It Came from Outer Space (1953) - Rotten Tomatoes

It Came from Outer Space (1953)



Critic Consensus: It Came From Outer Space is a pulpy-but-effective psychological sci-fi picture, with a provocative message about xenophobia.

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Movie Info

It Came From Outer Space is one of a handful of science fiction films from the 1950s that plays as well today as it did on its original release, this despite the fact that its original 3-D elements seem to be lost. It was also the first science fiction effort of director Jack Arnold, and one of three excellent 3-D features that he made (the others were Creature From the Black Lagoon and Revenge of the Creature) during that format's short-lived history. It was also, along with The Incredible Shrinking Man, one of the two most sophisticated films he ever made in that genre. Additionally, it was Arnold's first opportunity to use the desert setting that seemed to inspire him in some of his best subsequent movies. Based on a story by Ray Bradbury, the movie starts off in a gentle, lyrical mode, almost reminiscent of +Our Town, as the narrator introduces the tiny Arizona town where the action will take place. Writer John Putnam (Richard Carlson), a new arrival to the town and an amateur astronomer, is looking at the skies with his fiancée, schoolteacher Ellen Fields (Barbara Rush), when they see what looks like a huge meteor crash into the desert. Putnam and Ellen go to the site of the crash and find a huge crater. When he goes down inside, Putnam sees what is very obviously some kind of vehicle or device embedded in the ground, but before he can show it to anyone, a rock slide buries what he saw. He reports that a spacecraft of some kind is buried there and is duly ridiculed by the local press and some of his own colleagues in the astronomical community, and even Ellen has her doubts. The local sheriff, Matt Warren (Charles Drake), is downright hostile because he believes that Putnam is not only an interloper, but has also taken Ellen away from him. Putnam is at a loss as to what to do, and doing something -- or, perhaps, not doing anything -- becomes a critical matter when various townspeople start to disappear, including Ellen, to be replaced by alien "duplicates." A small but significant part of this action is told from the standpoint of the aliens, who are only glimpsed in brief flashes as they move through the desert and the underground caves where they are hiding. Putnam ultimately comes to understand that the aliens are actually benign and only need time to repair their ship and leave; but by then, the sheriff and the rest of the town have started taking his original warning seriously and their intervention threatens the lives of everyone. Reason and a peaceful approach prevail, but only just barely, and the space travelers are allowed to go on their way -- in return, they restore the real townspeople. The movie ends on a hopeful note as Putnam predicts that someday, when we're ready here on Earth, the visitors will be back to make formal, peaceful introductions.

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Richard Carlson
as John Putnam
Barbara Rush
as Ellen Fields
Joe Sawyer
as Frank Daylon
Charles Drake
as Sheriff Matt Warren
Dave Willock
as Pete Davis
Alan Dexter
as Dave Loring
George Eldredge
as Dr. Snell
Brad Jackson
as Snell's Assistant
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Critic Reviews for It Came from Outer Space

All Critics (28) | Top Critics (5)

Picture has been smartly fashioned to take advantage of all the tricks of science-fiction and 3-D.

May 29, 2007 | Full Review…

[A] scary black-and-white SF effort from 1953.

May 29, 2007 | Full Review…

Merely mildly diverting, not stupendous.

October 31, 2006 | Rating: 2.5/5 | Full Review…

The 3-D process leaves the image somewhat murky, but you can discern sparks of authentic pulp poetry throughout.

February 9, 2006 | Full Review…

The hokey "xenomorphs" would egregiously emphasize the film's subtle indictment of human prejudice.

May 7, 2002 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

Except for the gimmick value of fairly good 3-D photography and the reassuring thought that other planets may not want to destroy Earth, this is a quite conventional specimen of science fiction on the screen.

December 3, 2019 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for It Came from Outer Space

Well here we are again with another Ray Bradbury story ('The Meteor') given the big screen treatment. But this time the movie just happened to be the first 3D release by Universal International, the first movie in the big 3D science-fiction wave of the 50's. Not only that the picture was directed by the one and only Jack Arnold who was no stranger to this genre. What could go wrong? Well first things first, the plot is kinda unexciting to be honest. You're stereotypical smartly dressed (dare I say...white) leading couple happen to spy a meteor as it crashes to Earth...once again in the deserts of the American West. Of course it isn't a meteor but a crashed alien spaceship, of course. The duo try to explain this to the locals but no one believes them and a rockslide has since buried the ship. Soon enough various locals start to disappear and then reappear but in a zombie-like state. This eventually leads to the Sheriff believing the story and delving deeper. Having tracked down the entrance to the crashed alien ship through a mine, our protagonist attempts to communicate with the aliens before the Sheriff blows them away with his trusty gun. He discovers that the aliens are quite harmless and merely crashed on Earth whilst on route to another destination. They are in fact shape-shifters and take the form of humans they have kidnapped in order to move around and gather the materials they need to repair their ship. The kidnapped humans are not harmed. That's literally it! That is the plot in its entirety. So as you can imagine the story is the usual slow pace you would come to expect from a picture like this. That's not a bad thing but when the plot is as thin as this it ain't great either. Most of the run time is spent following the protagonists around as they literally drive back and forth through the desert to various locations to speak to various people (usually the same ones!). I swear you see the same locations and backdrops in shots over and over (but I guess the desert does look similar). Yep as with most of these old sci-fi flicks its all desert desert desert. You'd think the movie might have become more creepy or fun when people start disappearing and reappearing as zombies, nope. People pop up in a zombie-like trance and merely walk around without showing any emotion. Sure the musical score does it best to try and convey pending doom and terror but it doesn't really work. It might have been more interesting to see some kind of mark or defect on the zombie humans to add intrigue. Admittedly you are thinking that the aliens have taken over their brains or killed the humans replacing them with copies, but alas it's not that cool. The aliens themselves aren't seen much at all. We get a small glimpse of them towards the finale as one leaves the mine. What do they look like? Well they look like large pulsing slimy blobs of veiny jelly with a single big eye slap bang in the middle. They also appear to have tiny arms with claws. I believe they move like snails as they leave a shiny glittering trail of something on the ground as they go. They basically look like H.G. Blob in [i]Futurama[/i] or the pleasure GELF Camille in [i]Red Dwarf[/i] (both probably inspired by this movie). Its a good job they are shape-shifters though because their original form would be no good for anything...such as basic construction. Naturally they are also hyper-intelligent and seem to be able to project holograms of themselves or appear in spirit form before people? I dunno. We get these weird sequences from an alien point-of-view as they watch and approach people in the air...or something, like an apparition. Still, they are admittedly quite eerie looking. Gotta be honest, I wasn't all that impressed with this one. Having read up on it the movie did relatively well and is now seen as a bit of a classic! Personally I don't see this. It's not a bad movie it's just very slow with nothing much to show in the outcome. Heck the movie even carries on for some time after we have discovered the aliens are friendly and merely trying to rebuild their ship, yet still nothing really happens. I mean, there's nothing wrong with the plot, the movie just feels like a waste of time. It feels like maybe it should have been a [i]Twilight Zone[/i] episode. I guess the one highlight in this movie is the fact the aliens are, for once, intelligent friendly. They have to hide their true forms because they know humans would be afraid. They try not to cause panic and alarm (although kidnapping people was a wrong move). In the end the aliens are actually more afraid of humans, or at least alarming humans, than the humans are of the aliens. Although I'm not sure if the aliens are genuinely afraid of Humans simply hurting them, or afraid to allow their technology to fall into Human hands. Inadvertently giving a dangerous aggressive species more potential to cause harm. Not wanting Humans to know of life beyond the Earth. Anyway, it looks good, well shot, solid acting, and a solid looking alien. But overall so very dull and aimless.

Phil Hubbs
Phil Hubbs

Super Reviewer


The strengths are all in the story - and it's a beauty.

Marcus Woolcott
Marcus Woolcott

Super Reviewer

Now this is a pretty good Chiller Theater / Drive In Movie, one that has gotten by me all these years. Put out by Universal Pictures International it ranks as high as any SCi Fi Film from the fifties that I have ever seen. Brian Kerwin plays Jack Putnam who see's what at first he thinks is a meteor but turns out to be a UFO that has landed on earth, when he goes to the crash site he thinks he sees invaders from another planet. So starts the story where no one believes him, but the invaders are taking over the appearances of towns folks. A good old black and white worth 4 stars.

Bruce Bruce
Bruce Bruce

Super Reviewer

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