RED WARNING. 8:11. Height: 50,000 feet. Estimated speed: 5,000 miles/hr.
In Phantom from Space, an unidentified flying object is first spotted in Alaska. It then speeds down the coast via Vancouver to Santa Monica and finally (and conveniently) to Los Angeles, California, where filming these quickies was the cheapest. If this were being filmed today, it would probably stay put in BC.
Soon, a frantic woman reports her husband and friend are missing. Witnesses recount a confrontation in the dark with a creature sporting a suit like a deep sea diver (one even took a swing at the thing with a block of wood, a move questioned by incredulous, chain-smoking cops).
“There was no sign of the mysterious intruder,” by the time law enforcement was on the scene. So all they had to go on was the civilian’s story about going at the entity with a 2X4.
Before long though, the law is on its tail and picking up some of the perp’s details:
There wasn’t any head in that helmet.”
“No head at all.
What was the origin of the thing? Did a plane crash? Or was it a plane? No extant technology could reach speeds of 5,000 miles/hour.
Radio and TV signals are being disrupted and the creature is highly radioactive and tracked to nearly oil fields.
Turns out, this is really a job for the feds/army. So Major Andrews asks his assistant, and soon, he and a bunch of fedoras are in hot pursuit, radiation be damned (no protective Hazmat suits necessary).
Detectives tell the lady scientist (former MGM showgirl Noreen Nash) how to do her job and prying paparazzi journalists are muscled aside, as if they were getting a scoop at a Trump rally.
We we find out the creature is only visible under UV light, probably a good thing, at least in order to mask its crapiness.
How did the craft get here? Did the spaceship operate by magnetic propulsion? That’s one of the lengthily tedious hypotheses put forward, as damn, there is LOTS of chatter and speculation.
There’s even rehashing of the voice-over sentiments from the film’s beginning to get other characters up to speed.
Directed by W Lee Wilder, brother of Billy (Some Like it Hot, Irma La Douce), Phantom was co-written by son Myles. He would go on to lead the writing team on the Dukes of Hazzard. One of the cops is played by Harry Landers, which is as science fiction a name as you can get, and who was a regular on the 60s medical drama Ben Casey.
Phantom from Space was released in the spring of 1953 and is a product of its time: lots of bleep bleep noises, loads of stock footage and some guy in a puffy suit.
** (out of 5)