It Came from Outer Space - Universal Essentials Collection 4K Ultra HD + 3DOverview -
Richard Carlson battles another 3-D creature from beyond in the chilling Universal Classic sci-fi thriller It Came From Outer Space. Now on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray (2-D), this excellent feature is given an impressive HDR10 transfer that leaves the film looking cleaner, clearer, and more cinematic than ever before while retaining the exceptional DTS-HD 3.0 audio mix. The previous Blu-ray with 3-D Film Archive’s magnificent 3-D Blu-ray restoration is also included for a fully complete and exciting addition to the collection. Highly Recommended
Based on a story by acclaimed writer Ray Bradbury, It Came from Outer Space starring Richard Carlson and Barbara Rush is a science fiction classic that is as thought-provoking and tantalizing today as it was when it first "landed" on the silver screen. When amateur astronomer John Putnam (Carlson) and his fiancée Ellen Fields (Rush) are stargazing in the desert, a spaceship bursts from the sky and crashes to the ground. Just before a landslide buries the ship, a mysterious creature emerges and disappears into the darkness. Of course, when he tells his story to the sheriff (Charles Drake), John is branded a crackpot. Before long, strange things begin to happen, but will the tide of disbelief turn in time?
- Includes 4K UHD, Blu-ray and a digital copy of It Came from Outer Space (Subject to expiration. Go to NBCUCodes.com for details.)
- 4x Sharper than Full HD with High Dynamic Range (HDR10)
- The Universe According to Universal
- Theatrical Trailer
- Feature Commentary with Film Historian Tom Weaver
- Theatrical Trailer (3D)
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
As I already previously reviewed this film in 2016, I'll defer to my original talking points because frankly, I have nothing more to add beyond "it's still an awesome flick."
"If we've been seeing things, it's because we did see them!"
You've got to hand it to Hollywood for grabbing onto the hysteria of an era. When people are at their most fearful, they're that much easier to entertain! By the end of the 1940s and into the 1950s, Americans were on the edge of their seats with news of atomic weaponry and the looming threat of communists. While we had our own weapons, we were still open to attack. School kids were taught to duck and cover and at the height of the Red Scare, people were building flimsy ramshackle bomb shelters in their backyards just to feel some sense of security. Through it all, Hollywood was there to exploit it. Movies with mysterious alien invaders threatening to end our way of life proved to be a popular sight at movie theaters and Drive-In screens. Jack Arnold's 1953 film 'It Came From Outer Space' was no exception. As Universal Studio's first 3-D feature, it hit on all of the popular paranoia aspects of the era while providing an interesting twist thanks to legendary sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury.
Sand Rock, Arizona is a quiet sort of place. The people keep to themselves and have their own private way of doing things. They don't take to city life or trappings and that's just the way writer and amateur astronomer John Putnam (Richard Carlson) likes it. The people of Sand Rock, including Sheriff Matt Warren (Charles Drake), haven't quite warmed up to John, but the beautiful young schoolteacher Ellen Fields (Barbara Rush) has. As the romance between John and Ellen blooms, some uninvited visitors threaten to spoil things.
One evening while the pair are doing a little stargazing, John spots a gigantic meteor slam into an old mine out in the desert. When they reach the massive crater, John goes down alone to see what he can find. What he sees is the greatest discovery by man, a large spherical spaceship, and one of its doors is open! For a brief moment, John thinks he can see something alive inside - but when the door closes, a rockslide buries the spacecraft. When he tells the sheriff and the local newspaperman of what he saw, they write him off as the mysterious crackpot they've always taken him for. As the butt of jokes in the paper and on the radio, John is the only one that knows the truth. Alien visitors are here on Earth! When various townspeople start to act strangely or disappear altogether, the right people finally start to listen to John, but it may be too late to save humanity from a technologically superior alien race.
Like 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers,' 'The Earth Dies Screaming,' 'The Day The Earth Stood Still,' or any number of other science fiction films produced during the late 1940s and through the 1950s, 'It Came From Outer Space' tapped into the fears of an era. At a time when people were excited about the future, they were equally afraid of the unknown, afraid of a different political ideology and the threat of invasion. Hollywood stoked those fears with some terrific entertainment. While the vast majority of films stuck to the tried and true route of humanity triumphing over an evil invader, Jack Arnold's 'It Came From Outer Space' played things a tad differently. Working from an original story by Ray Bradbury, 'It Came From Outer Space' paints the titular alien race not as malevolent or benevolent but indifferent to us. These creatures, no matter how horrific they may appear, actually want nothing to do with us. Their landing on earth was an accident and their actions are strictly intended to facilitate their escape from the planet.
While the cycloptic alien invaders take the form of humans in order to go about their work, this is the rare case where they have no intention to assimilate or destroy. What's particularly fun and exciting about this film is the idea that we must take them at their word that their intentions are entirely peaceful. When you get right down to it, the film is actually a perfect mirror to the politics of the time. Just as much as people were afraid of being nuked out of existence, people were itching for a fight because that would at least provide some finality to the situation. The few people willing to sit down and negotiate were cast off as sympathizers or discredited because the only way to deal with any problem no matter how small is to pick up a rifle and force the desired result. Richard Carlson's John Putnam is that sympathizer, an educated man who only wants to learn and understand. He's put in the middle of two forces, one who wants to destroy outright and the other who will destroy when provoked. He must force both sides to see reason and it's a difficult task when they're both armed and extremely dangerous.
As much fun as it is to examine and dissect the intricate story ideas and characters, the true fun of 'It Came From Outer Space' is finally being able to see the film in 3D. There are some incredible uses of the format where objects protrude from the screen or the vast desert vistas that look like they go on into the distance for miles. Some of these little bits can feel like gimmicks or tricks, but the added sense of depth and dimension really goes a long toward sucking you into the film. It makes watching 'It Came From Outer Space' an experience rather than just another science fiction film you sit down and watch for 80 minutes of diverting entertainment. I have vague memories of seeing this movie as a kid but didn't remember much of it. While that bug-eyed creature is iconic and leaves a lasting impression, it was the story that caught my attention this time around. I loved how it played with familiar science fiction themes but had a unique spin on them. I appreciated the idea that humans could be just as much of a threat as an alien and how rational-minded individuals are stuck in the middle. 'It Came From Outer Space' is classic science fiction at its best, and now that it can be seen as intended in 3D. The experience feels complete and genre fans should get a real kick out of the visuals.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Deciding to buy It Came From Outer Space, I opted for the Universal Essentials Collection edition. Essentially the same as the standard version, but this one comes with a hard stock slipbox with art cards and reproduction film cel with a certificate of authenticity. The 4K version is pressed on a BD-66 disc with the same BD-50 disc included. A digital slip is also included as well as a 34-page booklet with photos from the film and marketing materials. The 4K disc loads to a static image main menu with standard navigation options.
Back in 2016, I gave a glowing review of It Came From Outer Space in large part to the magnificent work of 3-D Film Archive’s efforts restoring the film to full 3-D glory. And I still stand by that assessment - for the 3-D version of the film. Time, technology, and what appears to be a fresh scan later, the new 2D 4K UHD HDR10 transfer is quite impressive. The first thing I noticed was how much better resolved the film grain was. It’s still present without the appearance of smoothing, but it isn’t quite as noticeable and has a more cinematic appeal. Details are sharp and crisp as they were previously, but I felt like simple textures in Richard Carlson’s tweed suit or the floral pattern in Barbara Rush’s dress were much more prominent. Some soft scenes for optical effects persist. Optical effects or the various split-screen photography during a climactic confrontation still show their limitations but still look markedly better than the previous 2-D transfer. The HDR10 grading is on point as well showing off the film’s lovely Black and White grayscale heightening black levels, whites, and the shadows in between. Blacks are deep and inky without crush, and whites a bold and brilliant without blooming.
Now with my own personal biases for 3-D, I’ll still be revisiting that disc more often because it stands as one of 3-D Film Archive’s best efforts. That said, I can’t deny that this new 4K transfer is an impressive visual experience, especially over the 1080p 2-D transfer. If only we could have gotten 4K 3D Blu-ray we could be enjoying the best of both worlds. If you’re not 3-D enabled at home, this 4K disc is definitely the way to go. The shame here is 3-D Film Archive has had great success transferring to Anaglyph 3-D for those folks without 3-D televisions or projectors. I’d love to see them be able to rerelease this film for that reason so folks can experience this film multi-dimensionally as intended. It works well in 2-D but it really pops in 3-D.
Seeing no need to upgrade from what was already perfect, Universal wisely keeps the original DTS-HD MA 3.0 audio mix. Seven years later this mix is still a powerful beast. The first time that meteorite crashes into the screen for the opening title card, that explosion is loud and impactful. Likewise, the dialog is clear throughout and sound effects are on point. Here’s what I had to say about the mix in 2016:
Let's hope you don't have easily irritated neighbors! 3-D Film Archive gives 'It Came From Outer Space' an incredible English DTS-HD MA 3.0 mix. This sucker gets loud in all of the best ways. When the film needs to be quiet and conversational allowing the characters to set themselves up or state their fears, the mix is nice and even allowing the background effects to provide a nice sense of space and atmosphere. When the action picks up, that theremin score kicks in, expect your system to get a little extra workout! Restored from the original stereophonic elements, this track is loud in all of the best ways. From the first big impact explosion to the rock slide to the thrilling conclusion, this track punches up the LFE tones giving the audio an unsettling sense of immersion. In all honesty, you may feel compelled to turn down the film during these moments - don't do that! Even if your neighbors are knocking on your door - keep the movie loud! While the audio has it's notable ebbs and flows, it doesn't overpower the mix. Dialogue is still audible without any interference and the rich background audio only complements the impressive 3D experience.
The same previous bonus features have thankfully been ported over. Sadly nothing new is in the soup but all extras are included on the 4K disc including Tom Weaver’s excellent audio commentary. I hadn’t listened to that track since I reviewed it and I had a nice time reconnecting with it.
- Audio Commentary: Film Historian Tom Weaver provides an entertaining and informative commentary track. He keeps the commentary light and full of facts and quotes from the later filmmakers who were inspired by this film.
- The Universe According to Universal: (SD 31:36) This is a very entertaining and interesting look back at all of the space and alien-related movies Universal produced throughout its history. Much of the feature focuses on 'It Came From Outer Space' but also draws in other filmmakers to give examples of how their work was influenced by this film.
- Theatrical Trailer: (HD 2:41) Available in 2D or 3D.
One of the bright spots in the Golden Age of 3-D cinema, It Came From Outer Space is visually exciting, but also proves to be a thoughtful and entertaining piece of science fiction. It doesn’t work just to supply the 3-D gimmick but rather benefits from the visual spectacle. Now in 2-D 4K UHD with HDR10, the film looks absolutely magnificent. I still dearly love the 3-D presentation, but I have to admit this film looks tremendous in 2-D 2160p. Kudos to Universal for including the 2016 disc so fans can have their cake and eat it too in 3-D. My first time with one of the Universal Essentials Collector’s Edition sets, I love the hard case slipbox and while I don’t need the extra swag items, I admit they’re a fun addition. The main draw here will be the phenomenal A/V experience for a genre classic so even if you opt for the standard version, you’re getting a terrific set of discs. Highly Recommended
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