Friday, April 30, 2010

The Phantom Planet (1961)

When I picked Triffids at the library, I saw The Phantom Planet. Wow, I thought. That looks bad. So, I got it. IMDB tends to agree. It's rated 2.7.

When I requested Tarantula, I got a five disk set of classic Universal movies. I wanted to watch all of them first, but the set disappeared one night and I ended up watching Triffids and this ahead of schedule. It has reappeared but I've only managed to see three of the five and I owe four bucks so far. And tomorrow I go camping. Anyhoooooo ...

A rocket ship with a crew of two is "on patrol" around the moon when it crashes on a mystery asteroid that appears out of nowhere. Moonbase whatever sends out a second rocket to investigate, when it too crashes into this so called "phantom planet". So they send another rocket out, this time piloted by hotshot Frank Chapman (Dean Fredericks). No way he will crash.

So, Captain Frank crashes into this asteroid, only he doesn't die like the rest. He goes for a space walk and finds it peopled by tiny little extras in hospital shirts. He's delirious from the crash and whatnot, so he falls over and his helmet opens. This causes him to shrink to extra size by a process called "contrived explanation". The tiny people take him prisoner.

He is convicted and sentenced to being a free citizen of Rheton and encouraged to choose a hottie as a bride. This does not sit well with Captain Frank! He acts all passive-aggressive for a while, but eventually he befriends the six people in the movie (minus extras) and helps in their war with the Solarites.

This movie had a few things going for it. The sets were fairly good looking, and the acting and script weren't THAT bad. But I am certain this 82 minute movie could have been edited down to about 60 and been a much better film. This is the slowest pace action film I have EVER seen! But what makes a great sci-fi movie, what makes it stick with us, is it's ability to touch a nerve. To tap into the hopes and fears of a generation without dealing with them directly. Phantom Planet had none of this. It was simply a space adventure film. It was directed by a band leader and actor, and it shows.

Had this movie come out in 1938, I think it would have been a hit. But it came out in the sixties, so it was forgotten. Still, I'm glad I watched it, even if I dozed for a moment or two. AMRU 3. I liked it a bit better than most IMDB voters.

By the way, the Solarite prisoner was played by Richard Kiel in a costume.

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