The Theremin in It Came from Outer Space

It Came from Outer Space

Theremin played by Samuel Hoffman

When a huge object streaks across the sky and smashes into the Arizona desert, amateur astronomer John Putnam initially believes he has witnessed nothing more than a monstrous meteor crashing to Earth. However, when he, his fiancee Ellen Fields (Rush) and a helicopter pilot investigate the site, Putnam unexpectedly discovers a huge spherical spaceship. Unfortunately, before he can alert his companions, a rock slide buries the vessel at the bottom of the impact crater.

Of course, no one in the local community believes Putnam's story, but it soon becomes clear that strange creatures are roaming the area. A couple of telephone linemen (Joe Sawyer and Russell Johnson) inexplicably disappear, only to turn up later under the apparent control of the aliens. When Putnam confronts them, the two ask for his trust and emphasize that the otherworldly visitors will only be on Earth for a short time. He reluctantly agrees to go along with them and attempts to convince the local sheriff of their peaceful intentions.

Although willing to listen to Putnam at first, as people continue to vanish the sheriff forms a posse to track down the extraterrestrial menace. The aliens take over Putnam's wife-to-be and use her to warn him to keep the townspeople away from a local mine, where their ship is being repaired. With the sheriff and his gang already heading toward the area, Putnam must to figure out a way to outwit the posse and allow the visitors to safely leave the planet.

Released in 1953 and based on a story by Ray Bradbury, It Came from Outer Space is a surprisingly entertaining motion picture. Capitalizing on post-World War II fears of Communist infiltration and the remarkable scientific advances of the time, the movie effectively mixes elements from horror films of the 1930s and 1940s with the intensely xenophobic American mindset of the early Cold War era.

Director Jack Arnold, who later went on to helm such features as Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Incredible Shrinking Man, does an admirable job making this low-budget, black-and-white flick both interesting and exciting. For example, he occasionally shows the action from the alien point of view, utilizing a weird, watery visual effect that is decidedly scary. He incorporates an eerie soundtrack too, written in part by Henry Mancini, that helps to accentuate the unsettling scenario.

With the possible exception of the stereotypically fearful female lead, the actors are also generally credible. Whilst the video version of the film is presented in standard two-dimensional format, the original theatrical release also featured a number of 3-D effects.


It Came from Outer Space
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