The Phantom Planet (1961)
Directed by William Marshall

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* ½

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Sometime in the future, two rockets have disappeared in space and a third is sent to investigate. Before the men of this mission are able to learn anything about the missing vessels, however, their own craft is damaged by a meteor storm and crashes on an unknown asteroid. Only one of the astronauts, Capt. Frank Chapman (Dean Fredericks), survives the crash onto this uncharted rock, which, he soon learns, is inhabited by tiny human beings. When the helmet of his spacesuit is damaged and he is exposed to the small world's atmosphere, Chapman shrinks to the same size as the diminutive aliens and is taken prisoner by them. Fortunately, they are mostly a peaceful people, and he is accepted as a member of their society. Only one man, who resents Chapman's presence, and the attention he gives to a woman he himself loves, is hostile to the Earthling. This animosity is not Chapman's only problem, however, as the solarites, an evil alien race, are planning to attack the lilliputian denizens of his new home.

William Marshall's The Phantom Planet is a dreadful, dull movie. The acting is absolutely atrocious; the plot is ludicrous, inconsistent, and arbitrary, and the sets and costumes are completely uninspired.

Sadly, although the viewer may be able to laugh at the film's pathetic production values, stiff acting, hackneyed narrative, and so on, The Phantom Planet is more often boring than it is entertaining. The overwhelming majority of the movie is set in a handful of undistinguished faux rock caves, not one of which is able to keep the viewer's interest even for the briefest of moments. Even the action sequences are dull. Chapman's inevitable fight with his tiny rival is undistinguished and its conclusion is horribly trite and predictable. It is, however, far more competently performed than the hero's later battle with a solarite, which is so poorly done as to be one of the movie's funniest scenes. The solarite himself is also a delightful embarrassment. He looks much like a very tall man in a rubber suit wearing a basset hound mask, which, of course, he is. Unfortunately, the movie is generally lacking in such redeeming qualities. Although there are times when the film makers' ineptitude does make their work enjoyable, it is usually just tedious.

The Phantom Planet is not particularly distinctive in any way. It is very much like numerous other science fiction films made at the roughly the same time it was. The plot, characterizations, set designs, and costumes all resemble those of such movies and are almost invariably completely uninteresting. While the movie does have some value as camp art, it is so undistinguished that it is more forgettable than it is entertaining.

Review by Keith Allen

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