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Film / It Conquered the World

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"He learned almost too late that man is a feeling creature... and because of it, the greatest in the universe. He learned too late for himself that men have to find their own way, to make their own mistakes. There can't be any gift of perfection from outside ourselves. When men seek such perfection, they find only death... fire... loss... disillusionment... the end of everything that's gone forward. Men have always sought an end to the toil and misery, but it can't be given, it has to be achieved! There is hope, but it has to come from inside, from man himself."
Dr. Paul Nelson

"The monster looks sort of like an inverted ice-cream cone with teeth around the bottom. It looks like a (phew!), like a teepee or . . . sort of a rounded off pup-tent affair, and, uh, it's got fangs on the base of it, I don't know why but it's a very threatening sight, and then he's got a frown and, you know, ugly mouth and everything."
Frank Zappa, talking about this movie before his song "Cheepnis".

It Conquered the World is a 1956 sci-fi film about an alien from Venus and its attempt at taking over Earth with the help of a bitter-yet-idealistic human scientist. It was directed by Roger Corman, written by Lou Rusoff (with uncredited contributions by Charles B. Griffith), and starred Peter Graves, Lee Van Cleef, Beverly Garland and Sally Fraser. It was originally released by American International Pictures in a double-featured package with The She-Creature.

Dr. Tom Anderson (Van Cleef) has made contact with an alien from Venus that has managed to hitch a ride back to Earth on a military probe. The alien has convinced Anderson to support its plans for world conquest; the alien causes all electric devices in Anderson's area to stop working, and sends parasites to control the minds of the most important people in the area: military commanders and rocket scientists at the nearby base, including both Anderson's friend Dr. Paul Nelson (Graves) and his wife.

As both Nelson and Anderson's own wife start to realize what is happening, they start to fight both the alien conspiracy and Anderson's misguided belief in the alien's plan.

The film is notorious enough in popular culture that it has been referenced both by Frank Zappa, during the track "Cheepnis" on his album Roxy & Elsewhere (1974), as well as Mystery Science Theater 3000. For the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version, please go to the episode recap page.

It Conquered the World contains the following tropes:

  • Action Girl: Claire Anderson, played by Beverly Garland. Corman was a filmmaker who did not believe in the Neutral Female - he had female protagonists who were tough, intelligent and resourceful. A good example is when Beverly Garland's character Claire grabs a rifle after telling the Big Bad she's going to slaughter it when her idiot husband is mesmerized by the alien once too often, and gives it a memorable "The Reason You Suck" Speech, then growls: "You think you're gonna make a slave of the world... I'll see you in Hell first!" Keep in mind, Garland was delivering this to a walking carrot and made it believable.
  • After-Action Villain Analysis: "He learned almost too late that man is a feeling creature..."
  • Artistic License – Space: Knowing what we know now about Venus, a flamethrower is nothing compared to what the alien dealt with on its own planet.
  • Author Appeal: Tough female protagonist? Yep, it's a Roger Corman film.
  • Bilingual Dialogue: Dr. Tom Anderson is contacted via radio by an alien from Venus. There isn't any explanation for how he can understand the Venusian's language, and to anyone else the radio sounds only like static. He responds in English, which the Venusian can also understand just fine.
  • Bronson Canyon and Caves: Used as a prominent shooting location? Yep, it's a Roger Corman film.
  • Chekhov's Gun: If something electric is working for someone, it means that they're either under Venusian control or just pulling favors for them.
  • Darker and Edgier: Compared to a lot of 1950s cinema this film is quite dark. What with almost all of the cast dead and some pretty gruesome deaths.
  • Dying Race: The alien is stated to be part of this, with only eight others like it still on Venus. Tom describes them as having been 'born too soon', but brilliant regardless and much smarter than humans.
  • Evil Is Bigger: The creature was originally conceived as short and squat, due to the harsh gravity of its native planet. Actress Beverly Garland was unimpressed by the vertically-challenged villain — approaching it within hearing of director Roger Corman she cried "So, you plan to take over the world do you? Take that!" and kicked it in the head. Corman therefore told the prop guy to do something to make it bigger and scarier. Well, it's bigger, at least.
  • Gorn: By 1950s standards, what with the creature's eye getting torched out, a man getting shot with a blowtorch from behind, and a woman strangled.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Dr. Tom Anderson eventually realizes the threat posed by the creature and fights against it.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Amazingly, averted in a 50s film with mind control. It seems the only way to free them was with death. A little shocking that Paul doesn't try to talk his controlled wife out of it; he asks her if the control is permanent, then *bang*.
  • Inexplicably Speaks Fluent Alien: No explanation is given for how Tom and the alien can understand each other. The only thing slightly approaching a Handwave is that both characters are stated to be highly intelligent, but no matter how intelligent Tom may be, comprehending a language from another planet is highly implausible.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Tom starts to see the errors of his ways the hard way.
    Tom (to the Big Bad): I made it possible for you to come here! I welcomed you to this Earth – you made it a charnel house!
  • Never Trust a Title: "It Duped A Bitter Idiot, Conquered Something Like Five People, And Knocked Out The Power For A While." must have been a bit unwieldy.
  • No Bikes in the Apocalypse: Averted; Paul uses a bike to get around after most of the motor vehicles have been rendered inoperative.
  • Puppeteer Parasite: The creature sends out smaller flying devices that implant an antenna into the neck of their victim. The victims are then under the control of the alien.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Claire lays the smackdown to the alien when she meets it face to face armed with a hunting rifle.
    Claire: So that's what you look like! You’re ugly! Go on! Try your intellect on me! You think you’re going to make a slave of the world? I'll see you in Hell first!
  • Redemption Equals Death: Tom Anderson defeats the creature, but is himself killed.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Claire, oh so much.
    Claire: Look, I don’t know whether you can hear me or not, but if you can, you listen good! I hate your living guts for what you’ve done to my husband and my world, and I’m going to kill you! Do you hear that? I’m going to kill you!
  • Starfish Alien : Well... just look at it! Suggestions for what it resembles include a space pickle or an inverted ice cream cone.
    Frank Zappa: It looks like, uh, like a teepee or a... or a rounded off pup-tent affair. And it's got fangs on the base of it — I don't know why, but it's a very threatening sight.
  • See You in Hell: As quoted a couple of times on this page already, Claire says this almost verbatim to the monster as she tries to shoot it.
  • Solar System Neighbors: It comes from Venus.
  • Slasher Smile: The Venusian has one permanently planted on its face.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Corman was a feminist but even by his standards, Claire subverts it quite well. She delivers to the Venusian, over the radio, a "The Reason You Suck" Speech, takes her husband's rifle and goes to try to kill it herself.
  • Taking You with Me: Tom and the alien wipe each other out in their confrontation.
  • Those Two Guys: First Sergeant and Corporal Manuel, played by Dick Miller and Jonathan Haze.
  • Undying Loyalty: Despite Tom being The Quisling, Claire still loves him too much to abandon him. Instead, she goes after the puppet master.