Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Scream! Factory/MGM/United Artists
Science fiction and horror are not what they once were. They are focused so much on quantity than quality. The amount of special effects and over the top violence to be exact. That is something about which audiences did not have to be concerned during Hollywood’s golden era. Classic science fiction and horror — including even the cheesiest flicks such as It Came From Outer Space, The Invisible Boy, and The Man From Planet X among so many others — stand head and shoulders above today’s largely forgettable flicks because they focused more on quality than quantity. Thanks to the work of the people at Shout! Factory, the latter of that trio recently received new life through a new Blu-ray re-issue this past July. That re-issue gave the movie its own new life while also helping to show why classic sci-fi and horror is just as good as its modern counterparts, if not better. That is due in part to the movie’s familiar yet still entertaining story, which will be discussed shortly. The movie’s production values (I.E. sets, special effects, etc.) also play into its enjoyment and will be discussed later. The bonus audio commentary tracks included in the movie’s re-issue round out its most important elements. Each element is important in its own way in showing why this movie is so enjoyable. All things considered, they prove clearly that this movie is in fact one more example of why classic sci-fi and horror is just as good as its modern counterparts if not better than them.
Scream! Factory’s recent Blu-ray re-issue of MGM and United Artists’ 1951 sci-fi/horror flick The Man From Planet X is a fun watch for any classic sci-fi and horror fan that proves clearly why movies of its ilk and era are just as good as their descendants if not better. That is proven in part through the movie’s simple story. The story centers on an alien from another planet that lands on a small fog-filled Scottish island in order to start an invasion of Earth. In order to start paving the way for that invasion, the unnamed alien puts the tiny village’s residents under its control by taking over their minds. It’s not the only time that Hollywood presented a story involving a villain using mind control for a nefarious purpose, but it is one of the earlier films to take this route. Interestingly enough, even when under the alien’s mind control, the villagers are still cognizant of their surroundings — enough so that they can give the movie’s protagonist, John Lawrence, the information he needs to stop the alien. Obviously in the end, Lawrence is able to stop the alien. How he does that won’t be given away here. The truly surprising aspect of the whole story is that the alien is not the only villain. Dr. Mears is also a villain, yet manages through his own greed, is the one who unwittingly uncovers the alien’s plot. It is definitely an interesting twist, and one that makes the movie that much more entertaining. Keeping all of this in mind, the movie’s story does plenty to make the movie entertaining, and is not the movie’s only key element. Its production values play into its entertainment value, too.
The production values at the center of The Man From Planet X are collectively speaking just as important to the movie’s presentation as its story. Those values include the movie’s sets, special effects and even collective editing and cinematography. There are those out there who have lamented the movie’s production values, but the simplicity of the movie’s production values are a big part of its interest, but those behind the lens used the resources that they had at the time. They are even discussed in the movie’s bonus audio commentaries. Those commentaries will be discussed shortly. The simplicity in the sets is in fact part of what makes the movie’s look so endearing. They show that a movie (whether sci-fi, horror or both) doesn’t always need over the top effects, etc. in order to have a great look. In fact they show that sometimes, a minimalist can have more impact than the overblown approach taken by so many of today’s sci/fi and horror blockbusters. The same applies to the movie’s cinematography and editing. The angles and cuts are simple in their own right, using the simple sets to their fullest for just as much impact. The combination of that expert editing, cinematography and set design makes suspension of disbelief even easier for audiences, and in turn, insures even more audiences’ maintained entertainment and engagement. When this is considered along with the impact of the movie’s story, the whole of those elements strengthens the movie’s presentation even more. They are not the movie’s only key elements. The movie’s bonus audio commentaries round out its most important elements.
As was noted previously, one of the items noted in the bonus commentaries included in The Man From Planet X‘s home release is that of its budget. Author Tom Weaver, who provides one of the two full-length audio commentaries, notes that the movie’s budget was low. He does so in a respectful manner, though. He explains that the movie did not have a major budget, yet still managed to make the most of the budget. His discussion on this topic is just one of the items that makes the bonus commentaries so engaging. Weaver also notes early on in his commentary that this movie is both sci-fi and horror because of elements such as the “mad scientist” (Professor Elliot) in his castle and of course the evil, mind-controlling alien. Another interesting item that he notes is that of when he first saw the movie in the 1980s and became a fan of the movie from then on. That he openly admitted not having seen it until almost 40 years after its debut, but still became a fan, shows its impact, despite being a b-flick.
Weaver’s is not the only commentary included as a bonus for the movie. Glenn Erikson, who sometimes writes for Turner Classic Movies, sits down for an interview with Arianne Ulmer, daughter of the movie’s famed director Edgar Ulmer as an additional commentary. Audiences learn through the younger Ulmer’s interview that he was concerned about his legacy being forgotten and about her father’s favorite films. The Man From Planet X apparently was one that her dad liked, but apparently was not one of his “favorites.” Early on, there is also discussion on her own efforts to preserve her father’s works. That dedication to keeping her father’s legacy and memory alive is a touching sentiment. If not for her efforts, audiences in fact might not have this re-issue today. Keeping that (and all of the other discussions) in mind, such commentary proves fully important to this presentation. the same can be said of the movie’s other bonus commentary. When this is considered along with the importance of the movie’s simple yet engaging and entertaining story and its equally laudable production values, the whole of those elements makes this presentation in whole full proof of why there is still a place and need for classic sci-fi and horror in today’s market.
Scream! Factory’s recent Blu-ray re-issue of MGM and United Artists’ classic sci-fi horror flick The Man From Planet X is a work that shows clearly and fully that there is both a place and need for classic science fiction in today’s movie industry. It shows that the classics are just as good as their counterparts, if not better, in many cases. In the matter of this rarity, that is shown through the movie’s story, which insures entertainment and engagement through its simplicity. Its production values, which are simple in their own right, join with that simple story to strengthen the movie’s presentation even more. Both of the in-depth feature-length audio commentaries included as bonus material to the movie, adds even more to its presentation. When all of these noted elements are joined together, they make the whole of The Man From Planet X a movie that easily rivals its modern counterparts and will entertain sci-fi and horror fans of all ages. It is available now in stores and online to prove that argument to everyone. More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:
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