It Came from Outer Space, the 1953 science fiction movie that inspired Steven Spielberg to one of his greatest, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, still plays pretty well over sixty years later. Its story of a spaceship crashing in the Arizona desert (here nicely played by Southern California) is a bit by-the-numbers. Even so, it was the dawn of science fiction movies so audiences had a perfect right to be startled and scared. It’s still atmospheric and entertaining.
It Came from Outer Space was adapted from a story by Ray Bradbury and directed by Jack Arnold, with musical contributions by Henry Mancini, including a fine use of the Theremin. The special effects deserve an A for effort, and the alien beast is quite pleasing of aspect. Clifford Stine’s cinematography shimmers with unseen menace. The stars, Richard Carlson, Barbara Rush and Charles Drake, do their best with the on-the-nose dialogue and earnest speechifying, typical of much science fiction. Unlike Shin Godzilla, discussed above, they explain just enough and no more. The movie also stands against the anti-communist paranoia that soured the world at the time, portraying the alien others as victims of misfortune, even if they are gross looking.
Trivia Note: Among the supporting players we like are Joseph Sawyer, once a reliable Warner Brothers stock player and Russell Johnson . . . yes, that Russell Johnson, aka “the Perfesser!” and a former Zodiac suspect. Gilligan, happily, is naught to be seen.
Ialways wondered about him....
Research for my next novel, Captain Zigzag, is taking me across vast oceans of research (with no shore on the horizon). Some of the books I read land right in my boat. Others miss, but still manage some insight and a fair amount of pleasure.
Saga of a Wayward Sailor by TristanJones, is one of the latter. Jones was something of a notorious character in the last century, a yachtsman who sailed the globe, achieving the odd distinction of sailing at both the highest (Lake Titicaca in the Andes) and lowest (The Dead Sea) bodies of water on the globe, a stunt he recounts in his book The Incredible Voyage.
He also wrote other memoirs that, on examination, seem to expose him as a true-life unreliable narrator. (His account of having served in the British Merchant Marine during World War II seems to have been easily scuttled by one researcher).
How much of Saga is factual didn’t concern me too much, as Jones is a colorful and excellent yarn-spinner. Whatever the facts of particular events, the details of sailing and life aboard his little yacht The Creswell with his faithful three-legged Labrador, Nelson, ring with right details, boisterous humor, high color and deep affection.
As he tells it, Jones endured hair-raising hurricanes, pesky passengers and a near-fatal midnight deep-sixing by a whale in the mid-Atlantic. Set during the mid-1960s, the book also leaves a vivid impression of the world at that time as Jones makes his way back and forth across the Atlantic and in and around the coastlines and canals of Europe. His accounts of life ashore under Spain’s Franco dictatorship are fascinating and fairly compelling.
In this post-truth area, some readers may find even the idea of such a book offensive, but, true or not, Tristan Jones makes for good company, so long as you wear a healthy scowl and keep a shaker of salt on your bed stand.
After all, we ain’t talking about the President of the United States here.
Copyright 2017 by Thomas Burchfield
Thomas Burchfield’s Butchertown, a ripping, 1920s gangster shoot-‘em-up novel has been called “incendiary by David Corbett (The Art of Character) and “A sexy, violent non-stop thrill ride deep into the seedy underbelly of post-World War I San Francisco” by Booklife/Publishers Weekly. His contemporary Dracula novel Dragon's Ark scorerd the IPPY, NIEA, and Halloween Book Festival awards for horror in 2012. He’s also author of the original screenplays Whackers, The Uglies, Now Speaks the Devil, and Dracula: Endless Night (e-book editions only). Published by Ambler House Publishing, all are available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powell's Books, and other retailers. His reviews have appeared in Bright Lights Film Journal and The Strand Magazine and he published a two-part look at the life and career of the great film villain (and spaghetti western star) Lee Van Cleef in Filmfax. He lives in Northern California with his wife, Elizabeth.