The Phantom Planet

December 20, 2011 at 1:59 am (6 Heads, Phantom Planet) (, , , )

The Phantom Planet – 1961- United States

Inexplicably, The Phantom Planet opens to familiar footage of the Operation Crossroads Bikini Atoll bomb test. The year 1980: a rocket jock from Earth’s lunar military base wrecks on a phantom asteroid. Breathing the asteroid’s air, he shrinks rat-sized and meets the equally small Rhetons. The Rhetons are technologically advanced human-like aliens who live in caves and settle disputes via deadly tug of war duels. The hard-assed rocket jock isn’t impressed and immediately plots to escape. His scheme is complicated by invasion from the monstrous Solarites and true love.

Phantom Planet is successful sci-fi. The speculative elements are ridiculous but imaginative. Robotics made the Rhetons soft and lazy until they instituted societal reforms mixing Luddism and Marxism-Leninism. While Phantom Planet glosses over details, the concepts provoke thought. Human-like aliens are always unbelievable, but the Rhetons’ minute size is interesting. More so considering their homeworld is an asteroid propelled by artificial gravity. Just don’t think too hard about where the asteroid’s atmosphere came from.

Phantom Planet is less successful entertainment. The talky script is confined to dismal cave and spaceship sets. The miniature models are competent, but shots of flying rockets and meteors are overused. However, a few moments show flair. When the rocket jock encounters the tiny Rhetons, perspective shots and mattes compellingly show their disparate sizes. The Solarites are also unique. The imposingly tall insect-rock-men fly ships engulfed in flame.

Phantom Planet is an enjoyable non-classic. It’s more intelligent than most of the era’s alien invasion flicks, even if its premise can’t withstand scrutiny. Suspend your disbelief.

Rating: 6/10 Shrunken Heads. Scope that sexy sultry mute chick with the dark eyes. Meow.

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