It Came from Outer Space

Just nearly a week ago, I made a run down to Austin to catch a, well, a science fiction double feature. No, really. And in 3-D! It had been a while since I’d watched red-blue 3-D, as opposed to the stuff they have at IMAX these days with the cross-stitched goggle lenses. It reminds me of nothing so much as those dioramas that you’ll get at some natural history museums, with all kinds of animals and rocks in the foreground, and a painted background. But mostly, it was eye-poppingly 3-D, which was pretty cool. I speculate that it works a lot better in black and white than it does in color, although I’d need something recent to compare with know for sure.

My point is, good or bad, I’ve already gotten my money’s worth out of these movies. I bet this is how it was in the early days of 3-D at the real-life cinema, too. Conveniently, It Came from Outer Space is a pretty good film in its own right. Everyone will talk about Cold War paranoia, and maybe there’s something to it, but I think that’s entirely too narrow of a reading. The fact is, the outsider has always terrified us as a species, and it probably always will. Sure, we’re thinking of Muslim extremists these days instead of Russian commies, but it’s all the same thing, and it will be in another fifty years too. Although, perhaps with literal aliens.

So, there’s this meteor, right? Well, no, it’s really a spaceship, but try convincing anyone else in town of that when you’re just an amateur astronomer that hasn’t a lick of credibility. Then, before you know it, some Vorlon-looking aliens have started kidnapping people and then posing as them and buying up all kinds of metals and electronic parts. And now that you finally have enough evidence to convince the sheriff, oops, they’ve got your girlfriend. Now that otherwise highly useful posse he is itching to use, it’ll just get your girlfriend killed. (And quite possibly the Professor, for that matter, whose name turns out to be George.) But it’s okay, because they only want to go home and don’t mean us any harm, it’s just they’re scared that we’ll lash out and kill them for the crime of being different. …or is it all a trick, and they mean to wipe us off the face of the galaxy?

On the one hand, I get a little bit annoyed at sci-fi film after film in the ’50s and ’60s telling me that humans are paranoid freaks who’ll destroy anything they don’t understand or fear that they can’t control. Even though they’ve developed space travel, surely there must be some aliens out there who are paranoid freaks in their own rights rather than benevolent overlords who just want to teach us a lesson and then be on their way. But on the other hand, the scene where the sheriff crushes the (obviously fake, not even minimally frightening) spider under his foot in demonstration of what he’d do to those aliens just for the sin of alienness? It touches me, man, deep in my soul. So, y’know, maybe no aliens for me.

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