Before the mass craze of giant monsters created by radiation, the favorite plot of science fiction movies in the early 50’s was definitely alien invaders. I mean, there were usually 4 or 5 movies with similar themes being made at roughly the same time as each other, just released at different times. No today’s movie is honestly one that I have never heard of before I bought it (it was part of a set that had some other movies I wanted on it). What’s funny is that while I was watching it, I recognized a plot device that would be used in another movie that would come out almost 30 years after this one. But I will get into that later after I watch today’s movie, The Man From Planet X.
The plot: American reporter John Lawrence is writing down what could be his last thoughts as he prepares to face the alien from Planet X and thinks back to how this all started. Some time earlier, John was at an observatory in Los Angeles, having been asked to go there by his friend Professor Elliot, and observes a new planet called Planet X, which appears to be heading towards Earth. With strange things occurring all over the planet as a result of the planet’s approach, John heads to Scotland to speak with his friend. Arriving in Scotland, he is picked up by the professor’s daughter, Enid, and brought to an old tower where the professor is working alongside an associate, Dr. Mears, who John has some troubled history with. When John is talking with Enid, he mentions his surprise at seeing Mears not in prison and she says he did serve some time but he showed up a few weeks ago looking homeless and her father decided to let him help. As they are walking along the moors outside, they find a strange object which they bring back to the professor to examine. Studying the object, they discover that the material is stronger than steel, but only 1/5 the weight. Mears believes they could make millions if they could figure out the formula but John expresses his concerns since they don’t know where the object came from. After Enid drives John back to town that night, she gets a flat and starts walking when she notices a strange light and discovers an alien ship. Wanting a closer look at the ship, she sees an alien staring back at her and runs back to the tower. Running back to the tower, she tells her father what she saw and he wants to see it for himself so she agrees to take him there, but they are unaware that Dr. Mears overheard the conversation and follows them. Finding the alien craft, they don’t see an alien when they look inside but suddenly, the lights inside the ship goes out and a strange ray is projected from the ship which hypnotizes Prof. Elliot when it hits him. Enid is able to get him back to the tower, where the relate what happened to Mears, though he had observed it all. The next day, John rides a bike back to the tower and after being informed of what happens, the professor takes him to see the ship for himself. As they examine the ship, they are startled to see the alien appear but it begins gesturing to a valve connected to a tank on it’s back and suddenly collapses. Realizing that the tank was some sort of life support, they turn the valve, allowing the creature to breathe. They try communicating with the creature by speech and sign language, but the alien only responds with strange sounds. They decide to head back to the tower but the alien winds up following them there. After repeated attempts, they are still unable to communicate with the alien but as John and the professor leave, Mears tries using mathematics to communicate and is able to do so but when he attempts to learn the secret of the metal’s formula, the alien refuses and Mears shuts off it’s breathing apparatus and leaves it for dead. Meanwhile, John had gone to fix Enid’s car and when he returns, he discovers that Enid has disappeared and so has the alien. Figuring the alien took her back to her ship, John and Mears go to the keep watch on the ship, but John doesn’t trust Mears and believes he did something to provoke the creature. Returning to check on the Professor, who had taken ill, John is surprised by the local constable and another villager, who are searching the moors for some villagers, who have gone missing. John takes the constable to where the ship is located but when they get there, the ship is gone and so is Mears. Returning to the village, they are surprised when the man they left with the professor shows up, saying that the professor left with Mears and when he followed, he saw the alien. The remaining villagers panic and John and the constable try to call out for help but after discovering the phone lines are dead, they use a heliograph to signal a passing ship to alert the authorities. John manages to find the ship’s new location and sees it being fortified by the missing villagers and when he returns and tells the constable, the constable tells him that more villagers have gone missing. When two members of Scotland Yard arrive, having received word from the ship, John tells them what has been going on. The inspector says that they will contact the military and destroy the ship, for fear that this is the first step in an invasion, but John argues that they must give them a chance to save the villagers. John heads to the ship and learns from Mears that the alien is planning on turning it’s ship into a relay station to signal an invasion fleet from Planet X, as their planet is dying and they plan to escape to Earth when Planet X reaches it’s closest point. John orders the hypnotized workers to stop working and walk towards where the authorities are waiting. When the alien emerges from the ship, John struggles with the alien but manages to shut off the alien’s breathing apparatus. He then goes inside and rescues Enid from the ship and they make their escape before the military destroys the ship, but Mears, who has snapped out of the hypnotism, goes back to the ship and ends up being killed when the military destroy the ship. With the ship destroyed, they all watch as the planet moves close to Earth but then heads back out into space.
The Man From Planet X was well received by the critics, as it currently holds a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Though there isn’t a critical consensus regarding the movie, many critics praised the director and script’s ability to overcome the problems with a low budget. As for the alien, it never spoke, but instead communicated using melodic tones, a concept that would be used decades later in Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. The movie was a box office success, earning $1.2 million off a $41,000 budget.
It may be short and cheap but this was a pretty decent sci-fi movie. The acting was pretty good, with Robert Clarke doing a good job playing the heroic reporter John while William Schallert did an equally good job playing the underhanded Dr. Mears. The plot wasn’t exactly original, as that was a common theme for movies then, but director Edgar G. Ulmer did a good job with the story given him. The special effects were definitely on the cheap side, but it honestly didn’t take away from the movie, but actually added to it’s charm. A short movie that is worth watching.
Rating: 3 out of 5