The Man From Planet X is an early alien invasion film, created just a few years after the Roswell phenomenon. It was released in 1951, just months prior to the higher budgeted hit The Day the Earth Stood Still. The film was shot over a mere 6 days.
The Man From Planet X veers away from the flying saucer trope that we see over and over again in the 1950s and actually presents a pretty cool ship design which you can see in the picture above. It looks like a juicer on top of a lead shot, and is a refreshing change of pace, albeit a small one.
The movie is set in a remote and foggy Scottish island, but shot completely in California. The Scottish actors featured here are some of the most trusting you will see in any film, happy to let the American protagonist run the town after a series of disappearances. The constable even gives his bike and pistol to John Lawrence, the boringly named American lead man. Several sets are obviously painted backdrops, and many were reused from earlier films, which was pretty common for low budget movies like this one. At one point our characters are in a harbor sending signals to stock footage of a ship, and behind them is a painting of the Scottish village done by some Southern Californian 5th grade class. Really, the only reason that I can think of that they used Scotland as a setting for this film is so they could use the castle dungeon and that is a stretch.
The acting is pretty ho-hum for the most part. The still-active William Schallert produces the only speaking role worth remembering. As Dr. Mears, he lurks around in the shadows, tortures the alien for information, and tries to use alien technology for his own gain. The movie needed more characters like this, who weren’t flat and had different motives. Russian actor Pat Goldin portrayed The Man from Planet X, our film’s alien, who can only communicate with various pitches and signs. (Apparently in the film, they were able to communicate with Geometry?) Goldin does a great job of miming and bringing life to the alien with the thousand yard blank stare and no movable facial expressions.
All-in-all, it’s an entertaining early invasion film that could have been so much more with just a little effort. Give up on the Scotland bit and put the alien in an American town. It was just a taste of what was to come over the next decade. The ending was poignant, and (64 year old spoiler incoming) points to the Roswell incidents, which is what it should have focused on more. The female lead is in the arms of the male lead looking out at the Scottish (Californian) expanse. The following exchange takes place:
Enid: Is it true that no one will ever know what happened here?
John: Knowledge would only bring more fear in a world already filled with it.
Enid: Can such a thing be kept a secret?
John: No. No, but it can be reduced to gossip.
How awesome would it have been as an American tale of deception and cover-ups? That early on too, it would have been something else. What we were left with was still worth having a watch, especially if you are a fan of early sci-fi films. I give The Man from Planet X a score of 2.5 out of 5 severed LEGO arms.