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VINE VOICEon April 4, 2006
It's always a pleasure when the B-movies of our childhood are released onto DVD. We don't see these little gems anymore on television (even though we have over 100 channels), mainly, I think, because they are in black and white and this is a color TV world.

But these are the films we stayed up on countless Saturday nights to see and they remain with us psychotronic fans as a most pleasant memory. This MGM Midnite Movies entry is a perfect example, as we find that we enjoy these films all over again. Now, if we can only get the kids to sit still for black and white.

The first movie "The Monster That Challenged the World" (1957)is an intelligently thought out little picture. Mysterious disappearances are occurring in the Salton Sea. Tim Holt (Remember him from "treasure of the Sierra Madre"?) and scientist Hans Conreid (Uncle Tounoose from "Make Room for Daddy") investigate and discover that an earthquake has freed prehistoric mollusks. If not stopped, they will overrun the environment. The movie moves at a brisk pace and has several good chills. Look for character actor Milton Parsons in a small role as the county archivist.

"It! The Terror from Outer Space" (1958) is a better movie than one would suspect from the title. In the year 1973 (!) a ship is sent to Mars to rescue the survivors of a previous manned excursion. Of that original crew, only Marshall Thompson is left alive. Circumstantial evidence has him pegged as the killer, but as the crew soon learns, a Martian stowaway is responsible and will kill this crew if nothing is done to stop it. Intelligently scripted by Jerome Bixby (who wrote a few "Star Trek" and "Outer Limits" episodes in the 60s), the picture always keeps us involved. The acting is also solid, with Thompson, Dabbs Greer, and Ray "Crash" Corrigan in the monster suit. It may be of some interest that the film was remade by Ridley Scott in a fashion as "Alien."

All in all, a most pleasant evening at a bargain price.
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on December 9, 2006
Edward Garea did an excellent review about this wonderful old film on April 4th, 2006. There is not much I can say, but I just want to share my thoughts. To start, this is a wonderful old black and white "B" horror film from the 1950's. I can not understand why we never see these old films on TV. I see many old black and white films on AMC and really enjoy them, but most I've never heard of. I recall when growing up, sitting up to the wee hours of the morning, waiting with anticipation, for these wonderful movies to come on. In our area, Double Chiller Theatre came on at 11:30 each Saturday night and I begged my mother to let me sit up and watch these movies. Two movies would be shown and I recall my favorites were, "House On Haunted Hill". "War of the Colassal Beast", "I Was A Teenage Werewolf", "The Werewolf" and "It,The Terror From Beyond Space". In my opinion, it is sad that the kids of today do not care for, or appreciate these wonderful old films. I only hope that more of the "B" horror films are released soon on DVD. Let's face it, once our generation is gone, nobody will care about these wonderful old films.
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on February 14, 2007
These were two of the scariest films I saw as a kid, genuine late-night TV fun at sleepovers. I was totally engrossed in them, tho on re-viewing them I didn't quite feel the same as I did 40 years ago. While Monster is a pretty typcial, well, monster flick, it has lots of funny twists - mutunts (with radiation thorwn in), good heros, and a suspenseful plot. The one that really got me was IT, this mysterious alien that sneaks on a rocket. It duels with the crew, picking them off one by one: in many ways, it is almost the same film as Alien, but much scarier to me at the age I was if less slick. There are really wonderful films, with memories from my past. Thus, I wd recommend them for 50s nostalgia and xcellent on their own if you can get beyond the old-style effects.
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on July 5, 2007
Although I have other old SciFi movies I may enjoy a little more, this set is entertaining. The first movie, "The Monster That Challenged the World", is quite well done with some interesting character development. It kept my interest with all the different types of odd people and the story was good as well. The special effects on the caterpillar looking Giant Sea Mollusks wasn't bad. The story centers on an earthquake opening a fissure to an underground cave that possibly caused eggs to come out of dormancy and hatch. They must search all the waterways to stop the creatures from killing people and livestock.

The second movie, "It! The Terror From Beyond Space", has a group of astrounauts going up to recover the lone survivor of another crew that went to Mars. They don't believe his story of aliens that killed his entire crew. They are ready to begin court martial proceedings followed by a firing squad. As they start their journey back to Earth they find out that he wasn't lying, and there is indeed a horrible creature that will kill them all if it can. One of the creatures has slipped aboard the ship and is hiding in vents and dark areas. A little like an older version of "Alien". Both DVDs are in decent condition. If you enjoy old SciFi monster movies, you will probably find these two worth owning. I don't regret buying them a bit.
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on September 19, 2007
The Midnight Movie DVD's always serve up nice double-feature discs, but this one is special because BOTH movies are quintesential 50's flicks. MONSTER THAT CHALLENGED THE WORLD features one of the best on-set created monsters of the decade (the ending is a classic), with some nice support work by Hans Conried and Phillip Coolidge, underwater scenes with giant snails and a great shot of the monster getting its eye poked out. IT! is a 50's perenial, that was (arguably) the basis for ALIEN. Solid Jerome Bixby script, and decent, atmosphereic direction from old hand Edward L. Cahn. Add nice photography, solid work by Marshall Thompson, Dabbs Greer and Ann Doran (all great 50's thesps) and one of Paul Blaisdell's best monster suits, and you have a great monster-on-the-spaceship flick. The transfers here are beauitful, so this disc is a great bargain for the sci-fi geek in all of us.
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THE MONSTER THAT CHALLENGED THE WORLD is a little-known and tragically under-appreciated gem of a film. 1940's Cowboy star Tim Holt portrays Cmdr. John Twillinger, ("Twill" to his friends), the no-nonsense, newly-appointed Head of Operations at the United States Navy's Salton Sea Research Facility. Shortly before his arrival, a small earthquake occurred in the area, opening a fissure in the floor of the Salton Sea. The inrush of warm, slightly radioactive water into the caverns below awakens dozens of long-dormant, prehistoric snails. The slimy creatures eventually escape from their subterranean prison and begin foraging on everything in sight, growing into slimy giants. Unfortunately for the newly-appointed Twillenger and his men, that feeding frenzy soon includes an unlucky Navy parachute tester and two wet-behind-the-ears sailors in charge of taking a small boat out to recover the test jumpers. The always fun Hans Conried co-stars as Dr. Jess Rogers, the irritable scientist who's tasked by Twillenger with figuring out just what in the heck is going on. Initially, Holt & Conried's characters are at odds with each other when the threat first appears and Twillenger starts demanding answers but fast. Forced to work together in order to solve the rapidly developing crisis, the two men eventually establish a mutual respect (and even a friendship of sorts) when things really begin to unravel, and it becomes glaringly apparent that the goings-on in & around the Salton Sea are anything but normal.

This film is another of those sci-fi/horror sub-genre 'Big Bug' films, like "Them!," "The Deadly Mantis," "Beginning of the End," "Tarantula", etc., and while I will grant you that it isn't a movie that's going to change your life or anything, I want to stress just how much this wonderfully quirky little film has going for it. What struck me the very first time I watched TMTCTW was the wealth of unusual, against-type characters that, from lead role to bit part, were so wonderfully written and realized by some perfectly-cast actors. Max Showalter (a.k.a. Casey Adams) who starred as Lt. Dick Chasen(!) in "The Indestructible Man" and played 'Grandpa Fred' in "16 Candles" has a small part as one of Hans Conried's assistants. Creepy-looking bit player Milton Parsons is a hoot as Lewis Clark Dobbs, the eccentric (and more than a little eerie) caretaker of the local area museum & archives. He is a riot, stealing every scene he's in, and he's just one of the reasons this movie is so memorable. (I think Parsons would have been a perfect fit as a member of TV's Addams Family.) There's also an amusing scene with the local coroner; a man who keeps his lunch handy (and fresh) by storing it under a sheet in one of the refrigerated drawers in the morgue! Now coroners with a morbid sense of humor have long been a staple on TV crime shows and in the movies, but TMTCTW features the earliest depiction I've seen of that character type.

Lead actor Tim Holt is perhaps most famously known for his supporting roles in great films like "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre," "The Magnificent Ambersons," "Swiss Family Robinson" and "Stagecoach." But did you know he also starred in his own series of RKO-produced "B" westerns in the 1940's thru the early 1950's, making almost 50 of these modest-budgeted "oaters" before retiring!? Holt is enshrined in the Western Performers Hall of Fame as the third highest-grossing cowboy star of all time AND he holds the unique distinction of being Hollywood's fastest on-screen gun. Very cool. And did you also know that he was a decorated WWII hero? He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Victory Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, and Purple Heart, among them. Holt eventually walked away from the business in 1952, disillusioned. After a five year absence, he briefly came out of his self-imposed retirement to star in THE MONSTER THAT CHALLENGED THE WORLD and two other small films before retiring permanently. Sadly, he died from bone cancer in 1973 at the too young age of 54.

Holt is really terrific here. He initially comes across as a gruff, posturing, blowhard tin-soldier type, but as the film progresses we discover that he is, in fact, a gentle and genuinely caring man who does the best he can when thrown into the midst of an unthinkably nightmarish situation. His fine performance here inspired me to track down and purchase all 4 volumes of his B-westerns, offered thru the W-B Archive Collection (and also here on Amazon). Each 5-disc volume features 9-10 movies. Great stuff if you love westerns and/or old movies. Holt makes an awesomely NON-typical leading man; he's short, chunky and fairly soft-spoken. Basically nothing at all like the strapping, stalwart types who usually played leads in this sort of film (Kenneth Tobey, John Agar, Richard Carlson, et. al.). There's a great little scene between Twill and his love interest, Gail; played sweetly (if a little woodenly) by Audrey Dalton. Twillenger is working late into the night at the hastily set up joint command center, where both military & local law enforcement are working to locate & destroy the creatures. He's in the middle of polishing off a sandwich & chips when Gail (Dalton) calls. She tells him she'd like to accept his earlier invitation to dinner - IF he's still interested. A tired Holt perks up immediately at this and Gail asks if he's eaten yet. Twill quickly responds "Why, errr... no, I'm starved!" He then notices the half-eaten sandwich still in his hand and quickly dumps it back onto the plate, as if Gail can somehow see him and knows he's lying. It's a small, cute moment, but it nicely showcases just what a talented actor the man was.

Holt also plays nicely against type again during the film's hair-raising climax, where he must single-handedly battle one of the monsters. One of the prehistoric egg sacks, brought back to the base laboratory at the beginning of the picture, accidentally hatches and the hungry monster attacks Gail and her young daughter, Sandy. Cut off from the lab's exit, Gail attempts to hide from the creature but finds herself trapped in the lab's tiny storage room with her terrified daughter. This scene is a powerful one; the mother, believing that no one else knows they're in the lab (and that they'll soon be eaten) clutches her daughter tight, telling little Sandy to "keep {her} eyes closed for a little while - no matter what." She tries to sooth the hysterical girl, rocking her as the hungry monstrosity methodically chews its way through the flimsy closet door. When Twill stumbles into the lab and is confronted by the hideous 15 foot killer crustacean he reacts like any average guy REALLY would. Does he snatch up the ax hanging on the wall, puff his chest out and leap onto the monster's back like Tarzan?? Hell no! He very wisely stays as far away from the slimy thing as possible, still doing whatever he can to distract it from the woman & her child. Throwing jars full of chemicals and anything else that isn't nailed down at the massive mollusk. When he runs out of beakers & bottles he grabs a fire extinguisher, spraying it into the thing's eyes to blind it. When that's emptied, he wrenches a steam hose loose from its fitting and aims it at the monster. Scalded by the superheated steam, the cooked Kraken recoils in agony and starts blindly destroying the lab. The look of utter horror on Holt's pudgy, sweat-soaked face displays the genuine terror that any average person would truly feel if they were trapped in a room with a huge, man-eating monstrosity. Thankfully, he's able to keep the beast at bay with the improvised steam cooker until the MP's show up. When they do, Holt doesn't grab one of their rifles and open fire like Rambo, he gets the hell out of their way and lets the soldiers do their job, riddling the berserk behemoth with gunfire until it collapses, dead, to the floor.

The Salton Sea location was a nice change of pace from the usual urban setting that these films often had; a breath of fresh salty air. The title creature is a wonderfully-realized full-size animatronic prop with a suitably grotesque appearance, complete with bulging gelatinous eyes, goo-dripping pincers and grappling feet/fingers/feelers. There are a couple of shockingly gruesome (for the time) death scenes, which still manage to pack a jolt. The writing is quite good, especially for this kind of film. Sure there's some stiff dialogue, but everything is so out of the ordinary compared to other sci-fi (and especially giant insect) films of the period that it makes up for it - and then some. Good all-around performances from the supporting cast add real punch to the script, with wonderfully quirky characters peppered throughout the screenplay: the HQ switchboard operator who is always gossiping to her mother, the local sheriff who surprisingly doesn't bristle at the military's being in charge but instead wisely does all he can to coordinate with the Navy to bring a swift end to the threat of the monsters, the coroner & the flaky museum curator I mentioned earlier. Just all around pitch-perfect stuff here. THE MONSTER THAT CHALLENGED THE WORLD is one of the best of the Big Bug Films and easily one of my all-time favorite sci-fi/horror films, from this or any period in motion picture history.

IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE! is another fantastic little film which almost certainly informed Dan O'Bannon's script for ALIEN, (as did PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES, which is also available as part of MGM's Midnight Movie collection). IT! was the original, and it still has the basic tension to keep you hooked. The film's brief 68 minute running time means you won't be checking your watch too often. The script is tight and moves along briskly to the heroic climax. The monster, designed & constructed by low-budget legend Paul Blasdell, is obviously a guy in a suit, but It still manages to be quite effective. The spaceship's interior sets and the miniature rocket prop itself are painfully low-budget stuff, but then that's a big part of the charm of these old films. The core story is what grabs you and that's why it still worked so well some 20 years later, when Ridley Scott was given a chance to retell the same basic story, with a much bigger budget.

The acting in IT! is mainly of the wooden variety, but the filmmakers likely put this entire movie in the can in less than 10 days, so in-depth discussions with the actors about their characters' histories & motivations probably didn't happen. The various actors were given the concept for the film's plot, agreed to do the movie, learned their lines and then delivered them while hitting their required marks and... Cut! Print! That's a wrap! When you think about it, this is one of those films that actually succeeds DESPITE its paltry budget. A good core concept with steadily mounting tension, a few genuine scares, a clever resolution and a cool-looking creature have kept this from flick from dropping off the radar over the ensuing decades. I prefer this film over a lot of better-made sci-fi from the same (and later) eras, despite the high school play-level sets, obvious rubber suit monster & super-imposed rocketship cut out. I'd certainly rather watch IT! or TMTCTW than the soul-less, computer-generated creature features & tasteless splatter-horror/torture porn gunk that clogs today's cineplexes.

The audio & video quality of this double DVD is pretty solid. (The moody lighting for IT! is especially nice.) The mono sound is decent, with only minor hiss & crackling. In fact, I only have a couple of negative comments regarding this MGM double feature. 1) The aspect ratios are, I believe, wrong for both films. The versions for this disc are 4:3 cropped "pan & scan" which is a bummer. 2) This release is on one of those wonky "flipper" discs. I've personally never had any issues with the several flipper discs I own (thankfully), but others have reported playability problems. I don't think this would be as much of an issue nowadays with the current generation of DVD & Blu-ray players, but older players could be problematic so Buyer Beware. The good news is that if you're concerned about the playability of these flipper discs over time, these two terrific films can also be purchased separately. 5 solid STARS for this winning combination of old school sci-fi shockers! :-)
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on October 18, 2015
Image quality was even better than I expected for a nearly sixty year old movie. The movie was crisp and clear on my Samsung Ultra HD 8500 model television. There were a couple of times during the movie that it was obvious that they had to paste in a lower quality element possibly from the earlier DVD to fill a bad spot. But that only lasted for less than 10 seconds so it was not a problem. Overall it was a huge step up from the old DVD in quality. The old DVD looks pitiful after watching this new Widescreen Blu-Ray. Much brighter and clearer and higher resolution. Highly recommend it to any fan of 1950's Science-Fiction. Leaves the old DVD in the dust as far as image quality.
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on January 15, 2000
This is one of the best cold war flicks. It has all the traits THEM, BEGINNING OF THE END, IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA, and has all the warmth of TARANTULA, an THE GIANT BOHEMOTH. Misunderstood creatures from a past age whom are suddently unleashed on a present day world. the victom count is low but well placed. The last sceen comes right out of Norman Rockwell. this is the 50's lest we forget. what is nice about this film is that your told why every thing is happening. this is a very enjoyable title, this is one of my collection, and is top shelf. I think you will enjoy this as much as I do.
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on November 7, 2010
Back in 1979, as I sat in a theater next to my soon-to-be wife watching the new sci-fi rage "Alien," I whispered to her somewhere in mid-movie that I just knew I had seen this movie before. As we left the theater, I told her that though I knew it was impossible, I could swear I had somehow seen "Alien" before even though we had just viewed it on it's debut weekend. Some time later, someone who knew I was a sci-fi fan presented me with a copy of the book "Science Fictionary." As I read the book (which was basically an alphabetical listing of sci-fi film plots with the author's opinions added) I came to the entry for "It! The Terror From Beyond Space" and my suspicions about "Alien" were finally vindicated. Indeed, even the book's author asserted the obvious "uncredited" remake of "It!" that "Alien" was. Alien gets on board ship undetected. Alien uses air ducts to move around ship. No effective weapons on board to fight almost invulnerable alien. Alien finally killed by opening ship up to vacuum of space. Same movie, except that "It!" did it first and did it better without the benefit of exploding abdomens and slimy decapitated androids.

As for "The Monster That Challenged The World," as a kid seeing it on the big screen, I was scared out of my seat several times during the film! The scene where the monster comes up behind the old gatekeeper (played by the same guy who was Arnold the pig's owner on Green Acres) and inserts it's pincer-like fangs into the old man's neck to suck the life out of him had me shivering and feeling goosebumps on the back of my neck for weeks afterwards! Considering it's obvious low budget as well as the era when it was made, the film managed a good plot and plenty of suspense. The studio got considerably more than its money's worth from the cast and crew!

To get both of these great old sci-fi gems in one package at such a low price makes it a no-brainer for any fan of early sci-fi films.
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on May 6, 2007
These two 50s Sci-Fi flicks are similiar to many of this era. Good acting beautiful women n nice cars. Monsters are not real scary but both have good story lines. MONSTER THAT CHALLENGED THE WORLD stars TIM HOLT (Treasure Of The Sierra Madre) Story is filmed in Southern Caliornia around a series of Canals. The Giant Worms start in THE SALTON SEA and migrate into the inner water canals. Story moves along at a good pace with a good ending. Recommend the film for a very good sample of 50S SCI-Fi at its best. IT the other film in the 2 disc set was a original film the ever popular ALIEN films in the 70s were base on.This is a good two disc set an I highly recommend both of them.
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