Two 1950s B-movies from MGM under one box.
The Monster That Challenged The World (1959) 84 minutes
cast: Tim Holt, Audrey Dalton, Hans Conried and Barbara Darrow
Despite this film’s age, ‘The Monster That Challenged The World’ holds up pretty well. Oddly, the monster shows more acting ability than the rest of the cast put together and all it does is chomp its chops or mandibles. Familiar tropes that we have today were still getting their first run around in 1959. Mysterious disappearances at sea reveals a giant hungry mollusc and the US Navy involved kill it, except that didn’t realise it was a female and had been laying eggs. With the creature entering the canal systems, it becomes imperative to locate other eggs and destroy them before they hatch. On a low budget, this is done by only two divers at a time and not a full force as we might see today. Things aren’t helped at the Naval Lab when a captured egg hatches endangering a mother and her daughter.
I think the scariest thing in this movie was seeing real footage of molluscs devouring their food in close up. Effectively used, it must have terrified the audience of 1959 that something this huge could do to you. This is re-enforced when someone is attacked later and I’d bet you’d jump like I did.
As commented earlier, the acting isn’t the greatest in the world but then neither are some of the fake heads that the creature didn’t eat. In those days, they were still learning the game of where to look relative to the creature. Even so, there were a lot of eye-widening actors to look terrified. When you consider the creature was built and not a CGI effect, on such a low budget it was pretty effective.
Whether it lived up to its title is hard to say. It certainly didn’t have an challengers to the title with the humans only winning by default.
It! The Terror From Beyond Space (1957) 69 minutes
cast: Marshall Thompson, Shawn Smith, Kim Spalding, Ann Doran, Dabbs Greer, Paul Langton, Robert Bice and ‘Crash’ Corrigan
A monster on a spaceship systematically kills members of a crew before being discovered. No, it’s not ‘Alien’ but ‘It! The Terror From Beyond Space’. The title is a bit of a misnomer as the creature comes from Mars.
A spaceship has been sent to collect the only survivor from a previous mission to Mars and up on murder charges for the deaths of his colleagues. Considering the whole world thought him guilty, it’s amazing no one thought to just leave him on the red planet. The crew don’t spot the creature getting on-board and it’s a couple deaths before the rest of them notice something is going on.
They go through their options as to what can kill the alien, despite knowing it needs water to survive because it dehydrates its victims, they don’t consider dehydration as a means to kill it. They discover along the way that the creature is attracted by noise so it’s stocking feet time some of the crew need to get some blood plasma for two of the injured crew. None of this is helped by the fact that the creature has found the air vents. Finally, they vent the spaceship by opening the airlock and you’ll have to see what happens next.
‘It! The Terror From Beyond Space’ was written by Jerome Bixby, a real SF author with a number of other films based on his stories in the decades ahead. It would be interesting to track down the original story and see if its description matches the monster in a rubber suit that is seen here. It’s amazing it could walk around so quietly considering its size and temperament.
The crew are hardly the most intelligent kind and seem like headless chickens. They even thought the first victim was a practical joker while they were playing cards, although when you see him earlier seems to earnest in his work to be that way inclined. The only reason I haven’t named anyone in the review is because none of them really make that much of an impression to be remembered by name. Whether this is the fault of a B-movie status or not, I’m not sure but you can only write as you see them.
What was fascinating was the size of the arsenal the crew had to shoot and bomb the creature. Totally useless but like with other space films of this time, you have to wonder why they needed such an armament going to Mars? Were they going on a duck hunt there? Did they think the supposedly murderous astronaut needed that much firepower to restrain him? They could hardly have thought there was other life on Mars after all. Mind you, the Mars of this reality might be dry and arid but it appeared to have a normal temperature and atmosphere. Then again, it was the 50s.
It makes you wonder what would have happened had the film been given a bigger budget and better actors but for that you’d have to wait until 1978.
(region 2 DVD: pub: MGM 4006904. 1 double-sided DVD. 153 minutes 2 films with minimal extras Price: about £2.80 (UK) if you know where to look)
check out website: www.mgm.com/dvd