and the great red/green anaglyph pulp comic booms of the late 1950's and early 80's.

Complete in all but a few frames, the 35mm print of "It Came from Outer Space" researched and screened by Realityfilm, especially for this show with the assistance of Universal US, UIP London and the National Film Theatre, was premiered in association with the South Bank Centre, at London's Royal Festival Hall - accompanied live by Cleveland band "PERE UBU", - The print is, we understand, the last surviving working example in the world of Universal's 1972 duo-colour, red and green stereoscopic anaglyph 3D format release.

ref: R.M. Hayes 3-D Movies. A History and Filmography of Stereoscopic Cinema

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