It Conquered the World (1956)

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It Conquered the World (1956)

Post  BoG on Thu Mar 04, 2010 4:30 pm

Roger Corman at his incisive best! It, of the title, is an invader from Venus or thereabouts. It arrives on one of our own satellites, makes a cave its base and begins to assimilate people a la Invaders From Mars (1953) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, with the help of Earthling traitor Tom Anderson (Lee Van Cleef), a very disgruntled scientist. The alien invader employs bat-like devices which fly around and plant controllers on the back of people's necks.
The other main characters are Paul Nelson (Peter Graves), another scientist, his wife Joan (Sally Fraser) and Tom's wife Claire (Beverly Garland). According to Tom, there are 9 of these Venusians (the other 8 are still on Venus), a race which was "born too soon." Venus won't reach Earth level of climate for another "million years" and the Venusians can't wait. OK... And! these aliens are, of course, far above us in terms of intelligence - according to Tom. The best scenes are of Paul and Tom debating their views of the human condition; they have diametrically opposed viewpoints on mankind's destiny and place in the large scheme of things.
Corman presents some interesting characterizations for a film of this sort and even, perhaps, some political commentary. If you wanted the ideal straight-laced representation of conservatism in the fifties - the establishment - actor Peter Graves was your best bet. Though he represents order - the American way - he and his wife are bit too stoic for my tastes. Early in the film, after the alien invader knocks out all power, they witness an airplane exploding from their stalled car. "How horrible" Joan says, with all the emotion of watching a fly get swatted. Fifteen seconds later, Paul & Joan are discussing other matters, the airplane and dead passengers all forgotten. They have a purpose in life, matters to take care of? Now, this is typical low budget, rushed flimmaking, but I was thinking: 'this is before they've been assimilated and drained of emotion?'

Tom is the other side, the liberal side which seems to have great intentions but proceeds with too much emotionalism, not thinking things out. Tom may seem an evil man, as hinted by his designation as traitor above, but he isn't, just misguided. He's very dissatisfied with mankind's faults and the way Earthlings are progressing. He's a dreamer of the worst kind, pinning all his hopes on some savior to solve all the world's problems for him. Maybe, this sounds a little too familiar to the method and rationale in which some of our political leaders are elected? (let's elect the guy who, with godlike ability, will solve all our problems - not very rational, is it?). All Tom succeeds at doing is enabling the slavery of the human race; yes, being under complete control of some monstrous alien would solve much of a person's problems - no decisions to make anymore.

This assimilation, besides being similar to the films mentioned above, also resembles the control practiced by The Borg on Star Trek TNG. Van Cleef was effective as the conflicted antagonist; he mostly played small roles as a heavy in westerns at this time, later graduating to stardom in Italian Spaghetti westerns, in the sixties.
As one can see by the photos of the alien invader above, these strong themes were not aided by good FX. On top of the goofy appearance of the alien, it wasn't a very mobile type of creature either (I read that Corman himself had to rush out and push it from behind at one point to complete filming on time). In the end,
a squad of soldiers were helpless against the creature anyway, until Tom comes around with a handy-dandy blowtorch.
The action in other scenes was also surprisingly brutal: a woman is coldly choked to death by a colleague, for example, and Paul doesn't hesitate to shoot possessed citizens - shoot to kill. Well, he has to defend American ideals - no time to be gentle about it. Beverly Garland also played a somewhat complex, if shrewish female, loyal to her husband yet steadily disgusted by his lame devotion to some outsider; even she grabs up a rifle near the end to try her hand at some damage. Dick Miller shows up as the squad leader of the soldiers. This film reminded me of a triple-length Twilight Zone episode, one of those featuring alien invaders, yet Corman presented this a good 3 years before that series began. BoG's Score: 6.5 out of 10. The story was remade on TV in 1966 as Zontar, the Thing From Venus.

It Conquered Trivia: besides Dick Miller, other Corman regular Jonathan Haze also plays one of the soldiers.
-------------------------- The role played by Peter Graves was originally intended for Richard Boone.
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