It Came from Outer Space
film poster by Joseph Smith
Directed by Jack Arnold
Produced by William Alland
Written by Harry Essex (screenplay)
Ray Bradbury (story)
Starring Richard Carlson
Barbara Rush
Charles Drake
Joe Sawyer
Russell Johnson
Music by Herman Stein
Cinematography Clifford Stine
Editing by Paul Weatherwax
Distributed by Universal Studios
Release date(s) May 25, 1953 (U.S. release)
Running time 81 min.
Language English

It Came from Outer Space is a 1953 science fiction 3-D film directed by Jack Arnold, and starring Richard Carlson, Barbara Rush, and Charles Drake. It was Universal's first film to be filmed in 3-D.

Plot Edit

Author and amateur astronomer John Putnam (Carlson) and schoolteacher Ellen Fields (Rush) watch a great meteor crash to earth near the small town of Sand Rock, Arizona. After visiting the crash site, John Putnam notices a strange object at the impact site, and comes to believe the meteor is not a meteor at all, but an alien spaceship. After a landslide covers the mysterious craft, John Putnam's story is ridiculed by the townspeople, the sheriff (Drake), and the local media. Even Ellen is unsure of what to believe at first, but soon agrees to assist John in further investigation. In the following days, several local people disappear. A few return, only to display odd robot-like behavior, and seem distant and removed from their normal selves. Eventually Sheriff Warren also becomes convinced that something more than a meteor is involved, and organizes a posse to root out and destroy the invaders. All alone, John hopes to reach a peaceful solution, entering a mine which he hopes will lead him to the buried spacecraft and its mysterious occupants.

It develops that the aliens are benign beings whose spacecraft has crashed due to malfunctioning components. Their plan is to stay on Earth long enough to replace them, then continue on their voyage. They temporarily control a few humans since they would not be able to mingle inconspicuously with people, and they realize that humans would panic on seeing them. Upon their departure, all returns to normal on Earth.


Actor Role
Richard Carlson John Putnam
Barbara Rush Ellen Fields
Charles Drake Sheriff Matt Warren
Joe Sawyer Frank Daylon
Russell Johnson George
Dave Willock Pete Davis
Robert Carson Dugan, reporter
Virginia Mullen Mrs. Daylon
Kathleen Hughes Jane, George's girl
Paul Fix Councilman (uncredited)
Robert "Buzz" Henry Posseman (uncredited)


The screenplay was by Harry Essex, with input by Jack Arnold, and was derived from an original screen treatment by Ray Bradbury (although it is said Ray Bradbury wrote the original screenplay and Harry Essex merely changed the dialogue and took the credit [1]). Unusual among sci-fi films of the day, the alien "invaders" were portrayed as creatures without malicious intent. The film has been interpreted as a metaphorical refutation of supposedly xenophobic attitudes and ideology of the Cold War.

"I wanted to treat the invaders as beings who were not dangerous, and that was very unusual", Bradbury said. He offered two outlines to the studio, one with malicious aliens, the other with benign aliens. "The studio picked the right concept, and I stayed on."[2] He has called the movie "a good film. Some parts of it are quite nice."[3]

In 2004, Bradbury published four versions of his screen treatment for the movie as a single volume, It Came From Outer Space.

The uncredited music in the film was by Irving Gertz, Henry Mancini, and Herman Stein.

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 Metaluna Mutant in Universal's This Island Earth (1955). The special effects created for the spacecraft in flight consisted of a wire-mounted iron ball, with hollowed out 'windows', and ignited magnesium inside. The Arizona setting and the telephone lineman occupation of two of the characters are elements from Bradbury's younger life, when his father moved the family to Tucson.

Urban legend has it that an extra in an army corporal's uniform at the "meteor" crash site is comedy writer-performer Morey Amsterdam. While the briefly glimpsed man does indeed resemble Amsterdam, no hard evidence (e.g. cast call bureau records, interviews with Amsterdam) has ever confirmed it is actually him. The most recent of Universal's 2002 DVD release of the movie comes with a documentary, "The Universe According to Universal," written and directed by David J. Skal, and an audio commentary by Tom Weaver, in which Weaver also notes the similarity of Morey Amsterdam.


It Came from Outer Space was released in June 1953[4] and by the end of that year had accrued US$ 1,600,000 in distributors' domestic (U.S. and Canada) rentals, making it the year's 75th biggest earner.[5]

The New York Times review noted “the adventure…is merely mildly diverting, not stupendous. The space ship and its improbable crew, which keep the citizens of Sand Rock, Ariz., befuddled and terrified, should have the same effect on customers who are passionately devoted to king-sized flying saucers and gremlins."

"Brog" in Variety opined that "Direction by Jack Arnold whips up an air of suspense in putting the Harry Essex screenplay on film, and there is considerable atmosphere of reality created, which stands up well enough if the logic of it all is not examined too closely…story proves to be good science-fiction for the legion of film fans who like scare entertainment, well done.".[6]

Since its original release, the critical response to the film has become mostly positive. Bill Warren has written that “Arnold’s vigorous direction and Bradbury’s intriguing ideas meld to produce a genuine classic in its limited field.”[4] Jonathan Rosenbaum described the film as “[A] scary black-and-white SF effort from 1953.”[7] Phil Hardy’s The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction observed “Dark desert roads and sudden moments of fear underline Arnold’s ability as a director of Science Fiction films, and Essex’s/Bradbury’s lines match his images superbly.”[8] However, of the 20 reviews included in a Rotten Tomatoes survey of critics regarding the title, 19% reflect negative reactions.[9] opines that the film “moves terribly slowly (despite an 80 minute running time) because the plot is overly simplistic with absolutely no surprises."[10]

Barbara Rush won the Golden Globe award in 1954 as most promising female newcomer for her role.

The film was nominated for AFI's Top 10 Science Fiction Films list.[11]

Cultural referencesEdit


  1. It Came From Outer Space DVD Commentary by film historian Tom Weaver
  2. Weller, Sam (2005). The Bradbury Chronicles. HarperCollins. p. 191. ISBN 0-06-054581-X. 
  3. Bradbury, Ray (2004). Conversations With Ray Bradbury. University Press of Mississippi. p. 60. ISBN 1-57806-641-7. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Warren, Bill. Keep Watching The Skies Vol I: 1950 - 1957, pgs. 121 - 130, McFarland, 1982. ISBN 0-89950-032-3.
  5. Gebert, Michael. The Encyclopedia of Movie Awards (listing of 'Box Office (Domestic Rentals)' for 1953, taken from Variety magazine), St. Martin's Paperbacks, 1996. ISBN 0-668-05308-9. "Rentals" refers to the distributor/studio's share of the box office gross, which, according to Gebert, is roughly half of the money generated by ticket sales.
  6. "Brog". Review from Variety dated May 27, 1953, taken from Variety's Complete Science Fiction Reviews, edited by Don Willis, Garland Publishing, Inc., 1985. ISBN 0-8240-6263-9
  7. Rosenbaum, Jonathan. "It Came From Outer Space capsule review". Retrieved 2009-01-01. 
  8. Hardy, Phil (editor). The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction, Aurum Press, 1984. Reprinted as The Overlook Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction, Overlook Press, 1995, ISBN 0-87951-626-7
  9. "It Came From Outer Space (1953)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2009-01-01. 
  10. Null, Christopher. "It Came From Outer Space". Retrieved 2010-01-02. 
  11. AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot

External linksEdit

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