Friday, 18 October 2013

Phantom from Space (1953)

I promise my next review won't be from this collection of "Sci-Fi Classics".  I make no promise the film will be any better than the ones I've reviewed so far, but it will come from another source.

For now, however, we continue the so-called "classics" with Phantom from Space.

The first word of the title is a hint of how this low-budget effort solves the problem of expensive alien effects.  Their extraterrestial invader is invisible!  No doubt someone, somewhere, thought this was a stroke of budgetary genius.

For much of the film, the alien's invisiblility is figurative; it simply does not appear on-screen, and we are instead 'treated' to lots of scenes of the human characters standing in rooms discussing its actions and whereabouts.  They're able to track it because the spacesuit it wears is visible.

Eventually, however, the alien is cornered.  It removes the suit and uses its natural power of invisibility to escape not just detection but also costly makeup and costuming! The movie does actually have a semi-decent answer why it didn't do that earlier: the alien is used to a very different atmosphere than our own, and can survive for only an hour or two without the gas tanks on its suit.

That weakness means that the creature can't stray very far from the suit, however, and when the humans discover that, the alien's fate is sealed.  The film tries to go all Day the Earth Stood Still on its eventual death, with the humans pondering if the creature actually had hostile intent, but it's all pretty ham-handed and not very convincing.

This alien isn't worth the trouble needed to see it.

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