It Came from Outer Space (Jack Arnold / U.S., 1953):

The Universal logo gets a cosmic shimmer, a honeycombed meteor smashes into the lenses, and that's just Jack Arnold with the opening titles. "Let's see what the stars have to say." The amateur astronomer (Richard Carlson) and the schoolteacher (Barbara Rush) share an interrupted kiss before the telescope, their Arizona hamlet is lit up at dusk as a fireball zips across the sky. In the ensuing crater, the camera finds the grounded vessel and dollies through its octagonal hatch, inside a floating eye glows in the darkness. The visitors are levitating squids with "souls and minds" (quivering irises ring the screen during POV shots), Earth is but a pit stop in their journey though humanity's trigger-happy nature is already well-known. The sheriff (Charles Drake) and his posse confirm their fears. "Oh, the dreams we had of knowing other worlds..." Between The Day the Earth Stood Still and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, an astringent view of Cold War diplomacy. Carlson's stargazer is the artist, also Arnold and Ray Bradbury, contemplating the endless desert within the studio set ("It's alive, and it's waiting for you") and forging an uneasy bond with tentacled fellow seekers. Multi-plane compositions are keyed not only to 3-D effects but also to the depth-of-field alertness of the explorer's vision, a curiosity for a world where even wires on telephone poles hum with uncanny life. The sparkling trail in the bedroom points up the surrealism of the tale: The hero on the edge of the abyss faces a replica of his fiancée in black gown and flowing scarf, then his own reflection in the depths of a mine. Kubrick's interstellar cyclops, "not witchcraft but imagination" for the man of science, the temperature of paranoia. A grain of hope at the close looks forward to a more cordial future encounter, Spielberg will be there to film it. With Joe Sawyer, Russell Johnson, and Kathleen Hughes. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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