Sunday, November 30, 2014

They Came from Beyond Space (1967)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

You wouldn’t think that meteorites hitting the Earth would be a big deal.  Objects fly through our solar system and tend to hit the outer planets, but do occasionally make it through to ours.  Most of those burn up in our atmosphere, but a few do manage to land on the surface.  When that happens, I wouldn’t think to send out a team of top-notch scientists to investigate.  So, what’s so unusual here?  The meteorites land in a chevron formation.

So, the team goes out.  Dr. Curtis Temple, unfortunately, has to stay back.  He was in an accident and has a metal plate in his head.  His doctor just cannot let him go on the expedition.  So, Dr. Temple stays behind and curses his misfortune.  The biggest find in his lifetime and he has to sit it out.

When the expedition arrives at the site, everything is as boring as you might expect.  They’re taking soil samples and rock samples biological samples and sample samples.  When they closely examine one of the rocks, they’re taken over by aliens.

The aliens apparently exist as energy; they can thus impose their will on someone and use the host’s memories to their advantage.  They can use the scientists knowledge of science to design a space ship.  When they need money, one of the aliens can go to the bank and empty out the host’s bank account or, better yet, take over a banker so that the alien can approve a loan.  They can take over other people for manual labor or whatever else they need.

Dr. Temple’s luck seems to change when one of the other scientists comes back and invites him to visit the site.  He’s assured that his doctor signed off on it, but he becomes suspicious when someone else takes one look at him and says that there must have been some mistake and kicks him out of the car.

Well, doctor’s approval or not, Dr. Temple is going out to the site to find out what’s going on.  When he arrives, his assistant/love interest, Lee Mason, comes to the gate and tells him to get lost.  Of course, it’s so unlike her that Dr. Temple is now very suspicious.  He has to find out what’s going on despite being chased off several times.

He does eventually make it on to the property and learns several things.  For starters, the aliens are building a large rocket ship that launches from a lake.  Second, he’s immune to the aliens’ mind control, presumably due to his metal plate.  Thirdly,  they have a large underground complex where they can hold him until they finish their nefarious plans.  (Speaking of which, they refuse to say exactly what those nefarious plans are.  Go figure.)

So, Dr. Temple manages to escape, take a few of the space pistols and abduct Ms. Mason.  He goes to a friend’s house hoping that the friend can help him.  By melting some silver trophies, they learn that it is Dr. Temple’s metal plate that prevents the mind control.  They also learn that the space pistols have a setting that will rid a host of the alien presence…permanently.  With this knowledge, they can hopefully rid the world of the aliens.

I bought this movie (yes, I paid money for it) as part of a ten-movie set.  All of the movies are public domain, meaning that St. Clair Vision (or its parent company) didn’t have to pay a penny for the rights.  I really wonder sometimes if anyone actually decides which movies to use or if they just take the first nine or ten movies that they can get a hold of.  They Came From Beyond Space wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great either.

The film transfer was decent, but had frequent and obvious flaws.  Those of us that grew up in the 80s will remember seeing a movie in the theater towards the end of its first run or seeing the movie in a dollar theater.  If you waited too long, you’d see a movie that had lots of lines and blips, which were flaws in the actual film from having been run too many times.  It looks like they transferred the movie from one of these reels.  It wasn’t enough that I couldn’t watch it, but it was annoying.

Also, the visual effects left something to be desired.  The rocks glowed, but seemed low-tech.  Also, there’s was the psychedelic knock-out effect used whenever someone was stunned by the ray gun.  This may very well have been cutting edge at the time, but those that grew up on modern effects may laugh at this one.

I also wonder why there’s always one guy who’s immune and he always a theory as to why.  (The theory usually proves correct, or at least close enough to the truth to be of use.)  Also, the person who’s immune is usually the curious type, such as Dr. Temple.  Personally, if I pulled up at a gate and was told by several people (including someone I knew) to go away, I’d probably go away, even if I was suspicious.  If I really felt like pushing the matter, I’d probably get outside help at that point.  I wouldn’t wait until I was captured to consider getting someone.

Also, the movie is 90% buildup.  Now, I’m not saying that I want all the secrets given away in the beginning, but I don’t think that an 85-minute movie should wait until the last five minutes to tell the audience what’s going on.  Whenever Dr. Temple asks anyone what’s going on, he’s told something about the work being very important, but isn’t given any details.  He and his friend literally have to go to great lengths to get any answers.  Once the endgame is in play, the answers come all at once.

I’m not sure where the title comes from.  I mean, there’s the Earth and then there’s outer space.  What’s beyond space?  I don’t know.  At the very least, it’s an interesting way to waste some time.  For a movie released in 1967, it’s pretty good.  I just don’t think that it’s the best movie that science fiction has to offer. (full movie)

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