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The Footprints of Monsters: IT! The Terror from Beyond Space

21 years before Alien there was this horror.

Taking a look at the basic structure of both films, a movie buff can clearly see that the Ridley Scott classic owes more than a few nods to this ballyhooed B picture.

One of the film’s taglines was “$50,000 by a world renowned insurance company to the first person who can prove that “It” is not on Mars now!”

Movies were a bit more bombastic back in 1958.


And a bit cheesier, too. The monster certainly has an interesting look, but the low budget of the film is quite evident. The monster is kept in shadow because the mask doesn’t fit the actor. The film makers made a mask before they cast their actor and so the creature’s impressive tongue is actually the actor’s chin.

Heck, the music used in this picture is entirely stock (some of it easily recognizable from the stock-footage and music fest that is Gigantis the Fire Monster). Despite all its fault, it at least produced an interesting monster.

Symbolism
Like many monsters in the Cold War era, it is a slow lumbering brute, usually apparently unstoppable. It first appears in the ventilation shafts and works its way up the ship level by level. The monster turns the ship into a microcosm of the Red Scare, with it as the Russians and our heroes as the “Free world.”

A lot of alien monsters were like that in the 50s.

Biology

The monster is from Mars which is more accurate than the one seen in most 50s B pictures. There, it is a barren wasteland without an atmosphere humans could breathe safely. The monster is implied to be a degenerate member of the once great Martian race, but that hypothesis is made on very flimsy justification regarding the creature’s intelligence. The creature is smart, though—able to set traps and open doors.

But Chimps can do that too.

The idea that things can “Revert back to Barbarism” when Barbarism isn’t a natural state is just a silly notion well suited for these B pictures. If this creature was spawned from some degenerating war-torn society; it would be better seen as a bio-weapon. A sort of super soldier, and given all the punishments it takes, it makes sense. It also knows to disarm its enemies before moving in for the kill.

This monster not only breezes through pistol rounds, but also through multiple grenade hits, noxious gas, high levels of radiation, high voltage electrical currents, a bazooka blast to the chest and is only held at bay by a blowtorch to the face.

I want to pause and ask a very relevant question: guns and grenades I can see being put on a 50s Sci-fi ship heading to mars. Really, it’s been done so often that I just accept it without question. But a bazooka? Really? What’s that for, blowing a hole in your own hull?

It also uses some basic tactics, relying at first on stealth like the Xenomorph from Alien, striking at the helpless humans from the ventilation system even though it’s damn near invulnerable and strong enough to rip open metal doors with the proper motivation.

The creature is apparently reptilian, having scales covering its body and tridacty hands and feet ending in sharp claws. However, it does not have an opposable thumb, with all three of the claws on its hands being of equal length and pointed in the same direction. It apparently acts as a vampire, draining the fluid from its body. The creature didn’t bite its victims, however. The medic aboard ship states that there were no punctures on its body and so the creature must have absorbed the fluids in its body. The doctor speculates it’s done through “some sort of osmosis,” but a more likely way for it to feed is to use human pours against us, causing massive internal destruction (which is confirmed by dialogue, as all of the victim’s bones are broken). Though not stated, I bet the mechanism for feeding is in the tongue.

Of course, this begs the question why such an organism would need claws and teeth in the first place?

Well, if it is a bio-weapon, it would use them to either reach prey items or kill them without needing to feed. The teeth might just be there to protect the feeding apparatus or hold onto prey that had yet to be subdued with its brute strength.

Their short, triangular shape works better for holding (and ripping) than to piercing.

The teeth and claws also lend credence to the Bio-Weapon Hypothesis when a claw wound from the creature infects one of the crew a virulent bacteria, like a komodo dragon crossed with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The monster’s defeat comes with asphyxiation, which they reach the conclusion of through rather obtuse means (and by obtuse, I mean nonsensical), but asphyxiation remains a viable way to kill most monsters.

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