Movie: It Came From Outer Space (1953)

From Rocky Horror: “Then at a deadly pace, It Came From Outer Space. And this is how the message ran…”

This blog is a recap of It Came From Outer Space and includes movie posters, trivia and set photos.

It Came From Outer Space
Release Date: 05 June 1953
Runtime: 1h 20m
Budget: $800,000

The first 3-D film to be released by Universal Studios. In a separately filmed trailer, Richard Carlson talks to the audience about the film and about Three Dimension; animated sequences attempt to illustrate the three dimensional effect.

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iMDb Synopsis: A spaceship from another world crashes in the Arizona desert and only an amateur stargazer and a schoolteacher suspect alien influence when the local townsfolk begin to act strangely.

It Came from Outer Space (1953)

A fireball streaks across the desert sky and crashes. We see an aerial view of Sand Rock, Arizona in the late evening in the early spring.

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Inside an isolated ranch house outside of town we meet John Putnam (Richard Carlson) and his girlfriend Ellen Fields (Barbara Rush).

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He is an amateur astronomer, she the local school teacher. They sit in front of a fire in his partially completed home enjoying a cup of coffee.

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They walk outside to take in the night air when they spot the “meteor” from the opening shot.

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From inside the crater, by the old Excelsior Mine, we see a sphere partially exposed that looks like a soccer ball. A hexagonal shaped “door” opens and we see some weird machinery and in shadow one of the occupants–a single eyed blob of a creature.

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It exits the ship and explores the desert leaving in its wake a shimmery trail.

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As the creature walks, it poops glitter…

The Universal make-up department submitted two alien designs for consideration by the studio executives. The design that was rejected was saved and then later used as the Mutant in Universal’s This Island Earth (1955).

John and Ellen charter Pete Davis (Dave Willock) to take them to the crater in his helicopter. Typing the helicopter’s number into most web search engines will produce its registration and history. Although the helicopter is shown carrying three people in the film, it was registered as a two seat vehicle. The registration number assigned to the helicopter now shows (December 2017) that the helicopter was exported to New Zealand, and its registration decertified, in 1959. In 2010, the registration number N189B was reassigned. It now belongs to a fixed-wing, single-engine aircraft.

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They circle the crater and land near the rim. The three climb to the top and peer inside. John walks down to the floor of the newly formed crater insisting that Ellen and Pete stay up on the rim.

Richard Carlson, Russell Johnson, and Barbara Rush in It Came from Outer Space (1953)

John sees the ship partially buried in the side of the mine, and also notices the shimmery substance near the exit of the ship. He stretches his hand out to touch the glowing material, but hesitates when he notices something inside the ship and stands up to face it.

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The door closes and slams shut triggering an avalanche of loose debris, burying the ship and almost killing John. John climbs back out of the crater and explains what he saw, but Ellen and Pete do not believe him.

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Two cars approach the crater. Pete and Ellen beg John not to discuss what he saw–they think he was imagining it. Sheriff Matt Warren (Charles Drake) and Dave Loring (Alan Dexter), who runs the local newspaper, arrive on the scene. John starts to relay his story and the disbelief and ridicule starts. Three more cars arrive at the crater.

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John, Ellen, and Pete fly back to the airport. John and Ellen drive back to his house. Along the way they are being observed. They encounter the creature on the highway as it appears to block their path on the road. John pulls to the side of the road thinking they hit it. Finding nothing they continue down the road.

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The next morning the crater is a buzz of activity. A KLTV television news van pulls up. The Sheriff’s office has set up a cordon around the crater admitting only authorized personnel. The military has sent a small group out to explore. John and Ellen arrive only to be hounded by the press. John is there to meet with Dr. Snell. Dugan (Robert Carson) from American Press, and Lober (Dick Pinner) from Press Dispatch want to question John about the Sand Rock Star newspaper headline, “Star Gazer Sees Martians”. They get no answers and turn their attention to Ellen, who is equally reluctant to talk to the press.

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John walks down into the crater to talk to Dr. Snell (George Eldredge). His assistant, Bob (Bradford Jackson) is taking radioactivity measurements, but finds none. Snell is convinced it was just a meteor, and refuses Johns request to dig it out.

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As John heads back to his car, where Ellen was patiently waiting, he is confronted by Matt. He has known Ellen a long time and is concerned about her involvement with John. He is jealous. John and Ellen drive off.

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As they are driving the see the county telephone linemen, George (Russell Johnson), and his boss, Frank (Joe Sawyer). John asks them if they’ve seen anything. Frank tells them he’s hearing something very strange on the wires.

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Frank and George head down the road and encounter the creature. As he exits the truck, George is attacked and absorbed.

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According to a magazine article the “bubble” effect seen when the audience is seeing things from the alien’s POV was achieved by actually blowing a specially formulated “tough” bubble around the camera lens. These shots were kept short since the bubbles only lasted a brief time.

John and Ellen suspect something is wrong and turn around and head back in the same direction that George and Frank took. They find the empty telephone truck on the side of the road. John retrieves his gun from the car and they begin their search, starting with the truck. John notices blood on the truck door and the shimmery trail, a telltale sign of the alien. The camera’s angle, as it follows John and Ellen is as if it is looking through the one eye of the alien. A hand starts to reach out, struggling to touch the shoulder of Ellen. She gasps and spins around.

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George appears to them, but is behaving very strangely. Ellen thinks there is something wrong with his eyes. John tells her that Frank is dead. They head back to town to get help from the Sheriff.

You can see Frank’s arm on the ground, unmoving, the rest of his body is hidden behind a boulder. The alien, now masquerading as George explains things to the human George and Frank.

The Sheriff reluctantly agrees to accompany John and Ellen back out to where they encountered George and Frank, but when they arrive the truck and any evidence is gone. The Sheriff writes off the blood as a dead coyote. The three drive back to town. The Sheriff returns to his office.

According to the tear-off calendar on the wall in the sheriff’s office, around 50:00, the climactic day of the movie was “February 11 Saturday”. February 11 was one of the actual days of filming, in 1953; however, in that year it fell on a Wednesday. Presumably, the set dresser used an old prop calendar for 1950 or 1939.

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John notices George and Frank walking through town. John follows and confronts them. They warn John not to interfere.

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We don’t want to hurt anyone, least of all you… Your friends are ok. They try to explain that they are on a mission and have to complete it or horrible things will happen.

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Back at the Excelsior Mine, miners Sam (Edgar Dearing) and Toby (Warren MacGregor) are building a fire just outside the mine opening. They are waiting for Tom (George Selk) to return with food. Tom and his mule are just about back to the mine when the mule is spooked, and runs off. Tom turns around and is confronted by the alien and is absorbed. Sam and Toby think they hear something in the mine and enter it. As they exit the mine they are met by the creature and are also absorbed.

John and Ellen are summoned to see the Sheriff that evening. Frank’s wife (Virginia Mullen) and George’s girlfriend Jane Dean (Kathleen Hughes) have reported them acting strangely and now missing. Their clothes are also missing.

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The sheriff questions John because he appears to be the last one to have spoken to either of them. Ellen takes Mrs. Daylon and Jane home in John’s car. John stays with Matt to discuss the situation. He tells Matt that Frank and George are in fact the creatures from the space craft stuck in the crater. The sheriff tells John that electrical equipment has been stolen from the hardware store and that Dr. Snell and his assistant, Bob, have been reported missing. John and Matt go out to the crater and find Dr. Snell’s car, but no trace of Snell or Bob.

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Ellen is driving alone on the highway when she encounters Frank standing in the middle of the highway. She stops and he gets into the car. Frank instructs Ellen to take him to the mine.

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Back at the Sheriff’s office, the phone rings. It is for John, and he is informed that the alien have Ellen. The Sheriff and John drive out into the desert.

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John exits the car and searches for Ellen. He sees what appears to be Ellen on a ridgeline in a cocktail dress. He follows her. She leads him to the opening to the mine shaft.

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A voice from inside the mine tells John that they are repairing their ship and will be leaving that night. The missing townsfolk are being held hostage. “We have souls and we are good.” John begs to see the creature as it really is. It explains that they were on another mission but an error brought them there. John still begs to see it’s true form. It shows itself and John is horrified and repelled.

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He returns to see Matt who has been waiting by the car. Matt wants to storm into the mine and save Ellen. John convinces him that is not what they should do, that the aliens are holding them hostage so they won’t bother them. They just want to fix their ship and leave. The two men drive back into town and Matt drops John off at his house. John notices the door unlocked and a shimmering trail leading back to an empty closed. All of his clothes are missing.

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The Sheriff gives orders to clear everyone away from the crater. John tells Matt that he got a visit and his clothes are missing. Frank appears in town just outside the Sheriff’s office. Matt is wanting a confrontation with the alien but John restrains him and they fight. Frank drives off in his telephone truck. The Sheriff forms an impromptu posse as John steals his police car and heads off to the crater. The Sheriff intends to confront Frank on the highway. Taking a shortcut through the desert, he forms a vehicle barricade across the highway. As Frank approaches, the posse opens fire. The truck careens off the highway and hits a boulder and bursts into flame.

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Meanwhile John arrives at the mine entrance and enters. He finds alien Ellen. She tells John they only need a few more hours. She is mad because the posse is on its way, all because of John.

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She then attacks him with a wand that emits a beam that cuts through rock, but misses. He shoots her with his gun and she falls into a lake below and dissolves.

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The posse arrives outside as John continues his exploration of the old mine. He hears machinery and finds the aliens in their human form making repairs to their ship.

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The lead alien has assumed John’s identity. He explains their mission and the equipment’s power. And all of that is coming to an end now, a few hours shy of repairing the ship. All because of John and the posse that is following him.

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John demands Ellen’s release as a sign of good faith. Alien John agrees and orders all of the hostages be released. As they depart the mine, alien John resumes his alien form.

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John seals the mine entrance with dynamite to keep the posse away from the aliens.

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The ground begins to rumble and the ship departs, streaking across the sky.

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The movie ends with John wistfully saying “They’ll be back.”

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Steven Spielberg has credited this film, and its plot focused on benign alien visitors seemingly uninterested in helping or harming human beings, as the main inspiration for his film Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).

My question from King Kong regarding when credits were changed to the end of a film has been answered. This was one of the few American movies from the 1950s to place its credits at the end rather than at the beginning.

Jack Arnold, Richard Carlson, Charles Drake, Russell Johnson, and Barbara Rush in It Came from Outer Space (1953)


Richard Carlson John Putnam
Barbara Rush Ellen Fields
Charles Drake Sheriff Matt Warren
Joe Sawyer Frank Daylon
Russell Johnson George
Kathleen Hughes Jane
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