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Friday, November 9, 2018

The Man from Planet X (1951)




Many of the movies that I’ve reviewed for these Friday forays into the fifties have been me revisiting flicks that I’ve always enjoyed. The Man from Planet X is unique in that it is new to me, I’ve not watched it before. I’ve owned a copy for years on the Midnite Movie label from MGM, but I never watched the movie. I figured it was about time to change that.

The movie starts off with our main character, John Lawrence, giving a monologue about how his friend the professor and his daughter Enid are likely dead. Then we get a flashback showing him traveling to a small isolated island at the request of his old friend. The Earth is about to pass by the mysterious planet X and the island is the closest that the two planets will be. Since John is a reporter and it is going to make a good story he jumps at the chance to visit. Though neither of them expected the spaceship to arrive before the big day. Seems that planet X is inhabited and the locals there have ideas about the Earth. Or do they?

Here is where The Man from Planet X gets interesting. There is another scientist named Mears also staying with the professor. He is a greedy man, who has already had some legal issues. When he is left alone with the alien, he tries to force him to share his knowledge so he can use it to get rich. Is the titular Man from Planet X a bad guy or is he just reacting to the nasty human who is trying to use him? I think it is a bit of both. Regardless the army gets involved and the day is saved like it always is, by blowing stuff up! Hey this was a product of the fifties.

There are a lot of things that I like about the movie and one big thing that I dislike. The cast is very good and features at least one familiar face. Dr. Mears is played by a very young William Schallert in one of his first credited roles. He is an excellent actor and does a decent job playing a villain without going over the top. Robert Clarke plays our lead character John Lawrence and is also very good. He had a very long career and worked in a lot of supporting roles on other familiar sci-fi and horror movies during the fifties and sixties. I didn’t recognize Clarke but Schallert I knew immediately.

Not a fan of the Alien costume.
There is also a distinct and unique gothic vibe to the setting. You have spooky moors covered in fog and the base of operations for our heroes is an old tower in the middle of nowhere. I haven’t seen anyone attempt an alien invasion movie with this kind of setting and being so different got my attention and interest. The spaceship design is well done and is realistic looking which gives the cast something decent to play off of. I was very impressed with this quite early crack at putting a rocket on the screen.

So far it has all been good. But they lose me on the alien. It looks like they found a small woman and put her in a costume with a giant papier-mâché head in a fishbowl. Look at the picture I’ve posted with this review. There is no articulation on the face at all, so we get nothing but the same dead expression the entire movie. This is further complicated by them trying to communicate with the alien and its efforts to replay to them. Even a rubber mask glued to an actor’s face would have been much better. For as much as I enjoyed the rest of the movie this was quite disappointing.

In the end I’m going to say give The Man from Planet X a chance. I think that this is one of those movies where the good outweighs the bad. It is also interesting to see such an early attempt at the alien invasion genre that would dominate much of the fifties.


© Copyright 2018 John Shatzer

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