It took Varno six weeks to write the script, the original working title of which was Creature from Galaxy 27. The story was partially influenced by the real-life Space Race and the Howard Hawks film The Thing from Another World (1951). Screenwriters Jerome Bixby and Harold Jacob Smith gave Varno uncredited assistance with the dialogue. With a budget of about $68,000, it was shot over seven days at the Charlie Chaplin Studios, Bronson Canyon and a television station on Mount Lee in Hollywood.
The Blood Beast alien costume was also previously used in the Roger Corman film Teenage Caveman (1958), which was filmed just two weeks earlier. Art director Daniel Haller, who built the rocket-ship and other props, slept at the sound stage between work sessions. Following dissatisfaction with his treatment by the Cormans, Varno pursued two successful arbitration cases, one of which was for underpayment. The other was in response to Gene Corman’s original story writing credit, even though Varno claimed to have written the entire story himself.
The film was featured in a 1996 episode of the comedy television series, Mystery Science Theater 3000.
A rocket-ship carrying astronaut John Corcoran (Michael Emmet) launches and orbits the Earth, marking the United States’ first manned space launch. Shortly after taking off, the ship is struck by an unknown object, forcing Corcoran to abort the mission and land. However, the equipment cannot handle the fast descent back into the atmosphere and the ship crash lands in the woods, killing Corcoran. Dave Randall (Ed Nelson) and Donna Bixby (Georgianna Carter), two technicians from a nearby space agency tracking station, locate the crashed ship and recover Corcoran’s body. They are baffled, however, by what appears to be a giant tear in the side of the destroyed spacecraft and a mud-like substance covering some of the wreckage. Randall and Bixby are joined by lead scientist Dr. Alex Wyman (Tyler McVey), technician Steve Dunlap (John Baer) and physician Julie Benson (Angela Greene), who was also Corcoran’s fiancee. Wyman observes that Corcoran’s body exhibits no signs of rigor mortis, and that the blood pooling beside him is not livid as it should be. The team brings the corpse back to their lab to run tests and find further irregularities. Although the body lacks a heartbeat or pulse, it maintains the blood pressure of a living human being. After looking at his blood in a microscope, they find unusual, unidentifiable cells that seem resistant to destruction from human white blood cells.
The team tries to call for further assistance, but find the radio is no longer working. Randall heads outside to check the power transformers, and is attacked by a large creature (Ross Sturlin) hiding in the underbrush around the station. Randall fires a few shots at the creature with his pistol and escapes unscathed. Although he did not get a good look at the creature, he describes it to the rest of the team as similar in size to a bear. Later, the team finds the infirmary has been trashed and Corcoran’s body is gone. They initially believe the creature has broken in and stole the corpse, but are shocked to instead find Corcoran has mysteriously regained consciousness. Upon checking his blood again, there is no trace of the mysterious cells from before, but after investigating Corcoran’s body, they find the cells have changed into lizard-like fetuses and entered into his abdominal cavity. The creature later breaks into the lab again, this time beheading Dr. Wyman. Randall and Dunlap are initially suspicious that Corcoran was involved in the death, which he denies, but it appears he has some sort of telepathic connection with the creature. Despite Wyman’s death, Corcoran does not believe the creature is evil, but rather simply misunderstood. He implores the others to give the creature a chance to explain its actions, and asks that they not condemn it as a monster simply because it is different.
As the others plot to destroy the creature with improvised gas bombs and flares, Corcoran flees the station and finds the creature in a nearby cave. After consuming Wyman’s brain, the creature is now able to speak with the scientist’s voice and has absorbed his knowledge. Corcoran asks whether Wyman’s death was needed, but the creature insists it was a necessary sacrifice. The others arrive to destroy the creature, but hesitate because Corcoran will not step aside and let them throw their bombs. The creature insists it is not an evil monster, but an intelligent alien who has come to Earth to save the human race from its own self-destructive tendencies. It explains that Corcoran’s body has been implanted with its embryos, which will allow the alien species to multiply and take over the human race, which the creature claims is the only way to truly save humanity. Upon realizing the creature is forcing the will of its species on the human race, Corcoran concludes the creature is evil after all and commits suicide so its embryos cannot come to fruition. The others then throw their explosives and kill the creature, which in its dying breaths warns that others from his species are waiting in space and will return one day to conquer humanity.
Bernard L. Kowalski / Public domain