Friday, 20 March 2015

THE MAN FROM PLANET X












d. Edgar G. Ulmer (1951) 


An interesting attempt at making a film about an alien invasion on a tiny budget and with only a few painted sets and some scale models to help set the scene, The Man From Planet X is notable for two things: it's supposed location, and the X Man himself, who is an amazing and surprising creation.

The film is supposedly set on the 'Scotch' island of Bury, a place of fog and moors and fishermen with stick on sideburns and a variety of accents. Bury will be the closest point on Earth when the newly discovered Planet X's orbit brings it close to our world for the first time. As such, some scientists and a journalist have gathered there to more closely observe the arrival of X, little realising that the mysterious sphere is populated, and that the inhabitants are mainly interested in decamping from their place to ours.

Which brings us to the X Man, the 'fantastic gnome': a small, rather feeble humanoid in a cumbersome space suit that is reminiscent of a deep sea diving outfit. The alien's face resembles crude, ancient figurative art, with stretched and elongated features, something like Humpty Dumpty's face etched onto sandstone. It's both creepy and rather sad, especially as the X Man seems permanently terrified. It takes a little spark of genius to imagine a life form that is recognisably a 'person' but also completely alien: the really clever part is that the X man appears to be made out of geological rather than biological material.       

We learn that Planet X is icing over, and will soon be unable to support life. The funny faced envoy is not unreasonable in the first instance but, once he's been beaten up and the military have been called in he gets a lot more aggressive, using a mind control ray to get the help he needs from the locals to trigger a full scale invasion.

Mankind triumphs in the end, of course. The army blow the X Man and his rocket to bits and so Planet X swings out of orbit without making contact, disappearing out into the farthest reaches of space on a trajectory of frozen doom. Hurrah, we should all be very proud of ourselves.  

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