The Man from Planet X

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The Man from Planet X
The Man from Planet X.jpg
Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer
Produced by Jack Pollexfen
Aubrey Wisberg
Written byAubrey Wisberg
Jack Pollexfen
Starring Robert Clarke
Margaret Field
William Schallert
Music byCharles Koff
Cinematography John L. Russell
Edited by Fred R. Feitshans Jr.
Distributed by United Artists
Release date
March 9, 1951
(San Francisco)
April 7 (NYC)
April 27 (general)
Running time
70 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$51,000 (est.) [1] [2]
Box office$1.2 million [1]

The Man from Planet X is a 1951 independently made American black-and-white science fiction horror film, produced by Jack Pollexfen and Aubrey Wisberg, directed by Edgar G. Ulmer, that stars Robert Clarke, Margaret Field, and William Schallert. [3] [4] [5] [6] The film was distributed by United Artists.

An independent film, independent movie, indie film or indie movie, is a feature film or short film that is produced outside the major film studio system, in addition to being produced and distributed by independent entertainment companies. Independent films are sometimes distinguishable by their content and style and the way in which the filmmakers' personal artistic vision is realized. Usually, but not always, independent films are made with considerably lower budgets than major studio films.

Science fiction film film genre

Science fiction film is a genre that uses speculative, fictional science-based depictions of phenomena that are not fully accepted by mainstream science, such as extraterrestrial lifeforms, alien worlds, extrasensory perception and time travel, along with futuristic elements such as spacecraft, robots, cyborgs, interstellar travel or other technologies. Science fiction films have often been used to focus on political or social issues, and to explore philosophical issues like the human condition. In many cases, tropes derived from written science fiction may be used by filmmakers ignorant of or at best indifferent to the standards of scientific plausibility and plot logic to which written science fiction is traditionally held.

Horror film film genre

A horror film is a film that seeks to elicit fear. Initially inspired by literature from authors like Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, and Mary Shelley, horror has existed as a film genre for more than a century. The macabre and the supernatural are frequent themes. Horror may also overlap with the fantasy, supernatural fiction, and thriller genres.


A scientist is monitoring a mysterious "Planet X" that has entered our solar system and is now near the Earth. A spaceship from the planet lands, and a space-suited humanoid emerges who speaks in musical tones. The alien makes contact with a small pocket of humanity in an isolated, fog-shrouded Scottish moor. Meanwhile, the scientist only wants to exploit the spaceman's specialized knowledge for his own selfish ends.

Moorland type of habitat found in upland areas with (sometimes marshy) poor acid soil and overgrown with low vegetation

Moorland or moor is a type of habitat found in upland areas in temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands and montane grasslands and shrublands biomes, characterised by low-growing vegetation on acidic soils. Moorland nowadays generally means uncultivated hill land, but includes low-lying wetlands. It is closely related to heath although experts disagree on precisely what distinguishes the types of vegetation. Generally, moor refers to highland, high rainfall zones, whereas heath refers to lowland zones which are more likely to be the result of human activity.


A spaceship from a previously unknown planet lands in the Scottish moors, bringing a humanoid alien to Earth near the observatory of Professor Elliot (Raymond Bond), just days before the mysterious Planet X will pass closest to our planet. When the professor and his friend, American reporter John Lawrence (Robert Clarke), discover the spaceman, they help it when it is in distress and try to communicate with it, failing in their attempt. They leave, and the alien follows them. A colleague of the professor, the unscrupulous and ambitious scientist Dr. Mears (William Schallert), discovers that the humanoid speaks in musical tones and tries to force from it the metal formula for its spaceship. He shuts off its breathing apparatus and leaves the spaceman for dead, telling the professor that communication was hopeless.

Robert Clarke American actor

Robert Irby Clarke was an American actor best known for his cult classic science fiction films of the 1950s.

William Schallert actor from the United States

William Joseph Schallert was an American character actor who appeared in dozens of television shows and movies over a career that spanned almost 60 years.

Soon, Lawrence discovers that the alien is gone, as is the professor's daughter, Enid (Margaret Field). Tommy, the seaside village's constable (Roy Engle), reports that others are now missing as well. Lawrence takes the constable to the site where the spaceship had landed, but it is no longer there. With more villagers now missing, including Mears, and with the phone lines suddenly dead and the village in a panic, they are finally able get word to Scotland Yard by using a heliograph to contact a passing freighter just off the coast.

Margaret Field American actress

Margaret Field was an American film actress usually billed as Maggie Mahoney. The mother of actress Sally Field, she was best known for her work in two science fiction films, The Man from Planet X (1951) and Captive Women (1952).

Heliograph communication device

A heliograph is a wireless telegraph that signals by flashes of sunlight reflected by a mirror. The flashes are produced by momentarily pivoting the mirror, or by interrupting the beam with a shutter. The heliograph was a simple but effective instrument for instantaneous optical communication over long distances during the late 19th and early 20th century. Its main uses were military, survey and forest protection work. Heliographs were standard issue in the British and Australian armies until the 1960s, and were used by the Pakistani army as late as 1975.

When an Inspector (David Ormont) and a sergeant fly in and are briefed on the situation, it is decided that the military must destroy the spaceship. Lawrence objects that doing so will also kill the people who are now under the alien's control. With the planet due to reach its closest approach to Earth at midnight, Lawrence is given until 11:00pm to rescue them. He sneaks up to the alien ship and learns from Mears that the spaceman intends to use its ship as a wireless relay station in advance of an invasion coming from the approaching planet, which we also learn is a dying world. Lawrence orders the enthralled villagers to leave and attacks the alien, shutting off its breathing apparatus, then escapes with Enid and the professor. Mears, however, returns to the spaceship and is killed when the military opens fire and destroys it, shortly before the planet is nearest Earth. No invasion happens and the mysterious Planet X slowly exits the solar system for deep space.


Roy Engel was an American film and television actor.

Charles Davis was an Irish character actor, writer and director.

Franklyn Farnum American actor

William Smith, known by the screen name Franklyn Farnum, was an American character actor and Hollywood extra who appeared in 1,100 films. Farnum appeared as an actor in more films to win the Academy Award for Best Picture than any other. Early in his career, he was billed as Frank Farnum.

Cast notes

Billy Curtis American actor

Billy Curtis was an American film and television actor with notably remembered as a midget, who had a 50-year career in the entertainment industry.


The film went into production on December 13, 1950, at Hal Roach Studios in Culver City, California and wrapped principal photography six days later. [13] In order to save money, the film was shot on sets for the 1948 Ingrid Bergman film Joan of Arc , using artificial fog to change moods, plot locations, and to hide the lack of backdrops and staged landscapes for the outdoor scenes. [8] [12]

1952 comic book adaptation. ThemanfromplanetXFawcett.png
1952 comic book adaptation.

Invaders from Mars, The War of the Worlds , both released in 1953, and The Thing from Another World (1951), all began production around the same time this film was made. The Day the Earth Stood Still finished production six months prior, in the summer of 1951.

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  1. 1 2 Monroe Specifications Named for 'Karamazov,; Lean Offers Ford Film Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] October 22, 1956: A11.
  2. Butler, Craig Review (Allmovie)
  3. Variety March 14, 1951, page 7.
  4. Film Daily April 10, 1951
  5. Monthly Film Bulletin 1951, page 343
  6. Harrison's Reports April 7, 1951, page 55
  7. 1 2 The Man from Planet X on IMDb
  8. 1 2 3 TCM Notes
  9. 1 2 Johnston, John, Cheap tricks and Class Acts: Special Effects, Makeup, and Stunts from the Films of the Fantastic Fifties, Jefferson, N.C: McFarland & Co. Inc. Publishers, ISBN   0-7864-0093-5 (1996) pp. 224-225
  10. 1 2 The Man From Planet X: Articles ,, retrieved December 19, 2011
  11. Parla, Paul, and Mitchell, Charles P., Screen Sirens Scream!: Interviews with 20 Actresses from Science Fiction, Horror, Film Noir and Mystery Movies, 1930s to 1960s: Margaret Field, Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co. Inc. Publishers, ISBN   0-7864-4587-4, ISBN   978-0-7864-4587-5 (2009), p. 97
  12. 1 2 McGee,Scott and Stafford, Jeff "The Man from Planet X" (TCM article)
  13. TCM Overview