Sunday, April 20, 2014

Ten Statements About....THE MAN FROM PLANET X (1951)

"Pardon you have any sugar?"
“Well how can you talk of him as if he were a human being? How do we know what thought processes run through his head? How can we even assume that he thinks like we do? How can you anticipate what a fantastic organism like that might do or might no do?"

1) One thing you can always count on Edgar G. Ulmer to do is use black and white effectively.  There are scenes which could be very ordinary that Ulmer gives flavor and depth through the use of negative space and contrast.  This elevates what could be a really poor sci-fi B movie into something...well, much less poor.

2) Another thing that helps hide the film’s microbudget is the way the script takes place on a) a fog-encrusted moor and b) at night.  This conceals the cheapness of some of the matte painting--and trust me, when you see the matte painting in the few daylight scenes, you will cringe--and the fact that many of the outdoor shots are being taken in California.

3) I find it highly amusing that, for a movie taking place in what we’re supposed to take to be Scotland, we don’t actually see any Scottish people until the end of the second act--and even when we do see them, some have problems keeping their Scottish ‘accents’ consistent.

4) Ulmer’s excellent use of black and white does maximize the effectiveness of the titular Man From Planet X.  Frequently illuminated from below, the rather obvious mask is given a great deal more shape and contrast, transforming a silly special effect into something rather sinister that’s reminiscent of the classic Grey Alien appearance.  That being said....
"Oh, no...that doesn't look phallic at all."

5) It’s weird what The Man From Planet X’s ultimate intention is given how the film’s first two acts are set up as a classic ‘humanity screws it up for itself’ science fiction scenario.  Why would this alien behave the way he did, only for it to be revealed in literally the last five minutes what he really wants to do?

6) One thing I learned from this film?  Guys with beards are invariably jerks who will screw up everything if given the chance.

7) Okay, let me get this straight...the glass on this alien’s space ship can’t be cut by diamond, the hull is made out of a metal many times denser than steel...and yet a simple British soldier with a bazooka can blow this whole starship up?  I call da bull puck on ya.

8) What fascinates me about Robert Clarke’s John ‘Rockjaw’ Lawrence is how he has a connection with every.  single.  other member of the core cast even before he’s formally met them in the context of the story.
"Screw that bike is
so much cooler."

9)   I find it really odd how the second John ‘StoicMustache’ Lawrence sets eyes on William Schallert’s Dr. Mears, he makes all these allusions to What A Jerk he is...and yet there’s no reason why he’s a jerk.  The whole intimations of the awful things Mears has done is really unnecessary to the plot, as we see his Jerkitude through his actions toward The Man From Planet X.

10) I’m sorry, but as ecofriendly as John ‘MountainChin’ Lawrence is in using a bicycle, the sight of him being chased by two Scotsmen on the moors is unintentionally hilarious.

Overall...a very low budget film with a so-so script that still manages to have a little extra heft due to Ulmer’s excellent cinematorgraphy and some of his choices to disguise the limitations he had to work with.

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