It! The Terror from Beyond Space is an independently made 1958 American black and white science fiction film produced by Robert Kent, directed by Edward L. Cahn, and starring Marshall Thompson, Shawn Smith (Shirley Patterson) and Kim Spalding.The film was distributed by United Artists.
The plot involves a rescue mission to Mars that finds the sole survivor of a previous expedition from Earth. The survivor, the expedition's former commander, claims that his crew were killed by a hostile Martian life form. The rescue ship's captain does not believe him, postulating that they were killed for their provisions so the commander could survive. He confines the commander to quarters after the rescue ship launches for Earth. The same hostile Martian creature, now a stowaway and immune to the crew's few weapons, begins another human hunting spree.
The premise of a hostile alien creature hunting a spaceship's crew as it returns to Earth was the inspiration for screenwriter Dan O'Bannon's screenplay for Ridley Scott's 1979 film Alien.
In 1973, a nuclear-powered spaceship is perched on the cratered surface of Mars, sent to rescue the crew of a previous, ill-fated mission. The sole survivor of that crashed ship, Col. Edward Carruthers (Marshall Thompson), 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 they would be rescued. Carruthers denies the allegation, attributing the deaths to an alien, hostile life form encountered on Mars.
The rescue ship's commander is unconvinced, confining Carruthers to quarters and ordering an immediate return to Earth. Unknown to the rest of the crew, before blast-off, one crew member left a large external exhaust vent open for a considerable time. With Mars behind them, the crew settle into shipboard routine for the six-month journey home. Soon, isolated crew members are attacked by a shadowy presence and taken into the ship's ventilation ducts.
The crew are at first skeptical that "something" has crawled aboard while they were on Mars. The body count begins to rise with the discovery of the shriveled corpse of a colleague, then another near death. Both bodies have been sucked dry of moisture. Reasoning that Mars is a world with no liquid water, the crew believe that their stowaway must be the same creature that killed Carruthers' shipmates.
When conventional .45 calibre bullets fail to stop the creature, the crew try hand grenades and gas grenades, but the humanoid alien proves largely immune to the weaponry. They try to electrocute the creature with no effect, but are able to lure It into the spaceship's nuclear reactor room, shutting and locking the heavily shielded door behind the creature, which is then exposed directly to the ship's nuclear pile. It crashes through the door and escapes, the radiation seemingly having no more effect than an old-fashioned hot foot.
As the crew numbers dwindle, the survivors retreat upward deck-by-deck, pursued by the creature. The alien is strong enough to break through the central pressure hatch on each deck, trapping them in the control room on the topmost deck. In the final standoff, their weapons are once again unleashed but It is unstoppable and begins breaking through the last hatch. Reasoning that the ship's higher-than-normal oxygen consumption rate is likely due to the creature's larger lung capacity, Carruthers decides that opening the command deck's hull airlock to the vacuum of space should suffocate the creature while the survivors are safe in their spacesuits. After an explosive decompression, the plan works: It suffocates and finally expires.
A press conference is held at the crew's base on Earth, revealing the details of what happened aboard the rescue ship. The project director emphasizes that Earth may now be forced to leave Mars out of all future manned planetary space exploration, "because another word for Mars is death."
Marshall Thompson as Col. Edward Carruthers
Shirley Patterson as Ann Anderson (as Shawn Smith)
Kim Spalding as Col. Van Heusen
Ann Doran as Mary Royce
Dabbs Greer as Eric Royce
Paul Langton as Lt. James Calder
Robert Bice as Maj. John Purdue
Richard Benedict as Bob Finelli
Richard Hervey as Gino Finelli
Thom Carney as Joe Kienholz
Ray Corrigan as It
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 role of 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 sculptor and makeup artist, lived and operated his studio. Therefore Blaisdell couldn't 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 programmer but despite its B film origins, received better than expected reviews. The film review in Variety noted that the monster 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 film review by Dennis Schwartz favorably compared "It!" with Alien, a later film that borrowed liberally from its earlier counterpart.
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.