It’s the autumn, again, but one wouldn’t know it here in the American Midwest. It’s October and there has only been the barest whiff of fall weather. The forecast for today is 91 degrees (that’s 32 degrees for my legion of overseas readers). Global warming used to be something that was far off — a part of the distant future. Well, we’re in the future, now, and global warming has arrived right on schedule. The implications for the future of the human race are dire. Horrorshow level, in fact.
How’s that for a segue?
It’s October! And that means it is time for another edition of the October Horrorshow here on Missile Test, where we watch and review nothing but horror flicks for an entire month. The theme this year is It Came from the ’50s. The morning reviews will be all cheesy horror/sci-fi flicks from the golden age of b-horror, while the afternoon reviews will feature the regular mix of slashers, zombies, ghosts, aliens, monsters, and general bloodletting. On to the reviews!
One would be hard-pressed to find a movie with a budget as low as The Man from Planet X, today’s It Came from the ’50s flick. The budget, according to the internet, so it must be true, was somewhere in the neighborhood of $41,000. That’s less than 500k in today’s dollars — peanuts in the movie business. Writer and producer pair Aubrey Wisberg and Jack Pollexfen cut corners wherever they could, and it shows. There are only a handful of sets, and those not repurposed from other films look haphazard and thrown together. Then there is the alien mask, but that’s for later.
Directed by Edgar G. Ullmer, who is not making his first appearance under the Shitty Movie Sundays rubric, The Man from Planet X stars Robert Clarke as John Lawrence, a wire service reporter. Lawrence is putting together a story about the close approach of a rogue planet, after he has been contacted by Professor Elliot (Raymond Bond). Elliot has set up a laboratory to research the planet in an isolated island moor off of Scotland, as the location happens to be the spot on the Earth that will be closest to the rogue planet when it passes.
Elliot is joined by his daughter, Enid (Margaret Field), and research assistant Dr. Mears (William Schallert). Lawrence and Mears have history. An incident in the past, Elliot believes, should have sent Mears to jail, yet there he is, assisting Professor Elliot. Lawrence doesn’t believe that Mears has any good or honest reason to be lurking about.
The night of Lawrence’s arrival, Enid discovers an alien spacecraft has landed out on the moors. She approaches the craft and is shocked when a helmeted alien (Pat Goldin) peeks through the window. She should be shocked, because the alien is absolutely ridiculous. It looks as if the folks who put together the alien outfit spent no more than a day or so’s work on it. The spacesuit is just a couple of boxes and a flexible tube, while one can see where the two halves of the globular helmet were glued together. As for the alien mask Goldin wore, it looks like the kind of papier-mâché masks that kids make in art class. It’s some grade-A shit.
How the moors were shot is another indication of this film’s strained finances. Poor matte paintings abound. Any landscape shot where a viewer could see the moors is the scale of a railroad model, while any shot of the moors with actual people in it is shrouded in fog, so the viewer couldn’t tell the cast wasn’t anywhere near an actual moor.
But, of course, the final indicator that this is a cheap flick is the running time. This one clocks in at an efficient 70 minutes, and it felt like Ullmer and company were struggling to fill up even that short running time. The good news is, there’s no bloat. But there isn’t a whole lot of action, either. The alien never speaks, which is probably a good thing, as the alien mask was incapable of any movement. Most of the film consists of the cast talking about the alien, going out to the moor to look at the spacecraft, rinse, and repeat.
A wrench is thrown into the plot by Mears, who proves his dickhead bona fides by trying to kill the alien after it basically hands him a million-dollar patent. Afterwards, the alien is a little put off, and begins to enslave locals with a mind-control beam. Stopping the alien, then, is the prime conflict of the film, all leading up to the mysterious rogue planet’s pass by the Earth. Should one wish to find out how Ullmer weaved together these wispy story threads, then one will have to watch the movie. I’m done with this dog.
The sight of the alien is almost hilarious enough to lift this thing out of the depths. I suppose, should one get schadenfreude from the failings of a special effects department, this is a must-see. But for the rest of the world’s shitty movie fans, The Man from Planet X is pretty middling. It’s far from unwatchable, but other than that mask, also very forgettable. This one takes over the #123 spot in the Watchability Index, bumping City of the Living Dead.