Written by: Carroll Jenkins on October 25th, 2008
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1961
Director: William Marshall
Writers: Fred Gebhardt, William Telaak, Fred De Gorter
Cast: Dean Fredericks, Coleen Gray, Anthony Dexter, Francis X. Bushman, Richard Weber, Al Jarvis, Dick Haynes, Earl McDaniels
DVD released: October 21st, 2008
Approximate running time: 82 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Legend Films
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $14.95
Synopsis: Lunar base is the control center for exploration of the solar system. When two rocket ships go missing, Captain Chapman is sent to investigate. What he encounters is the rumored Phantom Planet.
Phantom Planet borrows inspiration from many sources, primarily Destination Moon and This Island Earth. This not a mere retread, however, since it presents the material in a realistic fashion with an adult and literate script. There is humor, romance, unexpected twists, and a strong philosophical undercurrent.
The movie opens with a prequel monologue that obviously inspired the control voice intro / outro in “The Outer Limits” series two years later. The first act is a thrilling rocket ship journey which is probably the finest film presentation of rocket travel up to that point. The interiors of the rockets and lunar base are quite impressive – due to the assets of a company called Space Age Rentals. The model work and space shots are creative and effective.
Once the Phantom Planet is found the movie enters more familiar space opera territory. Certainly familiar to most of us, since both Star Trek pilots and bits and pieces of numerous other episodes [of Star Trek TOS] seem to borrow from this flick. The nominal monster, a Solarite, is a cross between the Metaluna Mutant and a Mole Man. This is another precedent borrowed by both The Outer Limits and Star Trek (and played by Richard Kiel).
The hero is cut full cloth from Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon. But Captain Chapman also has a swagger and a chip on his shoulder that combined with his tendency to make time with every extraterrestrial babe in sight is the obvious blueprint for Captain Kirk. The moon base crew features women communications officers and one is Oriental. By providing reasoned explanations for all the bad science and introducing believable techno-babble to explain the goings on, this is the missing link between the fifties sci-fi feature films and the sixties sci-fi television series.
There are lots of babes on hand including the all-female ‘Jury’. Coleen Gray is the misguided vixen that the Captain must disingenuously seduce. Delores Faith doesn’t have a lot of lines but is very appealing as she telepaths her role.
This a beautiful film and the presentation is quite pleasing. There is some speckling and dirt on occasion, but the special effects work and atmospheric B&W cinematography are wonderful. Close captions are included. Oh, there’s a colorized version too.