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It Conquered the World

"He learned almost too late that man is a feeling creature... and because of it, the greatest in the universe..."

Roger Corman time! The man has a very mixed history with his films, but we’re visiting one of his earliest films here with this one.

This movie goes back to 1956. The 50s are known for a lot of these kinds of sci-fi and horror movies. This one is not the best, but nowhere near the worst, either.

It's one of those films I saw on TV as a kid in the 70s and 80s thanks to 'Shock Theater' and after school monster movies that I watched voraciously. My final rating reflects how much fun I had with this guilty pleasure of a movie. It's nothing ground-breaking, and the low budget can be felt in large parts of the film, but it’s a great romp with more familiar faces than one might expect from such an old B movie.

The premise is typical for a 50s sci-fi invasion film; aliens coming to Earth to conquer it. What makes this one stand out is that it was communicating with Doctor Tom Anderson (played by Lee Van Cleef) beforehand, there is only one main alien that arrives, and despite the title of the film, it mostly concerns just one small town in the US. At one point it does admit that the entire world is suffering from a power outage, caused by our visitor, but mostly in passing. Our Venusian vegetable visitor has promised our naïve scientist lead that he wishes to help mankind, even if it means he brings world peace via his control, so the doctor agrees to help 'It,' as it thinks it will help mankind as well.

Tom’s wife Claire (played by Beverly Garland) isn't so enthusiastic about all this, which we discover very early on at a dinner they share with their favorite couple, Dr. Paul Nelson and his wife Joan (played by Peter Graves and Sally Fraser.). One can hardly blame her, as her husband's obsession with the voice from Venus on his radio set doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Despite her and other's doubts about what Dr. Anderson is actually talking to, the 'It' eventually lands near their little desert town of Beachwood, proving Dr. Anderson correct. But despite the alien's so-called desire to help humanity overcome all its issues, things don't go so well for our well-meaning scientist or his hometown.

Between the aforementioned power outages (with some crucial key exceptions), the mind control bat-like creatures infected some key individuals, and the growing tension between our main cast as they approach the problem from very different perspectives, it builds quite a bit of tension, and as it plays barely over an hour, it’s a rather brisk picture that resolves itself in nice little package that is followed up with a long-winded speech from Dr. Nelson as the films closes, part of which is this review’s lead-in quote. Standouts here are Claire, who is a much more capable leading woman than we usually see in the 50s, especially when she takes things into her own hands; the friendship and escalating conflict between Dr Anderson and Dr. Nelson over the situation at hand; and the final battles with 'It' that while not the best action scenes ever filmed, are at least entertaining.

"Anyone for some fried veggies?"

This film has become something of a cult classic over the years, and my final rating reflects my own enjoyment of it, but it does have some things that bring it down a bit. This being a Roger Corman film, it’s not swimming in the seas of a high budget picture. That hurts this production less than most, but there are other issues that affect the final result in an adverse fashion. The main cast is good to great, and a lot of the supporting cast are at least decent, but some not so much, and special mention has to be given to Russ Bender as General James Pattick, who gives a lackluster performance that is unfortunate considering how important his character is to the story.

The locals are at first almost passive about the fact that nothing is working; cars, electricity, wrist watches, even running water are all down, but then they burst into a panic after being told by the mind-controlled police chief to evacuate; this incongruity feels very jarring. They tried to make 'It' more frightening than it is in the final fight, but this is mostly from the local soldiers being clumsy and dim, rather than it being particularly impressive. Dr. Nelson jumps to shooting at mind-controlled people far too easily and almost matter-of-factly rather than coming up with something a bit less deadly to resolve the situation.

But the most significant issue of the film's own internal logic is that 'It' arrives with eight of its mind control bats, and it will take two weeks to make eight more, which makes it difficult to take over the small town of Beachwood, much less the world!

"Get back! I have a can of Raid in my pocket!"

There are some other minor issues that I leave for those who watch the film to discover on their own as well, but even with that all said, I do recommend this film. Just be aware of what you’re getting into beforehand. I find it a very fun romp that makes me smile more often than groan at its eccentricities. If you’re a fan of 50s sci-fi movies, I feel it’s a must-see.

--This one has a few big stars involved: Peter Graves, Lee Van Cleef, Beverly Garland, Sally Fraser, and Dick Miller. Their performances really help sell this film, especially Graves, Van Cleef, and Garland.

--The monster is more comical than scary. It’s rather small too, the idea behind it was that it was a vegetable creature and that it would be squat due to high gravity of its home world, since at the time of filming they apparently thought Venus had higher gravity than Earth. Its appearance is fairly well-known these days, although likely not many know just quite where it’s from originally. Beverly Garland commented that it was shorter than she was, so they tweaked it a bit from its original form, but it’s still rather small, and its face does look rather goofy.

--Despite it being generally considered to be a mediocre film in the genre, in 1967 there was a made-for-TV remake titled Zontar, the Thing from Venus. I’ve not seen this version, but the consensus I have seen is that the original is superior.

--The bats stood out in my mind for over 40 years before I was able to find out what movie they were from and acquire it on DVD (along with Attack of the Crab Monsters, which I will be reviewing soon). I was finally able to track this movie down after some internet searching. They are comical to me today, but a very young me found them creepy and even disturbing.

Kind of a fish and a bat maybe?

Two and a half mind controlling bat-like creatures out of four. I wrestled with rating this as low as one and a half and as high as three, but in the end settled on a fair two and a half. The fun factor outweighs its issues, but those issues do bring it down a bit.

Morella is a Gen Xer who likes strange things a bit too much.


  1. There's an actual movie called Attack of the Crab Monsters??? OMG, that is hilarious.

    1. There is! And It's next! I want to watch it again first, but it's one of the movies I loved as a kid that may not be great, but it is fun and very bizarre at times.

    2. I also had fun with 'Venusian vegetable visitor'! XD


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