The Man from Planet X


1h 10m 1951
The Man from Planet X

Brief Synopsis

A space visitor uses hypnotic powers to enslave a Scottish island.

Film Details

Genre
Horror
Fantasy
Sci-Fi
Release Date
Apr 27, 1951
Premiere Information
World premiere in San Francisco: 9 Mar 1951; New York opening: 7 Apr 1951
Production Company
Mid-Century Film Productions
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 10m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Synopsis

Professor Elliot has set up his laboratory in a old stone tower on the isolated Scottish island of Burray, and has calculated that the recently discovered Planet X will pass closest to the Earth in a matter of days, possibly bringing dangerous consequences. Having promised his old friend, newspaper reporter Lawrence, first crack at any big story he discovers, the elderly Elliot invites him to the island. Days later Lawrence arrives at the laboratory but is dismayed to find Dr. Mears, a brilliant but devious scientist, is assisting his friend. That night, while Elliot maintains watch over the approaching planet, his young and lovely daughter Enid takes Lawrence on a romantic stroll through the foggy moor, and the two stumble upon a large atmospheric probe and immediately return to the laboratory with it. Elliot, observing that the object's metal is lighter, stronger and harder than steel, concludes it is from outer space. Meanwhile Mears ponders out loud about how he could profit from discovering the formula for such a metal. Later as Enid is returning from the local village, where she dropped Lawrence for the evening, her car has a flat. She is forced to walk back to the tower alone and discovers a large spaceship softly buzzing and blinking in the middle of the moor. Looking through the ship's window, she finds an alien face peering out. Scared for her life, Enid flees to the tower and reports the incident to Elliot. The two return to the site, where a laser shines from atop the ship into Elliot's eyes, causing him to fall into a zombie-like state. Enid manages to order him to return to the tower and the next day Elliot, recovered from the paralysis of his will, explains the night's incidents to Lawrence and theorizes that these occurrences are in some way connected to Planet X. Lawrence and Elliot rule out calling the police for fear of being overrun by the townspeople and return to the ship, where the creature appears: a short, delicate body with an over-sized mutated human face and slits for eyes. As the creature approaches them, it appears to be struggling to breathe, and Lawrence and Elliot assist him in opening a valve on his suit. The creature recovers and offers his hands in a friendly gesture, following them back to the tower's dungeon where Elliot and Mears try to communicate with him. Mears suggests that they use the most basic mathematical language, geometry, a language they assume a higher life form would have to understand. Having asked everyone to leave the room so that he might concentrate, Mears communicates with the creature but then attacks him to force the formulas from him and finally shuts off his valve and leaves the creature to gasp for breath. Meanwhile Elliot is bedridden by the flu and Lawrence leaves to fetch medication for him from the village. When Mears reports to Elliot that the communication was futile, Enid becomes suspicious and investigates the dungeon, but upon entering, she shrieks in horror, unheard by the others. Soon after Lawrence returns and finds neither Enid nor the creature in the dungeon and confronts Mears, accusing him of abusing the creature. Later the village constable and townsman Geordie arrive at the tower, reporting that two townsmen are missing. Lawrence tells the constable that he believes the man from Planet X is building an army from the paralyzed villagers to launch an alien invasion. The constable disbelieves Lawrence; however, Geordie convinces the constable and the townspeople otherwise, having seen the terrifying creature himself and the panicked townspeople shutter themselves up in their homes. With the phone lines mysteriously dead, Lawrence and the constable contact a passing ship by heliograph and, soon after, an inspector and a sergeant from Scotland Yard arrive and decide to call in the military. Lawrence, fearing that innocent lives will be lost, asks to try a plan of his own. The inspector agrees, but with the planet due to be at the closest proximity at midnight, warns that they must act promptly. Lawrence carefully approaches the ship and finds Mears, who, now paralyzed by the creature, explains that Planet X is turning to ice and its inhabitants have managed to make the planet deviate from its regular orbit so they can escape to Earth. Lawrence then commands the zombies to flee the ship and attacks the creature, shutting off his valve before escaping with Enid. Mears's desire for power drives him back to the ship to save the creature, but the Army opens fire, and the ship explodes just as the planet, in a glowing rush, passes the moors, and then recedes into space. The next day as they talk of returning to California, Enid tells Lawrence that she believes that the creature was kind, and they wonder what would have happened without Mears's selfish plotting, "perhaps the greatest curse . . . or the greatest blessing."





Film Details

Genre
Horror
Fantasy
Sci-Fi
Release Date
Apr 27, 1951
Premiere Information
World premiere in San Francisco: 9 Mar 1951; New York opening: 7 Apr 1951
Production Company
Mid-Century Film Productions
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 10m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Articles

The Man From Planet X


The king of the Bs, Edgar G. Ulmer was renowned for his ability and his preference for shooting all his features on shoestring budgets. Most directors would feel creatively restricted by the lack of funds, but Ulmer was stimulated by the challenge. Indeed, he turned out some of the most imaginatively filmed genre pieces ever to come out of "Poverty Row," a term reserved for low budget studios like Monogram. Ulmer started his movie career working on several milestones of European cinema, including The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919), Metropolis (1926), and Sunrise (1927), usually as a set designer and assistant director. He started directing his own features in 1933 and created such groundbreaking genre films as The Black Cat (1934) and the film noir classic Detour (1946). For his science fiction film The Man From Planet X (1951), Ulmer completed the B-picture during a six day shooting schedule, having shot it on sets left over from the Ingrid Bergman epic, Joan of Arc (1948). The result is that rarity - an artful and thought-provoking science fiction thriller that is all the more remarkable considering the film's modest budget.

Lead actor Robert Clarke (The Hideous Sun Demon), who was paid a mere $350 a week for starring in The Man From Planet X, recalled the film in an interview with Anthony Petkovich for Psychotronic Magazine:

"It was the first film ever released about an invader from another planet. We were in production after Howard Hawks' The Thing and that of course was a big budget film. But they were waiting for the snow to fall. Ken Tobey told me that they waited for two or three months! In the meantime, Aubrey Wisberg and Jack Pollexfen started making Planet X. We were in production in Hal Roach Studios on one sound stage with only a couple of shots that were done exteriorly.

"Edgar (Ulmer) was originally a set designer. As a matter of fact, he did the glass paintings of the castle in the film. Painted them himself. Edgar never gave less than 150%. I've had people ask me, "What was it like to go to Scotland to do a picture?" I think it had to do with the fact that the set was filled with that simulated fog all day long. The crew's eyes would be watery and bloodshot, their throats were sore. We, as actors, could go out once in a while. He didn't just have a stationary camera like most B pictures. Like most B pictures before the zoom lens was invented, you had to lay track down on the floor, but with the rock set for the castle, it was uneven, so they had to continually shim it down. Edgar had a cameraman who was trying extra hard. And considering that we only had six days to shoot, the resulting camera moves gave such a wonderful, big feel to the production. Edgar also had a lot to do with editing the script which was very talky. He just had an enormous amount of input. Another director could have just made a flat B picture. He gave an artistic feel to it."

William Schallert, Clarke's co-star in the film, also recalls his involvement in The Man From Planet X in Tom Weaver's excellent book, They Fought in the Creature Features:

"I've always felt very beholden to (producers) Aubrey Wisberg and Jack Pollexfen for recognizing that I was a usable actor and putting me into several of their pictures. The first time they used me was in The Man from Planet X, which we made in 1950. At that point, I'd been working on the stage for four years, and I'd built a kind of reputation in town...At the time, I also had a beard, and maybe that helped; the guy I played in The Man from Planet X was the villain of the piece. I was called over to Hal Roach studios, read for them and got the part.

"They were an oddly matched couple of guys. Jack Pollexfen was a really strange looking guy; we used to call him the Man from Planet X....I also remember X himself. He (the actor) was a very small guy, kind of middle aged. He mostly just looked interesting; I don't know that he was much of an actor. In a way, you look back on pictures like The Man from Planet X and you say, "God, that whole thing was just a joke ," but it has lived on."

Director: Edgar G. Ulmer
Producer: Jack Pollexfen, Aubrey Wisberg
Screenplay: Aubrey Wisberg, Jack Pollexfen
Cinematography: John L. Russell
Art Direction: Angelo Scibetta, Byron Vreeland
Editor: Fred R. Feitshans Jr.
Music: Charles Koff
Cast: Robert Clarke (John Lawrence), Margaret Field (Enid Elliot), Raymond Bond (Professor Elliot), William Schallert (Dr. Mears).
BW-71m.

by Scott McGee
The Man From Planet X

The Man From Planet X

The king of the Bs, Edgar G. Ulmer was renowned for his ability and his preference for shooting all his features on shoestring budgets. Most directors would feel creatively restricted by the lack of funds, but Ulmer was stimulated by the challenge. Indeed, he turned out some of the most imaginatively filmed genre pieces ever to come out of "Poverty Row," a term reserved for low budget studios like Monogram. Ulmer started his movie career working on several milestones of European cinema, including The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919), Metropolis (1926), and Sunrise (1927), usually as a set designer and assistant director. He started directing his own features in 1933 and created such groundbreaking genre films as The Black Cat (1934) and the film noir classic Detour (1946). For his science fiction film The Man From Planet X (1951), Ulmer completed the B-picture during a six day shooting schedule, having shot it on sets left over from the Ingrid Bergman epic, Joan of Arc (1948). The result is that rarity - an artful and thought-provoking science fiction thriller that is all the more remarkable considering the film's modest budget. Lead actor Robert Clarke (The Hideous Sun Demon), who was paid a mere $350 a week for starring in The Man From Planet X, recalled the film in an interview with Anthony Petkovich for Psychotronic Magazine: "It was the first film ever released about an invader from another planet. We were in production after Howard Hawks' The Thing and that of course was a big budget film. But they were waiting for the snow to fall. Ken Tobey told me that they waited for two or three months! In the meantime, Aubrey Wisberg and Jack Pollexfen started making Planet X. We were in production in Hal Roach Studios on one sound stage with only a couple of shots that were done exteriorly. "Edgar (Ulmer) was originally a set designer. As a matter of fact, he did the glass paintings of the castle in the film. Painted them himself. Edgar never gave less than 150%. I've had people ask me, "What was it like to go to Scotland to do a picture?" I think it had to do with the fact that the set was filled with that simulated fog all day long. The crew's eyes would be watery and bloodshot, their throats were sore. We, as actors, could go out once in a while. He didn't just have a stationary camera like most B pictures. Like most B pictures before the zoom lens was invented, you had to lay track down on the floor, but with the rock set for the castle, it was uneven, so they had to continually shim it down. Edgar had a cameraman who was trying extra hard. And considering that we only had six days to shoot, the resulting camera moves gave such a wonderful, big feel to the production. Edgar also had a lot to do with editing the script which was very talky. He just had an enormous amount of input. Another director could have just made a flat B picture. He gave an artistic feel to it." William Schallert, Clarke's co-star in the film, also recalls his involvement in The Man From Planet X in Tom Weaver's excellent book, They Fought in the Creature Features: "I've always felt very beholden to (producers) Aubrey Wisberg and Jack Pollexfen for recognizing that I was a usable actor and putting me into several of their pictures. The first time they used me was in The Man from Planet X, which we made in 1950. At that point, I'd been working on the stage for four years, and I'd built a kind of reputation in town...At the time, I also had a beard, and maybe that helped; the guy I played in The Man from Planet X was the villain of the piece. I was called over to Hal Roach studios, read for them and got the part. "They were an oddly matched couple of guys. Jack Pollexfen was a really strange looking guy; we used to call him the Man from Planet X....I also remember X himself. He (the actor) was a very small guy, kind of middle aged. He mostly just looked interesting; I don't know that he was much of an actor. In a way, you look back on pictures like The Man from Planet X and you say, "God, that whole thing was just a joke ," but it has lived on." Director: Edgar G. Ulmer Producer: Jack Pollexfen, Aubrey Wisberg Screenplay: Aubrey Wisberg, Jack Pollexfen Cinematography: John L. Russell Art Direction: Angelo Scibetta, Byron Vreeland Editor: Fred R. Feitshans Jr. Music: Charles Koff Cast: Robert Clarke (John Lawrence), Margaret Field (Enid Elliot), Raymond Bond (Professor Elliot), William Schallert (Dr. Mears). BW-71m. by Scott McGee

Quotes

Your statement has the tinge of fantasy.
- Professor Elliot
Well, the only difference between water and space is a matter of density.
- Professor Elliot

Trivia

Notes

A voice-over narration, spoken by Robert Clarke as his character "Lawrence," is heard at the beginning and close of the film. Producers Aubrey Wisberg and Jack Pollexfen established a new independent production company, Mid-Century Film Productions, to produce The Man from Planet X, the company's first picture. According to a modern source, the film was shot on sets used for the 1948 RKO production of Joan of Arc at Hal Roach Studios. Modern sources also note that the alien was played by dwarf actor Billy Curtis.