CD: It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958)

March 13, 2014 | By


ItTerrorFromBeyondSpaceScore: Excellent

Label:  Monstrous Movie Music

Released:  April 19, 2011


Tracks / Album Length:  26 tracks / (36:14)

Special Notes:  16-page colour booklet with liner notes by album co-producer David Schecter / Limited to 1000 copies




Right from the urgent Main Title with its twirling brass and an unwavering sense of urgency, It! just grabs the listener the way most classic B-movies are supposed to: hard, fast, and keeping the audience hypnotized and hungry for blood when nothing is happening (and maybe won’t).

Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter’s sleek yet declamatory writing style was well suited to monster movies because while one composer excelled at lush themes, the other liked Big Loud Brass, so their scores were ripe with striking contrasts which made them instantly engaging. Being longtime collaborators, there’s excellent continuity between the score’s two main moods – haunting and aggressive – as the pair stick with the main theme’s melodic structure, and neatly reduce it for slow cues like the exceptional “Ann and the Colonel,” which beautifully sways from creeping danger to romance.

The reverberating piano chords in “The Monster” is very reminiscent of Bronislau Kaper’s superlative Them! (1954), and the electric violin in the “Space Ship” and later “Searching the Ship” recall its heavy use by Nathan Van Cleave in “Perchance to Dream,” one of the creepiest episodes of the original Twilight Zone series. (There’s also the step-like, 8-note shimmering motif which vividly recalls a similar use in a few Star Trek episodes.)

The extensive use of trilling woodwinds (“Gino”) was another classic genre convention (the wavering notes were heavily used by David Buttolph in his classic 1953 horror score House of Wax), making It! a perfect sampling of fifties monster music, but unlike the sometimes shrillness of the Universal monster films, there’s arguably a slightly richer amount of orchestral colours (and perhaps due to the film’s slower pacing, the composers seem to have benefited in being able to write longer cues to develop and shift between their collection of suspense and shock motifs).

It! may be short at 36 mins., but it’s a delicious mix of sustained chords, rumbling piano chords, shock stabs, and some haunting organ effects, and without strings, there’s no warmth for what’s ostensibly an early bodycount movie. The repetition of a lumbering motif performed by leadened lower brass and trilling woodwinds adds some unintentional comedy, because it’s so declarative and in your face (and ear drums), but it’s also a fair bet the composers wrote their score tongue-in-cheek, since there was only so much that could be done to heighten the terror of a guy in a rubber suit. (If the mocking vaudevillian and buzzing trumpets in “Foiled Plot” and “The Reactor, respectively, are any indication, they damned well knew It! was a dopey movie.)

Even with its genre clichés, there’s a dramatic progression within the score which follows the similar peaks & valleys of Alien (1979), the film largely inspired by this classic B-movie, and if one listens carefully to Sawtell and Shefter’s score, it my well have been a perfect fit, had Alien been made in 1958.

Mastered from very clean mono sources, neatly sequenced, and augmented with two bonus cuts featuring the woo-woo electronic violin and insect-like electronic instruments, MMM’s CD (limited to 1000 copies) also comes with very lengthy and witty liner notes.



© 2011; revised 2014 Mark R. Hasan



Additional Links:
IMDB: Sawtell / Shefter  —  Composer Filmographies: Sawtell / Shefter —  Soundtrack Album

Select Merchants:
Monstrous Movie Music — — BSX — Intrada — Screen Archives Entertainment

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Category: Soundtrack Reviews

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