At about the 7:00 mark of Jack Arnold’s science fiction classic, It Came From Outer Space (1953; Clifford Stine, ASC), a small but amusing anomaly pops up.  In the clip, an alien spaceship in the form of a glowing meteor hurtles directly at the lens.  Just as it’s about to crash through the screen and into your lap, keep your eye focused on the far-left side of the frame.  For a brief instant, you’ll see the housing that supported the partially-silvered mirror used by special effects cinematographer David Horsley, ASC to create what at the time was a cutting-edge illusion.

            Regular readers of this blog will know that I have an affinity for these odd little moments.  Honestly, I don’t hunt for them.  They’re probably just the payoff for spending a lifetime looking too closely at too many things that didn’t warrant the attention.  Now, I’m lost to the habit.  But spotting such a minor flaw here was especially engaging.  It not only reminds us of the living, breathing humans who made this film with their hands, it also tells us a little about the mechanics of how they did what they did.

            BTW: If you seek out the film in its entirety, pay special attention to the Stine’s superb B&W day-for-night work.  The matching between exteriors and the material shot onstage – on such a low-budget – is a lesson to us all!

Note the frame supporting the partially-silvered mirror on the left …


  1. I love this. Truly. I have been thinking a lot about the value of hand made things lately. What VFX have become and how (in my opinion) cinematography is often seen as mere “acquisition” when it comes to effects work. For me the human connection to spectacular moments in films today is most often not there. I am so grateful when I can see the artists at work and get to connect with the magic.

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