The Man from Planet X

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

A spaceship from a previously unknown planet lands in the Scottish moors, bringing an alien creature to earth near the observatory of Professor Elliot (Raymond Bond), just days before the planet will pass closest to the earth. When the professor and his friend, American reporter John Lawrence (Robert Clarke), discover the creature, they help it when it is in distress and try to communicate with it, but fail. They leave, and the alien follows them home. A colleague of the professor, the unscrupulous and ambitious scientist Dr. Mears (William Schallert), discovers how to communicate with the creature and tries to get from it by force the formula for the metal the spaceship is made of. He shuts off the alien’s breathing apparatus and leaves it for dead, telling the professor that communication was hopeless.

Soon, Lawrence discovers that the alien is gone, as is the professor’s daughter, Enid (Margaret Field). Tommy, the village constable (Roy Engle), reports that others from the village are missing as well. Lawrence takes the constable to the site where the spaceship has been, but it is no longer there. With more people now missing – including Mears – the phone lines dead and the village in a panic, they get word to Scotland Yard by using a heliograph to contact a passing freighter.

When an Inspector (David Ormont) and sergeant fly in and are briefed on the situation, it is decided that the military must destroy the spaceship. Lawrence objects that doing so will also kill the people who are under the alien’s control. With the mysterious planet due to reach its closest distance to the earth at midnight, Lawrence is given until 11:00 to rescue them. He sneaks up to the ship, and learns from Mears that the alien intends the ship to become a wireless relay station in advance of an invasion from its home planet, which is dying. Lawrence orders the enthralled villagers to leave and attacks the alien, shutting off its breathing apparatus, then escapes with Enid and the professor. Mears, however, returns to the ship and is killed when the military destroys the ship, just before the planet approaches and then recedes back into outer space.

REVIEW:

Returning to the realm of classic (cheesy) sci-fi of the 50s and 60s, as well as looking for something I could watch quickly before bedtime, I came across The Man from Planet X. Just the fact that it has planet X in the title was enough to pique my interest. Is this planet some mysterious entity or does the X represent a homeworld of pornographic intentions? The possibilities are endless, so I just had to know!

What is this about?

An alien from a dying planet becomes the puppet of an evil scientist and uses his superior intellect to enslave the minds of his victims.

What did I like?

Military involvement. One thing that really “grinds my gears” about sci-fi alien films is how the military is always there to shoot first and ask questions later, often sparking a war, as in Mars Attacks, or causing the near destruction of Earth, even though the alien came on a peacekeeping mission, as in The Day the Earth Stood Still. Until the last few scenes of this film, the military is nowhere to be found. I guess European military forces have the common sense to find out what the true intention of our visitors are, rather than attack them as soon as they land, like we do over here in the U.S.

Elegance in simplicity. For the most part, the plot of this film is simple. Alien comes to Earth because his planet is dying, fools the Earthlings and then tries to enslave them and take over the planet. Nothing fancy about that, right? Well, that is the precise reason this film works so well. We don’t get anything too complicated that ruins one’s enjoyment of the film by causing us to have to be constantly thinking about this, that, or the other. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes that is okay, but not everything needs to be on the level of Inception. Something simple can be just as effective, if not more so.

Communication is key. Here on Earth, it is hard enough to communicate with people who live next door to us, let alone halfway across the globe, so how it makes sense that topic of communication with a being from another world come to the forefront. In some cartoons, movies, TV shows, etc., it is automatic that we understand each other or there is some kind of device that allows us to communicate, such as the Babel fish from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. All this is well and good, but sometimes, it just needs to be left alone, as done here and see how things play out.

What didn’t I like?

Another one. When we first the titular character, it is quite the jump scare. I’ll get more into his look and design shortly, but after a pretty good introduction to the audience like that, he mostly, dissolves into just another alien that we see in these type of films over and over again. It seems to me that they should have made him more of a character and less of a prop. Even when all the humans are enslaved, we don’t really see him! For what turns out to be an antagonist, he sure is a non-character.

Left with a questionable character?  One member of the group is a man with a questionable past. Forgive me for not remembering what it is he did that was so horrible, but it was bad enough to leave everyone questioning whether or not to trust him. I don’t know about you, but if there is a question of trust, then I’m not going to leave such a valuable commodity like the alien with him to watch. That would be like leaving your small child with a convicted child molester, or worse! Sure enough, his true colors come out and the alien is put in danger.

Sympathy. How often do we feel sorry for the antagonist in films? It happens now and then, right? In the case of the alien, we give him our sympathy because of two things, the way he is treated by Mears and the way he is designed. No creature should be forced to do anything, and Mears, as I just mentioned does nothing but try to force him to do things so he can make a fortune. As far as the design of the alien goes, he is quite the pathetic looker. As you can tell by the poster up top, it is almost as if he was given a frown, or at least a near crying face. I don’t know about you, but that draws me in and gives me cause to feel for this creature more than if had a scowl on his face would.

When we think of classic sci-fi, The Man from Planet X is not one that immediately comes to mind. There is nothing that hasn’t been done before (or after) this was released and executed better. Having said that, I still believe this film has a place among the better average films of this genre. There isn’t anything inherently horrible about this film. As a matter of fact, it is quite good, but the sum of its parts does not equal anything more than an average film, which is a shame, because this feels like it should be better. Do I recommend it? It is a good watch on a rainy weekend when you’re stuck inside and can’t do anything, but as far as watching out of the blue, I would have to say no because there are far superior sci-fi films out there from this period of time.

3 out of 5 stars

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