Halloween Havoc!: THE MAN FROM PLANET X (Mid Century Productions 1951)

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THE MAN FROM PLANET X is low-budget early sci-fi movie about an alien coming to Earth. The mysterious Planet X is drawing close to our world. Discovered by Professor Elliot (Raymond Bond), Planet X will come closest to the foggy coast of Scotland. Intrepid reporter John Lawrence (cult actor Robert Clarke of THE HIDEOUS SUN DEMON) travels there to meet his old friend, and falls in love with the professor’s daughter Enid (Margaret Field, mother of Sally). A spaceship is found with an alien inside. The professor’s assistant Mears (a very young William Schallert) wants to use the alien for his lightweight metal and get rich. But the alien has other plans, capturing Mears and the Professor, along with some townspeople.

The alien is an advance scout for the coming invasion of Planet X. The Scottish town is cut off from contacting the rest of the Earth as the fiend gets ready to summon his forces. Can he be stopped I time? Will Lawrence save the Earth? Or are we doomed to become slaves of THE MAN FROM PLANET X??

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The background to this movie is more interesting than the film itself. The writer/producer tandem of Jack Pollexfen and Aubrey Wisberg founded Mid-Century Productions in 1951. Science-fiction was all the rage at the box office, so they concocted a story called THE MAN FROM PLANET X. Being a small company, they hired Edgar G. Ulmer to direct. Ulmer was a veteran of German cinema who came to America in the late 20’s. He directed the horror classic THE BLACK CAT at Universal in 1934, starring Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. But after a scandal involving an executive’s wife, Ulmer was blacklisted from the major studios. Finding work only at Poverty Row studios like PRC, Ulmer quickly learned to craft diamonds out of the coal he was handed. Films like 1944’s BLUEBEARD with John Carradine and the noir classic DETOUR (1945) are still studied today as examples of making good films with little money.

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THE MAN FROM PLANET X was shot in six days on Hollywood backlots. The moors of Scotland are recreated by fog machines to cover the lack of sets. Backgrounds are obvious matte paintings. What sets there are in the film were leftover from the 1948 JOAN OF ARC starring Ingrid Bergman. Using lighting tricks and camera angels, Ulmer creates a believable world despite the flowery script by Pollexfen and Wisberg. THE MAN FROM PLANET X is one of the earliest “alien invasion” movies, and should be seen by sci-fi/horror enthusiasts at least once. (And trust me, you haven’t heard the last of Ulmer here at Cracked Rear Viewer. His films are worth revisiting.)

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