The Strange World of Planet X (film)
|The Strange World of Planet X|
VHS box cover
|Directed by||Gilbert Gunn|
|Produced by||George Maynard
|Written by||Paul Ryder
|Music by||Robert Sharples|
|Edited by||Francis Bieber|
|Distributed by||Eros Films (UK)
Distributors Corporation of America (US)
The Strange World of Planet X (a.k.a Cosmic Monsters in the United States) is an independently made 1957 British science fiction horror film, produced by George Maynard and John Bash, directed by Gilbert Gunn, that stars Forrest Tucker and Gaby Andre. The film was distributed in the UK by Eros Films. In 1958 it was released in the US by Distributors Corporation of America on a double bill with The Crawling Eye (allegedly, DCA considered the alternative titles The Crawling Terror and The Crawling Horror for the second feature).
A monomaniacal scientist creates ultra-sensitive, disruptive magnetic fields, which have unexpected side effects, while also attracting unidentified flying objects from outer space. Strange things begin to happen, including a freak storm, blasts of cosmic radiation that penetrates the Earth's normally protective magnetic shield, and insects and spiders mutating into giant monsters.
The film, meant as a cautionary tale about science, was adapted by Paul Ryder and Joe Ambor from the 1957 Rene Ray novel of the same name; a made-for-TV serial, adapted by Ray in 1956, had aired previously in the UK and was the basis for the feature film.
In the south of England, at an isolated laboratory near a small village, physicist Dr. Laird (Alec Mango) is assisted by American scientist Gilbert Graham (Forrest Tucker). They are performing a series of advanced and dangerous experiments with magnetic fields, while using massive amounts of power in equipment never designed to carry such loads. An accident occurs and injures another assistant, after which a request for a replacement sent to the Ministry of Defense brings Brigadier Cartwright (Windham Goldie) down to investigate. He is accompanied by a woman computer expert, Michele Dupont (Gaby Andre), who helps to solve Laird's power problem, but not the larger risks inherent in his experiments.
Cartwright is impressed when an interrupted experiment transforms several pieces of steel, not in the test chamber, into useless lumps of powder. His report convinces the Deputy Defense Minister (Geoffrey Chater) to make Laird's project a top priority. He sends down a full security team, led by counter-espionage expert Jimmy Murray (Hugh Latimer). It soon becomes clear, however, that enemy agents are the least of the dangers around Laird's project: The hyper-magnetic fields that he has generated have been affecting the ionosphere, causing unnatural weather patterns, threatening ships at sea hundreds of miles away, and also weakening the magnetic shield that protects the surface of the Earth from cosmic rays. A sudden burst of cosmic radiation from deep space causes brain damage in one local man, turning him into into a homicidal maniac, while also causing the insect life to mutate in the area around the village and laboratory.
In the midst of this growing threat to the world's safety, a mysterious "Mr. Smith" (Martin Benson) arrives in the village. He is well-spoken, with little knowledge of ordinary life, but a great deal of knowledge about magnetic fields, while offering strong opinions about the dangerous experiments that Dr. Laird is conducting. Murray is positive that he is a spy, but Graham and Dupont decide that there is less threat from him than from the obstinate Dr. Laird, who plans on continuing his risky work. Even with "Mr. Smith"'s dire warnings, the forest adjacent to the village is soon swarming with gigantic insects and other mutated monsters. Graham's and Dupont's best efforts fail to stop Dr. Laird, and so they alert the authorities to investigate and send in the military. Later, when leaving the laboratory, Dupont is threatened by the encroaching monsters and becomes trapped in the web of a giant spider. The army arrives in time and is able to destroy all the mutations, saving her life.
"Mr. Smith" reveals to Graham that he is an alien from another world (withholding its name). Later, Graham explains to Dupont, Murray, and Cartwright that "Mr. Smith" is actually an alien emissary from a "Planet X", while also informing them that Laird has gone mad and plans to continue his dangerous experiments. "Mr.Smith" explains that his mission is to warn humanity of the likelihood that Earth's orbit will be destabilized should the magnetic experiments continue. They are already a threat to "Planet X", having caused the crash on Earth of one of their flying saucers. "Mr. Smith" is asked to help stop Dr. Laird, but being an emissary, he is at first reluctant. However, now faced with a continued threat, he agrees. They quickly leave and go back to stop Dr. Laird, who has already started up his equipment. "Mr. Smith" in the meantime has summoned his flying saucer using a hand-held device, positioning it directly above the laboratory. It fires down multiple rays that obliterate the building. With the coming disaster averted, the alien says his goodbyes to Graham and Dupont and walks to the landed saucer. It quickly becomes just an oval of light ascending into the night sky.
- Forrest Tucker as Gil Graham
- Gaby André as Michele Dupont
- Martin Benson as Smith
- Alec Mango as Dr. Laird
- Wyndham Goldie as Brigadier Cartwright
- Hugh Latimer as Jimmy Murray
- Dandy Nichols as Mrs. Tucker
- Richard Warner as Inspector Burns
- Patricia Sinclair as Helen Forsyth
- Geoffrey Chater as Gerard Wilson
- Hilda Fenemore as Mrs. Hale
Composer Robert Sharples uses a theremin in the film's opening and closing music score, creating an air of mystery and anticipation missing from the rest of the score. Composer Bernard Hermann used the theremin throughout his film score for The Day the Earth Stood Still.
On its original theatrical release, it was notably unsuccessful at the box office; it became something of a cult film due to later television syndication.
The film was first released on VHS tape in the U.S. by Englewood Video, a part of their "Science Fiction Gold" series (see cover above). Using the same cover artwork, Times Forgotten released the film on DVD, at whose website it still remains available.
- Warren, Bill. Keep Watching the Skies: American Science Fiction Films of the Fifties, 21st Century Edition. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2009 (First Edition: volume one, 1982, volume two, 1986). ISBN 0-89950-032-3.