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Phantom from Space

Entry updated 6 October 2021. Tagged: Film.

Film (1953). Planet Filmways Inc. Directed by W Lee Wilder. Written by William Raynor and Myles Wilder, based on a story by Myles Wilder. Cast includes Rudolph Anders, Ted Cooper, Harry Landers, Noreen Nash and James Seay. 73 minutes. Black and white.

After a strange craft from space is observed approaching Santa Monica, there are reports of an unidentified man walking around in some sort of diving suit, killing two people and terrifying others. Policeman Bowen (Landers) leads the investigation, soon joined by other officials. It turns out that the mysterious assailant is an Alien wearing a spacesuit that supplies him with the special sort of gas he needs to breathe; also, with a physiology based on silicon (described as identical to "glass") instead of carbon, he is invisible to humans, so he eludes capture by temporarily removing his spacesuit and helmet. However, he must soon return to the building he escaped from to again don the helmet and breathe the necessary atmosphere, although the spacesuit's supply is diminishing and an enigmatic code he taps out, seemingly intended to convey the sort of gas he needs, cannot be interpreted by any humans. Eventually, his helmet is accidentally destroyed and the alien dies, right after ultraviolet light reveals him to be a humanoid male.

In some respects, this film recalls The Man from Planet X (1951), in that it is another story about a sympathetic alien visitor who must wear a spacesuit in order to survive on our planet; however, its alien seems even more vulnerable, and even more benign, as he has landed on Earth inadvertently and kills two people only after they attack him. In one remarkable scene, scientist Dr Wyatt (Anders) insists that humans must strive to see things "from his angle", since "He is in an alien world. No doubt we are as frightening to him as he is to us." There is thus an aura of tragedy about the final scene, when the suddenly human-like alien lies dead on the floor of an observatory. Still, despite such moments of interest, it must also be acknowledged that Phantom from Space is a clumsily constructed film filled with risibly illogical "scientific" explanations, including the notion that a silicon-based creature would consequently be invisible to human eyes (see Invisibility). [GW]


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