It! The Terror from Beyond Space is an independently made 1958 black and white science fiction film that was written by Jerome Bixby (who wrote such things as the short story on which The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "It's A Good Life" was based and the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Mirror, Mirror"), produced by Robert Kent, directed by Edward L. Cahn, and released by United Artists.
On the then-far away future of 1973, an atomic rocket, the United States Space Command Challenge 141, has crashed on Mars, all hands believed lost. The second expedition to Mars, Challenge 142, has been sent to search for survivors, finding only one: Colonel Edward Carruthers (Marshall Thompson), the leader of the expedition, who says that a monster killed the rest of the crew. Believing that he was the one to perform such a massacre, the crew of the 142 arrested Carruthers and is going to bring him back to Earth, to face a firing squad.
Unfortunately for them, Carruthers is not lying, and the proof of his claims is the Nigh-Invulnerable monster that managed to sneak onto the Challenge 142 before its lift-off and is now killing the crew one by one...
If any of this "monster-on-a-spaceship" sounds similar to several plot points that would later be explored in Alien, it's not a coincidence. Scriptwriter Dan O'Bannon was a fan of this movie.
This film provides examples of:
- After the End: The crew theorizes that the monster could be part of the remnant of a Martian civilization that somehow destroyed itself and returned to prehistoric barbarism.
- Air Vent Escape: Where the creature hid its two first kills, and hides itself for part of the first act.
- Artistic License – Physics: Exploding grenades produce quite a shockwave of compressed air (as well as a good amount of shrapnel.) It is never taken into consideration just how bad an idea it is to set off grenades in a spaceship, where the shrapnel will almost certainly destroy something vital and the overpressure will rupture your hull...
- As You Know: The opening briefing scene on Washington DC, explaining why is Carruthers being arrested/rescued.
- Batman Can Breathe in Space: Averted Trope. It is this, the creature's only apparent weakness, that allows the crew of the Challenge 142 to kill it off.
- Barrier-Busting Blow: The creature tears through several of the ship's doors (the interconnecting hatches to each level of the rocket and the door to the atomic reactor). Every time it does so it elicits an understandable Oh, Crap! reaction.
- Big Bad: The Martian terrorizing the ship.
- Bizarre Alien Biology: The creature. Nigh-Invulnerable, breathes in a lot of air to compensate for how little there is on Mars, sucks out all the fluids from human bodies by Osmosis and is full of alien bacteria that can make a leukemia-like effect on the human body and makes claw strikes very dangerous.
- Cassandra Truth: Carruthers and his statement that a Martian killed his crew. Obviously, the rescue crew and the people on Earth don't believe him and and even think that he made the story up to not Go Mad from the Isolation.
- Casual Interstellar Travel: Interestingly averted. There is repeated mention that the flight from Earth to Mars and back again will take four months on each direction.
- Closed Circle: The ship, en route to Earth from Mars-a flight that will take several months.
- Cold Equation: The supposed motive behind Carruthers massacring his crew: with the Challenge 141 crashed and no way of knowing how long it would take for rescue to come (if ever), the supplies would last him about 10 years if he's the only one alive.
- Colonel Badass: Colonel Edward Carruthers. Final Guy of the first-ever (and doomed) Mars expedition, surviving alone for six months on Mars, and Shell-Shocked Veteran member/prisoner of the second. Colonel Van Heusen of the second expedition, try as he might, doesn't quite reaches this.
- Crapsack World: Mars is portrayed as a desolate hellscape where what little life exists is in a constant, barbaric struggle for survival and must kill to live. It's so bad that our heroes speculate that it's post-apocalyptic.
- Curiosity Killed the Cast: How Kleinholz and Gino die.
- Dwindling Party: Of 19 men and women on two Mars expeditions, only 6 people make it back to Earth.
- Government Agency of Fiction: The United States Space Command, sender of both expeditions. Or at least it was fictional at the time the movie was made. There really was a U.S. Space Command in operation from 1985 until 2002 when it was merged with U.S. Strategic Command.
- Guns Do Not Work That Way: Who knew that the M1 was flexible? Go to about the forty second mark.
- Hero of Another Story: The tale of the near-Total Party Kill of the Challenge 141 expedition, leaving Carruthers as the Final Guy and forced to survive on Mars alone for six months, happening before the events of this movie.
- Heroic Sacrifice: During the final confrontation with the creature, the airlock controls are within arm's reach of it and anybody who goes for them will surely be attacked. A semi-delirious Van Heusen goes for them and opens the airlock, and the creature attacks him as a result.
- Implacable Man / Immune to Bullets: The creature. Make that Immune to Bullets, Bombs, Gas, Electricity and Radiation.
- I Will Fight Some More Forever: Justified Trope in that it's either kill the monster or die.
- Kill It with Fire: One of the few things the monster is vulnerable to is a welding torch to the eyes, as Calder is forced to use to fend it off when he gets trapped by it.
- Last Stand: What the crew sets up on the upper control level of the rocket after the beast wrecks his way through the rest of the ship and they have just about run out of ideas. Thankfully, their discovery that the creature breathes in enormous amounts of air leads to the necessary "Eureka!" Moment to turn things around.
- Love Triangle: Carruthers, Nurse Ann Anderson and Van Heusen.
- Men Are the Expendable Gender: While it's not known how many (if any) women were on the Challenge 141, none of the women of the Challenge 142 are killed.
- More Dakka: .45s, grenades, gas grenades (MacGyvered by one of the crew members as a Properly Paranoid joke), rifles (M1 Garands), a bazooka... for a rescue/exploration expedition, the crew was pretty heavily armed.
- Motive = Conclusive Evidence: Read the Cold Equation entry. At least it is supported by one of the dead bodies's skulls having a bullet hole on it.
- Non-Indicative Name: Needless to say, Mars is not "beyond space".
- Recycled In Space: Inverted trope. The story has so many similarities to Scott's "Alien" that some people say this is a possible prototype to it. There are plenty of differences (well-armed government astronaut crew on this film vs Action Survivor "space truckers" on the other film, for example), but he concedes that there are similarities-although it could be both drawing from one of the first "spaceship crew trapped with murderous alien" stories, The Voyage of the Space Beagle.
- Red Shirt: Kleinholz and Gino, in order of death. Kleinholz didn't even get a mention on the roll call "name check" at the beginning nor any scenes before getting killed by the monster..
- Science Hero: The whole crew, making theories about the creature and trying to find a way to kill it.
- Smart People Play Chess: The men of the crew play chess to pass the time while Kleinholz is being killed. Interestingly, Carruthers is winning.
- Smug Snake: Van Heusen at the beginning of the film, sure that Carruthers is guilty.
- Stay in the Kitchen: Zig-Zagged Trope: although the women on the ship are the ones that handle the dishes on the dinner scene, they are the ship's medical officer and her assistant and as such make an analysis of the creature's methods of killing, run an autopsy of one of its victims, and patch up the wounds of the crew.
- Survival Horror: A very old example of it.
- Thrown Out the Airlock: Variant: the crew opens the airlock to vent the air out of the ship and suffocate the monster.
- Trapped-with-Monster Plot: And the added problem of the monster being damn near unkillable.
- 20 Minutes into the Future: The film was produced on 1958 and the events of it happen in the then distant 1973.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: James Calder, by leaving one of the ship's airlocks open after ditching some empty crates on Mars, allowing the creature to enter the ship.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: One of the crew develops an infection after the creature's claws gash his leg and no antibiotics seem to affect it. We never learn if he recovered, died, or brought back an incurable alien plague to ravage the Earth.