Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Man From Planet X


If you read every issue of magazines like Famous Monsters of Filmland and others like it back in the ‘50s, the critter from this movie will be very familiar to you. All those magazines suffered from a real shortage of images to use. It’s not like today, where every other movie is a creepy slasher or bad SF or monster or vampire movie and there are endless choices. They recycled these pictures endlessly. I’ll bet I saw this creature about a hundred times, as with others like The Creature From the Black Lagoon and This Island Earth. They look hokey now, but we thought they were pretty cool. This was one of the better ones: a hatchet-faced, narrow-eyed, big-headed goon in a spacesuit. (The spacesuit was what I liked most.) Oddly enough, though I’d seen the alien so many times, I’d never actually seen the movie. So I took a look at it.

What’s surprising about it is that a lot of it looks pretty good. The reason is that this $40,000 film was shot (in 6 days!) on empty sets for much bigger movies, with choking quantities of studio fog to make it look better. (Some of the actors complained of difficulty breathing.) The alien and his ship remain pretty cool, I think. If only, if only … if only they’d had a script with a scintilla of intelligence, and actors were weren’t stiff as corpses. The dialogue is laughable in almost every line. All in all, it’s only for fans of bad cinema. I must note, though, that William Schallert, the man playing the bad scientist (not mad; he is just greedy) is a dead ringer for the scientist in Mant! (half man, half ant!), the movie-within-a-movie in the excellent little film Matinee. There’s no question in my mind that the director, Joe Dante, cast him for that reason. I had to keep reminding myself that Schallert (who is still alive at age 90) would have been 71 back then.