|It Conquered the World|
Theatrical release poster
by Albert Kallis
|Directed by||Roger Corman|
|Produced by||Roger Corman|
|Written by||Lou Rusoff|
Charles B. Griffith (uncredited)
Lee Van Cleef
|Music by||Ronald Stein|
|Cinematography||Fred E. West|
|Edited by||Charles Gross|
|Distributed by||American International Pictures|
It Conquered the World is an independently made 1956 American black-and-white science fiction film, produced and directed by Roger Corman, starring Peter Graves, Lee Van Cleef, Beverly Garland, and Sally Fraser. It Conquered the World was released theatrically by American International Pictures as a double feature with The She-Creature.
It Conquered the World concerns an alien creature from the planet Venus that secretly wants to take control of the Earth. The creature makes radio contact with a disillusioned human scientist, who agrees to help because the scientist believes such an alien intervention will bring peace and save a doomed humanity from itself.
Dr. Tom Anderson (Van Cleef), an embittered scientist, has made contact with a Venusian creature, while using his radio transmitter. The alien's secret motivation is to take complete control of the Earth by enslaving humanity using mind control devices; the alien claims it merely desires to bring peace to the world by eliminating all emotions. Anderson agrees to help the creature and even intends to allow it to assimilate his wife, Claire (Garland) and friend Dr. Paul Nelson (Graves).
The Venusian then disrupts all electric power on Earth, including motor vehicles, leaving Dr. Nelson to resort to riding a bicycle.
After avoiding a flying bat-like creature which carries the mind control device, Dr. Nelson returns home to find his wife newly assimilated. She then attempts to force his own assimilation using another bat-creature in her possession, and he is forced to kill her in self-defense. By then, the only people who are still free from the Venusian's influence are Nelson, Anderson, Anderson's wife and a group of army soldiers on station in the nearby woods.
Nelson finally persuades the paranoid Anderson that he has made a horrible mistake in blindly trusting the Venusian's motives, allying himself with a creature bent on world domination. When they discover Tom's wife Claire has taken a rifle to the alien's cave in order to kill it, they hurriedly follow her, but the creature kills her before they can rescue her. Finally, seeing the loss of everything he holds dear, Dr. Anderson viciously attacks the Venusian by holding a blowtorch to the creature's face; Anderson dies at the alien's hand as it expires. Arriving on the scene too late to save his friend, Nelson sadly reflects on how Anderson's misguided ideals ultimately led to death and devastation, and muses that a solution to humanity's problems must ultimately be achieved by humanity itself.
- Peter Graves as Dr. Paul Nelson
- Lee Van Cleef as Dr. Tom Anderson
- Beverly Garland as Claire Anderson
- Sally Fraser as Joan Nelson
- Russ Bender as General James Pattick
- Taggart Casey as Sheriff N.J. Shallert
- Karen Kadler as Dr. Ellen Peters
- Dick Miller as Sgt. Neil
- Jonathan Haze as Corporal Manuel Ortiz
- Paul Harbor as Dr. Floyd Mason
- Charles B. Griffith as Dr. Pete Shelton
- Thomas E. Jackson as George Haskell
- Marshall Bradford as Secretary Platt
- David McMahon as General Carpenter
- Paul Blaisdell as The Monster (uncredited)
The film was inspired by the box office success of The Day the World Ended, also directed by Corman. It was written by Lou Rusoff, but before being completed, Rusoff's brother died and he had to leave for Canada. Corman then called in Charles Griffith to do a final rewrite, two days before filming began. Griffith does have a small part as a scientist.
Griffith said Rusoff's script "was incomprehensible which was strange because he was quite meticulous. Lou's brother was dying at the time which most likely had something to do with it." Griffith said he "wrote streams of dialogue. The picture was terrible."
Filming began 3 April 1956.
The design of the creature was Corman's idea, and he thought that coming from a big planet, It would have evolved to deal with heavy gravity and would therefore be low to the ground. Corman later admitted this was a mistake, saying the creature would have been more frightening had It been larger or taller. When Beverly Garland first saw the creature, she commented "That conquered the world?" and kicked It over. Based on this action, the design of the creature was reworked.
Paul Blaisdell, who made the creature, researched Venus and "came to the conclusion that if it would have any life — it would be vegetable. In trying to make it look as far removed from anything resembling animal-like, I whipped up a nightmarish creation resembling a pear-shaped, cucumber- like creature, with two mobile, branch- like arms."
The creature was mounted on wheels. Blaisdell would crouch inside to enable the creature to move. "Originally, the creature was supposed to be in a dark cave all the time so an air of mystery would surround it," said Blaisdell. "But Roger decided it would be more effective if the creature would make a defiant appearance outside its hiding place and be destroyed by a charge of bayonet-armed soldiers. He also wanted the creature to appear dead by having it lying on its side!"
Garland later recalled the first time she saw the creature at Bronson Canyon:
I said to Roger, “That isn't the monster! That little thing there is not the monster, is it?" He smiled back at me, "Yeah. Looks pretty good, doesn't it?" I said, “Roger! I could bop that monster over the head with my handbag!" This thing was no monster, it was a table ornament! He said, "Well, don't worry about it because we're gonna show you, and then we'll show the monster, back and forth." "Well, don't ever show us together, because if you do everybody'll know that I could step on this little creature!" Eventually I think they did do some extra work on the monster: I think they re-sprayed it so it would look a little scarier, and made it a good bit taller. When we actually filmed, they shot it in shadow, and never showed the two of us together. 
Griffith said he called the creature prop "Denny Dimwit and somebody else called it an ice-cream cone. I was around when Paul Blaisdell was building it, and he thought the camera would make it look bigger."
The film originally received an "X" certificate in the UK, meaning the picture could only be seen by adults. At issue, the scene of the creature being destroyed by a blowtorch was seen as animal cruelty. However, producer Samuel Z. Arkoff convinced the film board that the violence was against an otherworldly person, and not an animal, earning the film its passing certificate.
Griffith said, "I asked for my name not to be on that picture, so I was unbilled. Surprisingly, it got good reviews."
Variety said "this flying saucer pic is a definite cut above normal, and should help pull its weight at b.o., despite modest budget... It must be admitted that the packed house of moppets at the show caught loved the gore, and continually shrieked avid appreciation. The Lou Rusoff screenplay poses some remarkably adult questions amidst the derring-do.. Corman does a generally good job of mingling the necessary backgroundsetting with fast-paced dialog... Only a few patches of abstract discussion, fail to hold audience attention.... Corman would have been wiser to merely suggest the creature, rather than construct the awesome-looking and mechanically clumsy, rabherized horror. It inspired more titters than terror."
Sight and Sound called it "sharp, economical and really frightening".
Film historian and critic Leonard Maltin called It Conquered the World "... well acted and interesting but awkwardly plotted". Variety found the movie a cut above normal, despite its low budget, and praised the "remarkable adult questions" asked by the screenplay.
Time Out magazine, however, gave the film a negative review, criticizing its poor special effects. Critic Tony Rayns opined, "You have to see a movie like this to realise that film-makers who feel they have nothing to lose are rarer than you'd think".
The Chicago Reader gave the film a generally positive review, saying, "Amazingly, this 1953 [sic] picture isn't half bad". Allmovie gave the film 3 out of 5 stars, calling it an "above-average quickie".
During the 1960s, It Conquered the World was syndicated to television by American International Television. VHS versions appeared in the 1990s on the US home video market (RCA Columbia Home Video), but these are no longer in distribution, nor is the film available on DVD or Blu-ray in the US or in the UK.
In 1966, It Conquered the World was remade in 16mm color by self-proclaimed "schlockmeister" Larry Buchanan after he secured rights from AIP; he retitled his rewritten remake Zontar, the Thing from Venus and then sold it to television syndication.
In popular culture
- Frank Zappa's 1974 live album Roxy & Elsewhere referred to the film in the introduction for the song "Cheepnis".
- The film's closing monologue inspired the similar ending of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
- The end of the film was shown at the beginning of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1988).
- In 1991, It Conquered the World was the subject of the comedy television series Mystery Science Theater 3000; joke topics included poor monster props, occasionally wooden acting, and an overblown closing monologue, although Dr. Clayton Forrester did concede it was probably Roger Corman's "finest film to date".
- Audio samples from the film were included in the song "Facing That" from M83's self-titled debut album, released in 2001.
- Season 4, episode 12 of SCTV featured an overarching story, "Zontar," which was closely based on "It Conquered the Word." Bonar Bain was featured as the scientist played by Lee Van Cleef.
- Graham, Aaron W.['Little Shop of Genres: An interview with Charles B. Griffith." Senses of Cinema, April 15, 2005. Retrieved: January 13, 2015.
- Frank (1998) The Films of Roger Corman. Batsford
- Warren 1982[page needed]
- McGee, Mark Thomas (February 1981). "Charles Griffith and the Little Shop of Corman". Fangoria. No. 11. p. 16.
- Former Studio Messenger Produces, Directs Picture Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune 30 Mar 1956: a6.
- Drama: Milestone Will Resume Here With Kirk Douglas; Tribute to Zanuck Due Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 3 Apr 1956: B7.
- "Hollywood Production Pulse". Variety. 25 April 1956. p. 20.
- McGee 1996, p. 58.
- "Maker of Monsters". Space Monsters. February 1990. p. 56.
- Weaver, Tom (January 1986). "Queen of 50s Horror". Fangoria. No. 50. p. 58.
- New Bridey Regresses to Prehistoric C S. Los Angeles Times 31 Aug 1956: 22.
- Rubine, Irving. "Boys meet ghouls, make money." The New York Times, March 16, 1958, p. X7.
- Review of film at Variety
- Film Clips ARKADIN. Sight and Sound; London Vol. 32, Iss. 3, (Summer 1963): 140.
- Maltin 2009, p. 695.
- Rayns, Tony. "Review: 'It Conquered the World'." Archived 2011-06-06 at the Wayback Machine Time Out magazine. Retrieved: January 13, 2015.
- Kehr, Dave. "Review: 'It Conquered the World'." Chicago Reader. Retrieved: January 13, 2015.
- Erickson, Hal. "Review'It Conquered the World'." All Movie Guide (Allrovi.com). 'Retrieved: January 13, 2015.
- "'It Conquered the World' US-American VHS." Amazon.com. Retrieved: January 13, 2015.
- "'It Conquered the World' British VHS." Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved: January 13, 2015.
- Maltin, Leonard. Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide 2009. New York: New American Library, 2009 (originally published as TV Movies, then Leonard Maltin's Movie & Video Guide), First edition 1969, published annually since 1988. ISBN 978-0-451-22468-2.
- McGee, Mark. Faster and Furiouser: The Revised and Fattened Fable of American International Pictures. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 1996. ISBN 978-0-78640-137-6.
- Warren, Bill. Keep Watching The Skies Vol. I: 1950–1957. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 1982. ISBN 0-89950-032-3.
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