Jun 22, 2016

Phantom From Space

Some movies are so bad they’re good, and some movies are just ... bad. My husband and I enjoy watching them both and I thought it would be fun to share the best of the worst. So without further ado, here’s my bad movie review of the week. I leave it up to you to decide whether the movie is bad, or just the review. ;-)

This black and white movie was made in 1953, with a budget so low I couldn’t find any information about it. It was directed by W. Lee Wilder, who is also responsible for such gems as Killers From Space, Manfish, and Man Without a Body.

It’s never a good sign when a narrator has to set the action up right from the beginning. He tells us that an unidentified flying object has been spotted over Alaska and for good measure we get the stats on its trajectory, speed, height, etc. The air force goes on alert and interceptors become air-born to the tune of a high pitched warning hum. The narrator goes through several such warnings, each accompanied by the vital statistics. With each successive colour coded warning, the annoying hum gets louder and rises in pitch.

The UFO disappears over Santa Monica and I guess it must not have been that big a threat because the red warning and hum also vanish. It’s up to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to try and figure out what’s causing the massive communications interference. No one seems to connect it to the UFO. Mobile One and Mobile Seven are dispatched to find the source of the problem. They’re driving cars with old-style television antennas on top.

Mobile One, with FCC agent Hazen, is cruising around when a woman comes running down the road and flags them down. She says that her husband and their friend Pete were attacked by a strange man who was wearing a suit like a diver. When Hazen can’t get his radio to work, he goes to try and help. Her husband has been killed, but their friend is just hurt. Because it’s now a murder, they all traipse down to the police station for questioning.

Police Lieutenant Bowers thinks they’re making the story up to cover up their plot to kill the woman’s husband, especially when Pete insists there was no head in the diving suit helmet. Just then, Bowers receives a phone call telling him there’s been another murder, and a fire, near the Huntington Oil Fields (same area). The night watchman also confirms the presence of a guy in the diving suit.

Meanwhile, Mobile One and Mobile Seven meet up at the oil field (that’s still burning) and after talking it over, figure the media interruption is being caused by a saboteur wandering around carrying something. Back at the station, someone draws a very cartoonish looking figure in a deep sea diving suit and the witnesses confirm that this is what the man looked like, and that there was no head in the space suit.

The FCC guys contact Washington and agree to keep the press out of it until they find this guy. They’re told to contact Air Force Major Andrews and Doctor Wyatt at the Griffith Institute and Observatory. Bowers, Hazen, Andrews, and Wyatt toss around ideas of what’s really going on and Andrews admits to the UFO sighting earlier. What a coincidence! That just happens to be when the interference started.

The FCC redoubles their efforts to find the signal and close in on the oil field again. It’s too bad they don’t think of looking up - the spaceman is up on the roof watching them. While the mobile units are setting up some equipment and wandering around with Geiger counters, the spaceman is bopping around like the Samurai Chef from Saturday Night Live.

Finally, they trap him in a shed, but the cunning spaceman takes off his suit which renders him invisible. So the good guys find the suit and surmise that he took it off to avoid detection. Gee, ya think? They wave a Geiger counter over it and the thing goes crazy, so they use tongs (and bare hands) to put this incredibly radioactive suit into a lead lined box. Never mind the fact that if it was that radioactive they’d all be dead by now. Or at least have one foot in the grave.

They put the box in the back of the car and the invisible spaceman sneaks into the back seat to hitch a ride with them to the Griffith Observatory. Here we’re introduced to the token female of the movie, Barbara, who works with Dr. Wyatt. They run a whole bunch of tests on the suit, trying to cut it up, burn it, drip acid on it - but nothing seems to damage it. They’re very puzzled.

Barbara tests the gas in the helmet’s tank and discovers - da da da! It’s mostly unknown with some methane thrown in. They realize the spaceman’s probably not going to last long without his breathing apparatus. They get a call that there’s an insistent reporter wanting to talk to them, so the men all leave and Barbara stays to run more tests. You can see what’s about to happen, right?

The door to the lab opens and closes, Barbara conveniently spills some power on the floor and a footprint appears. Then the key turns in the lock and starts to float around. Barbara’s husband Bill arrives to escort her home and she tells him she’s not alone. He runs to get Bowers, Hazen, Andrews, and Wyatt, and when they get back to the lab the door is open but there’s no sign of Barbara. We have no idea why the spaceman chose her over his suit, but we see her floating around (unconscious) the observatory - obviously the spaceman is carrying her. The other guys are busy running up and down hallways and Barbara comes to sitting in a chair in the lab.

We get a lot of blurry vision from Barbara’s point of view. She sees the door close and the lock turn, and when the spaceman puts his helmet on it freaks her out. He uses scissors to tap out a code on the table. Barbara starts writing down the code but then uses an ultraviolet light on him and sees his very human looking hand. They both kind of freak out. He escapes through a window.

Back in the lab the guys are having a lengthy discussions of the spaceman’s origins and how his cellular structure must somehow react with the natural gasses of the Earth to make him invisible. Meanwhile the suit is disintegrating and again, for something that’s supposed to be so incredibly radioactive, they don’t seem to have enough sense to stand back and not breath in the noxious fumes it releases.

Dr. Wyatt uses the UV light to show the remains of the suit. The helmet is still okay and they assume the spaceman carried his own atmosphere with him. Now they’re all sympathetic with him because he was probably shipwrecked and didn’t mean to kill those people and blew up the oil tank to try and make more gas to breathe. They figure he’ll be back for his helmet and really want to capture him - for his own good, of course.

They make sure the path is clear to his helmet and wait in the laboratory for him. Sure enough, he eventually appears - we see staggering footprints appear on the pavement. For a bunch of people who don’t want to scare him away, they sure are in a rush to “get ‘em!” Now we have a lot more running through the hallways of the observatory. Barbara goes back to the lab and there’s the floating helmet again. She stays calm and tries to communicate with him, and simultaneously uses the PA system to tell everyone where he is. They come in quietly and try to communicate with him, but no luck. Then a reporter snaps a picture and the flash freaks the spaceman out. He drops the helmet, breaking it, and then escapes again, this time smacking the reporter on his way out the door.

More chasing through the endless halls, and they finally corner him as he climbs to the scaffold surrounding the telescope. They just happen to have UV lights with them and spotlight him, showing him to be pasty white, hairless, and human in appearance. He’s trying to speak but there’s no sound - he’s suffocating. His glow is almost gone and he falls. His body evaporates just like the suit did and they watch with long faces. Dr. Wyatt opens the dome so they can see the stars. The end.

I can’t even really call this a bad movie, it was more like a meh movie. Hubby says: “It’s not the worst thing we’ve ever seen. I was a little disappointed it wasn’t so bad it was entertaining.”

Hard to be entertained when it was so boring.

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