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First Friday: They Came from Beyond Space (1967)

Last chance for entries to the Natural Horror Picture Show "Make Your Own Movie Trailer" Contest

RALEIGH — Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, once posed the question "What in the heck is beyond space?" Well, now's your chance to find out, when "They Came from Beyond Space" (1967) lands on the big screen of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 3. Free.

After wayward aliens crash land on the moon, they must travel to Earth in search of cheap labor and rocketship parts. The unlucky space travelers manage to take over the minds of several Earthling scientists, but cannot control the remarkable Dr. Curtis Temple, who seems immune to the aliens' influence thanks to a metal plate in his head. So, guess who gets saddled with saving the Earth?

Temple is played by 1950-60s sci-fi veteran Robert Hutton, who gained some prominence in Hollywood in the early-mid '40s as a fill-in for big name stars that had been called to war — a practice called "victory casting." Hutton had many of the same on-screen characteristics and appeal as Jimmy Stewart (the first major American movie star to enter the service for World War II, in 1941), which served him well until the Bigs returned in 1945. Stewart, in the mean time, served in the US Air Force, rising to the rank of Colonel while earning the Air Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Croix de Guerre and seven battle stars.

This month's trivia gem involves the "Master of the Moon" played by Michael Gough, who later in his career singlehandedly outlasted three different Batmen (Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney) while playing Bruce Wayne's faithful butler Alfred Pennyworth in "Batman," "Batman Returns," "Batman Forever" and "Batman & Robin." By 2005, Gough had turned 92 and was unceremoniously supplanted by the spry septuagenarian Michael Caine for "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight."

"They Came from Beyond Space" was directed by Freddie Francis, a man respected for his horror and sci-fi work, but renowned for his cinematography on films including "The French Lieutenant's Woman," "The Elephant Man" and Martin Scorsese's "Cape Fear." Francis even won Oscars for his work on "Sons and Lovers" (1961) and "Glory" (1989). "Beyond Space" was based on a novel titled "The Gods Hate Kansas" by Joseph Millard, who also wrote one of the most popular spaghetti westerns ever — "For a Few Dollars More" — which was delivered to the big screen in 1965 by Sergio Leone (dir.) and the relatively unknown Clint Eastwood.

DON'T FORGET: This is the last chance for entries to the Natural Horror Picture Show "Make Your Own Movie Trailer" Contest. Now's your chance to make your own B-movie-esque, family friendly, 3-minute-or-under trailer based on a previous Natural Horror Picture Show or on something from your own overactive imagination. Entries must be received at the Museum by 7 p.m. on First Friday, April 3. Winners will be announced and shown on the big screen at First Friday, May 1. For more info, e-mail steve.popson@naturalsciences.org.

The Museum stays open from 5 p.m. till 9 p.m. on the first Friday of every month. Arrive early and wander through eye-catching exhibits highlighting the natural beauty of North Carolina, enjoy snacks and beverages from the Acro Café and groove to live classic and modern Blues with Steve Harvell (harmonica) and Chris Tacker (guitar). Additionally, the Museum Store offers after-hours shopping and an opening reception (6:30-8:30 p.m.) for Robert Johnson, whose show "Pages from a North Carolina Nature Journal" appears in the Nature Art Gallery through April 29. All exhibited art is for sale.