An alien lands in Santa Monica, but when pursued by authorities, he removes his spacesuit and reveals himself to be invisible.
“WHAT was he?”
“He came from a billion miles of space to meet the strangest destiny ever told!”
Phantom from Space (1953) was directed by W. Lee Wilder, who made two other movies I have featured on a Friday Night At The Home Drive-In – The Snow Creature (1954), and Killers from Space (1954). The most interesting thing about those movies was that they were made by the brother of Hollywood legend Billy Wilder. Yes, Billy Wilder, the brilliant film director who made such classics as Sabrina (1954), Stalag 17 (1953) and Ace in the Hole (1951). The Snow Creature and Killers from Space both paled in comparison to ANYTHING that Billy Wilder made. So how does Phantom from Space do by comparison…?
What’s it all about?
Phantom from Space (1953) begins with a flying saucer crash, which leads to some raging infernos. Investigators are sent in to find out what happened, and they learn about a large man in a spacesuit running around killing people. But here’s the weird part: the man has no head. Everyone is perplexed until they figure out that this alien is in fact invisible when he removes his suit – so this is why no one could see his head inside his helmet.
They try to catch him, but it becomes more difficulty when he takes his spacesuit off. He may have unintentionally killed those people, and he may need his spacesuit to stay alive, but authorities have taken the discarded – and very radio-active garment – in for tests. Or something like that….
Is it any good?
I enjoyed the first 20 minutes or so. It was fairly interesting, and a little different from the average 1950s sci-fi horror film. But after a certain point, the story just seemed to flatline. It never really built up to anything particularly exciting. I found myself wondering if the decision to make the alien invisible was at least party budgetary – so they didn’t have to design and build a cool alien suit.
How does Phantom from Space compare to the other W. Lee Wilder movies?
Phantom from Space isn’t really better or worse than The Snow Creature and Killers from Space. If I had to pick a favourite of the three, I might have to go with Killers from Space. It made me laugh the most. Phantom from Space is a little too serious minded, but not quite good enough to back up its intentions. Ultimately, it’s mostly kind of boring. And perhaps that’s to be expected, as Billy Wilder once said of his less famous brother, he’s “a dull son of a bitch”.
So what’s the final word on Phantom from Space?
Phantom from Space (1953) is an acceptable time passer, but not really a shining example of #NotQuiteClassicCinema. You might find it compelling for a while, but if you’re like me, your mind will be wandering before the final act. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You may find that it inspires you to write a better version of the story in your head. Or maybe you will see a little more unintentional humour in it than I did. Sandwiched between two better movies during an all night marathon, it might be just the dip in quality that you need to be able to appreciate the next undiscovered masterpiece on a #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.
— Angus Kohm (@AngusKohm) January 20, 2024