It Conquered The World: Film review

It_Conquered_the_World

tagline;
Every man its prisoner… every woman its slave!

An alien from Venus tries to conquer the Earth using mind control devices.

Good luck trying to find a copy of this 1956 Corman quickie. It was released on VHS in the 1990’s, but has not received a DVD release.

Amazingly, considering it was produced quickly and cheaply, the film is really quite good. It’s similar to Invasion of the Bodysnatchers (also released in 1956) in that it’s a parable about communism.

Tom Anderson is a brilliant scientist, who communicates with the alien creature via radio. IT offers to help mankind and to free it from emotions, which IT perceives as being responsible for the wars and violence that have plagued the human race.

Arriving on Earth, IT uses weird flying bird devices to control people, which are quite creepy as they flutter about. The cast is really good in the movie, Lee Van Cleef, who would go on to star in many memorable Westerns is the hero and his wife Claire is played with gusto by Beverley Garland. The reliable Peter Graves also stars, but here he’s the weak link – his performance is stilted and it feels like he’s phoning this one in.

It is often said that there aren’t enough strong roles for women in Science Fiction. Here though, Claire rages at the monster that has enslaved her husband:

“I don’t know if you can hear me, but if you can you listen and you listen good! I hate your living guts for what you’ve done to my husband and my world! Tom may be afraid of you but I’m not, and I’m going to kill you! Do you hear me? I’m going to kill you!”

Claire’s clearly mentally stronger than her husband and late in the movie takes on the monster with a rifle, but is killed. Eventually, the army get involved and try to take it out with a rocket launcher. Finally, Tom (anguished over the death of his wife) takes the alien down by using a blow torch, which he sticks in the aliens eye.

COLOR-IT!

A rare colour photograph of the monster.  Clearly the special effects are a bit primitive. The monster never moved properly and so Corman himself crouched behind the prop to push it along.

Paul Blaisdell created the memorable monster, its diminutive stature was apparently due to the higher gravity on Venus. IT is certainly a memorable and creative 50’s monster, albeit one that is quite silly and unconvincing.
The central premise of the movie – the concept of people losing their
identities to alien beings is rather a good one. It’s the same theme explored in Total Recall and other SF.

Stripped of emotions, are you still the same person? What exactly is it that makes you you? The concept is not subtly conveyed as the rather amusing dialog exchange below shows:

Dr. Tom Anderson: I’ll still need you even when there are no emotions.

Claire Anderson: [bitter] For a few dollars you can hire a woman who’ll fulfill all your fetishes. And when you get tired of her you can run down to the employment agency and hire another.

For sure the dialog is cornball, but it’s delivered irony-free and the relationship between husband and wife is one of the more convincing on-screen portrails that you will find in SF B-movies. Line delivery is stagey as is the direction and lighting, but you’d expect this from a 50’s B-movie.

To summarise then, this is throwaway nonsense, but it’s fun and has a lot of heart. I’d rather re-watch this than sit through Total Recall (2012) again, with its soulless characters and CG bloat. If you enjoy old Twilight Zone episodes the, like me, you’ll find much to enjoy here. What’s really great is that amongst the silliness, there is a real political message and social commentary.

Rating: 6/10

Trivia: The main character in the movie is called Tom Anderson, if the name is familiar then maybe it’s because the producers of The Matrix were fans of the film – they used the name Thomas Anderson for the Neo character played by Keanu Reeves.

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