It Came From Outer Space is one of the better films brought to life in the golden age of science fiction. It is not an alien invasion story; rather, it develops and explores the ambivalence of man's own scientific progress in regards to the unknown. The aliens are not Martians; they are quite un-E.T.-like "monsters" who hide themselves. They seem to know one of the tragic secrets of humanity--it very often hates and destroys that which it does not understand. The story starts with amateur astronomer John Putnam (Richard Carlson) and his fiancée Ellen Fields (Barbara Rush) looking at the stars and engaging in some lovey-dovey conversation; suddenly, a giant fireball goes sailing across the sky and strikes the earth with a terrific impact. Putnam and Fields rush to the site via helicopter, and Putnam goes down into the crater to examine the "meteorite." He finds a ship lodged in the ground and senses a presence there; before he can peer into the ship's interior, the door closes and a landslide covers everything up. Putnam fearlessly tells the authorities what he saw and is, of course, laughed at. The sheriff, who obviously has the hots for Ellen, is particularly hard to convince. Eventually, some townspeople disappear and, even more mysteriously, reappear with whole new personalities (or lack thereof). The resolution of the movie has a philosophical aspect to it; there are no bad guys and no good guys, and one is left to ponder the real standing of Earth and society in a universe in which alien life does exist. This thought-provoking movie is based on a story by Ray Bradbury, which does much to explain its success. Some viewers may also be interested to know that Darrell Russell (the Professor from Gilligan's Island) has a co-starring role in the picture.
In its theatrical release, this movie was shown in 3-D, and it is unfortunate that today's viewers cannot enjoy it in its original format. However, it is the story and not the special effects that makes this movie a success. While its themes do not captivate modern audiences the way they did viewers in the 1950s, the movie retains a moral clarity and vision that distinguishes it from most science fiction movies of its era. It asks the viewer to trade places with the aliens and consider how things would look if he were the outsider arriving in a foreign land, which is a refreshing theme to emerge in a Cold War American motion picture.