It! The Terror from Beyond Space is an independently made 1958 American black-and-white science fiction monster film, produced by Robert Kent, directed by Edward L. Cahn, that stars Marshall Thompson, Shawn Smith (Shirley Patterson) and Kim Spalding. The film was distributed by United Artists on a double bill with Curse of the Faceless Man.
The story involves Earth's second mission to Mars to discover the fate of the first. They find a sole survivor of that mission and bring him back. The survivor, the expedition's former commander, claims that his crew were killed by a hostile Martian life form. No one believes him until the creature, now a stowaway, begins hunting the rescue ship's crew as they return to Earth.
The film's premise has been cited as an inspiration for screenwriter Dan O'Bannon's screenplay for Ridley Scott's 1979 film Alien.
In 1973 a nuclear-powered spaceship blasts off from Mars for Earth, bringing with it the sole survivor of the first mission, Col. Edward Carruthers (Marshall Thompson). He is suspected of having murdered the other nine members of his crew for their food and water rations, on the premise that he had no way of knowing if or when an Earth rescue mission would ever arrive. Carruthers denies this allegation, attributing his crew's deaths to a hostile humanoid life form on the Red Planet.
Commander Col. Van Heusen is unconvinced and makes sure that Carruthers is constantly accompanied by another member of his crew. While the ship was on the Martian surface, a large external exhaust had been left open, allowing the creature easy access. The crew are at first skeptical that something crawled aboard while they were on Mars. However, when Kienholz investigates odd sounds coming from a lower level, he is killed and his body hidden in an air duct. Next is Gino Finelli. He is found, barely alive, but the creature attacks his would-be rescuer. Bullets have no effect, forcing the crewman to leave Gino behind, much to the distress of his brother Bob. An autopsy of Kienholz's body reveals that it has been sucked dry of all fluids.
The crew use hand grenades and gas grenades, but the creature proves immune to both. They next try electrocution, with no effect. When "It" is tricked into going into the spaceship's atomic reactor room, they shut the heavily shielded door and expose the creature directly to the ship's nuclear pile. It easily crashes through the door and escapes. The creature is so strong that it can tear through the metal hatches separating each of the ship's levels. The survivors (except for an injured crewman, who is trapped below in a spot inaccessible to the creature) retreat to the control room on the topmost deck. When Carruthers notices the ship's higher-than-normal oxygen consumption rate, he surmises that this is due to the creature's larger lung capacity, needed for the thin Martian atmosphere. In a last desperate move, everyone puts on their spacesuits, and Carruthers opens the command deck's hull airlock directly to the vacuum of space. A violent decompression follows, and the plan works: "It" suffocates and finally expires, stuck part way through the final hatch.
A press conference is later held on Earth, revealing the details of what happened aboard the rescue ship. The project director emphasizes that Earth may now be forced to bypass the Red Planet "because another word for Mars is death".
It! The Terror from Beyond Space was financed by Edward Small and was originally known as It! The Vampire from Beyond Space. Principal photography took place over a two-week period during mid-January 1958.
It! was the last film of actor Ray "Crash" Corrigan. Corrigan was set to play the creature, but during pre-production, he did not want to travel all the way to Topanga in western Los Angeles County where Paul Blaisdell, the film's makeup artist, lived and operated his studio. Therefore, Blaisdell could not take exact measurements of Corrigan's head. Consequently, there were final fit problems with the creature's head prop: "[Corrigan's]... bulbous chin stuck out through the monster's mouth, so the make-up man painted his chin to look like a tongue."
It! The Terror from Beyond Space was a standard "programmer" of the era. Despite its B film origins, the film received better than expected reviews at the time. The film review in Variety noted that the creature was the star: "‘It’ is a Martian by birth, a Frankenstein by instinct, and a copycat. The monster dies hard, brushing aside grenades, bullets, gas and an atomic pile, before snorting its last snort. It’s old stuff, with only a slight twist." A retrospective film review by Dennis Schwartz favorably compared "It!" with Alien, a 1979 film that borrowed its creature feature plot liberally from its earlier counterpart. It currently has a 69% "Fresh" rating at the film review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes,
In 1992, Millennium Publications adapted It! The Terror from Beyond Space as a short-run comic book series, written by Mark Ellis and Dean Zachary. A further comics adaptation was released by Midnite Movies (IDW Publishing) in 2010, for a three-issue run.