It Conquered The World

IT CONQUERED THE WORLD, a 1956 gift to goofiness from ambitious, throw-it-at-the-wall producer/director Roger Corman, states its case for limberger-upon-radiator greatness when ‘Dr. Paul Nelson’ (Peter Graves), discovering what his scientist buddy ‘Dr. Tom Anderson’ (Lee Van Cleef) is up to with that short wave gizmo in his living room. PAUL (aghast but holding it together: “You mean a superior intelligence has come from Venus in my satellite, established residency, turned off the world’s power, and is about to take over the world.”  TOM (patient, casual): “This superior intelligence is a personal friend of mine.” 

The howler-invoking script concocted by Lou Rusoff (Day The World Ended) and Charles B. Griffith (The Little Shop Of Horrors) is laden with one-offs like “It must be some kind of cave bat”, misguessing at the genus and digs of a airborne creature resembling a cross between a rubber frisbee and a pizza with teeth, to the down-to-Earth putdown issued by Tom’s hot, I’ve-had-it wife ‘Claire’ (Beverly Garland), letting the title “it” meet the vamp-next-door: “So that’s how you look like. You’re ugly!”  Wow, come 144,720,000 miles and the first American babe you meet is a Republican cheerleader.

Corman was impressed enough by pretty & pretty spunky Garland after using her the year before as one of the Swamp Women (too bad to miss, it’s hilarious) and would later place her in further visitor-induced jeopardy for Not Of This Earth. Bev (the kid-crush would resume when 13 years later she joined My Three Sons) also gets a chance to shine when sneering Van Cleef tells her “I’ll still need you even when there are no emotions,” which receives the thanks-a-ton reply “For a few dollars you can hire a woman who’ll fulfil all your fetishes. And when you get tired of her you can run down to the employment agency and hire another.”

See, the science part comes with the whole emotions situation, as Tom’s conquer-bent pal from Venus intends to do away with humdrum human feelings as part of “its” master plan. If that brain-scrub entails doing away with most humans attached to their silly impulses, well, data is impartial. The budget could only afford one creature, but it’s a doozy, one of the great dorkus monsters of the era: part fruit, part vegetable, equipped with pincers, glowing eyes and severe dental hardware. If you encounter one of these, remember to bring a blowtorch, since bullets and even bazookas don’t have enough stopping power. At least this was one spaced-spawned sleaze that didn’t require zapping by electricity.

“Gee, what angle can we use on this one…?”

The mutilation of logic caught enough draft from monster-eager kids to rake in a healthy $1,700,000, easily covering the $2.75 lavished on production costs. Graves, Garland and Van Cleef would chalk this nugget up and move on, but 4th-billed Sally Fraser (as Paul’s alien-infected wife ‘Joan’) faded into the ether universe of f-budget junk, mangling lines (she’s really bad) in Giant From The Unknown, War Of The Colossal Beast and Earth vs. the Spider. The first is ‘unknown’ for good reason, the second was the doofy sequel to The Amazing Colossal Man, and in the last opus a giant—apparently dead—arachnid comes back to life in a high school gym when it’s awakened by rock & roll. Purple People Eater, indeed. **

With Russ Bender and Dick Miller. 68 minutes.

* 1956 contained sci-fi classics Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, Forbidden Planet and Godzilla, King Of The Monsters, the first go at 1984, the fun matinees Rodan, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, X the Unknown and World Without End. Less memorable entries were The She-Creature (double-billed with It Conquered The World) and Curucu, Beast Of The Amazon, with Our Girl Garland once again imperiled.

* To be fair to the late Sally Fraser (passing away at 86 in 2019) let’s allow her a quote: “People are still interested in many of [my] films. Anyone can watch Giant from the Unknown, for example, and still find it a pleasant and fun way to pass an hour or so, and I am proud of that.”  Tasking her for her emoting in It Conquered The World, it should be noted by We-Who-Would-Judge that the movie took all of five days to shoot, and it’s doubtful that Katherine Hepburn could do much with that script.


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