From the DVD case: A mysterious UFO crashes near Los Angeles and unleashes an invisible alien from an unknown planet. “The Phantom” goes on an unwitting rampage of death and destruction as it struggles for survival in a strange new world. A group of valiant scientists race against the clock to find the creature before further disaster ensues.This remarkably serious film noir documentary-styled science-fiction epic was directed by W. Lee Wilder (Billy’s brother) who was also responsible for such similarly sober “masterpieces” as The Snow Creature (1954) and Killers from Space (1954). (1953, b&w)
Mark says: When I first watched Phantom from Space, I didn’t think much of it. In fact, I still don’t think much of it, but I have cultivated some fondness for the movie with repeated viewings.
The most frustrating element of Phantom from Space is that it is treated as a mystery when the viewer knows, if not from the title, then from the movie’s previews, that the “mystery” is a phantom from space. Still, we suffer through countless minutes of dialog while police and military inspectors unravel the riddle (in a Dragnet sort of fashion) at a painfully slow rate. You could easily start the movie, walk away and prepare some popcorn, shave, feed the cats and change the litter without missing any significant information. Ok, I might be exaggerating a little, but not much.
When “The Phantom” (Dick Sands) finally does appear, the pace picks up slightly. While visible, the alien looks sort of like a guy running around in a beekeepers jumpsuit and a diver’s helmet. However, when cornered, he takes off the suit and we discover (“discover” isn’t exactly the right word, as we’ve known all along) that he is invisible.
Unfortunately, the invisibility effects are unimpressive. They consist primarily of things like doors opening and closing by themselves, or a chair shifting when no one is around. We never feel anything remotely similar to awe or dread.
There is sort of an enjoyable camp element to the film, though. The narration, as well as the overall acting, is ultra-serious, making the drawn out investigative portion of the movie more bearable. The concept of a benign alien crash landing on Earth is also marginally interesting. However, this same concept played out much better in It Came from Outer Space, which, incidentally, was released the same year.
I also give Phantom from Space some credit for giving a woman (Noreen Nash as Barbara Randall) such a significant role. Nash’s character doesn’t appear until the second half of the film, but the true “revelations” don’t occur until she is onscreen. While the men talk and talk, Mrs. Randall, in a comparatively short time, is communicating with the being and discovering its purpose on the planet.Barbara’s husband (played by Steve Clark), in contrast, is almost completely impotent. While Mrs. Randall stays late at the lab and explores secrets of the universe, Mr. Randall is given the chore of picking up items on the grocery list. This strikes me as a mildly intriguing concept, considering the era and mindset.
Phantom from Space is stocked with familiar faces: Ted Cooper (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) plays Lt. Hazen; Harry Landers (Rear Window) is Lt. Bowers; James Seay (Beginning of the End, The Amazing Colossal Man) portrays Maj. Andrews; Tom Daly (The Angry Red Planet, The Man from Planet X) is Agent Charlie; Michael Mark (The Wasp Woman, Attack of the Puppet People) has a role as the refinery watchman; Jack Daly (Return of the Fly) is annoying newspaper man, Joe Wakeman; and Rudolph Anders (Frankenstein – 1970) is featured as Dr. Wyatt.
General film enthusiasts will have no use for this movie, but fans of low-budget, 1950s, sci-fi may find Phantom from Space a minor treat.
Phantom from Space is directed by W. Lee Wilder (Killers from Space).
Scene to watch for: Ultra-violet light exposes the hand of “The Phantom” as he taps out code with a pair of scissors.
Line to listen for: “This guy’s walking around in a monkey suit – killing people.”
Mark’s Rating: ! ! out of 5.