Phantom from Space (1953)

70 or 72 mins | Science fiction | 15 May 1953

Director:

W. Lee Wilder

Producer:

W. Lee Wilder

Cinematographer:

William H. Clothier

Editor:

George Gale

Production Company:

Planet Filmplays, Inc.
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HISTORY

Only the title credit appeared at the beginning of the film; all other production credits ran at the end of the film. Phantom from Space is narrated by an offscreen narrator with documentary-style ... More Less

Only the title credit appeared at the beginning of the film; all other production credits ran at the end of the film. Phantom from Space is narrated by an offscreen narrator with documentary-style reportage. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
20 Jun 1953.
---
Daily Variety
22 May 53
p. 3.
Film Daily
4 Jun 53
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
22 May 53
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
23 May 1953.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
6 Jun 53
p. 1863.
Variety
20 May 53
p. 6.
DETAILS
Release Date:
15 May 1953
Production Date:
began early December 1952
Copyright Claimant:
Planet Filmplays, Inc.
Copyright Date:
27 February 1953
Copyright Number:
LP2564
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
70 or 72
Length(in reels):
9
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
16306
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

At 7:15 in the evening, radar picks up an unidentified flying object above Barrow, Alaska. The object travels south at an estimated speed of 5,000 miles per hour and continues south at a reduced speed and altitude until shortly after 8:00 p.m., when it disappears from the radar near Santa Monica, California. Around the same time, the Los Angeles Communications Commission office receives numerous complaints about radio and television interference and sends out mobile units to investigate. Lt. Hazen and his driver Charlie in Mobile Unit 1 are hailed by Betty Evans at the beach, where her husband and their friend have been attacked by a man in a suit at the picnic grounds. After assisting Betty, whose husband has died, Charlie remains in the area to investigate further while Hazen goes to the police station to make a report. There, Hazen listens as Betty’s friend tells Lt. Bowers that they were attacked by an unidentified man wearing what appeared to be a diving suit and helmet, although no face could be distinguished under the mask. Not long afterward, a second death occurs at a gas station in the same area, and a neighbor, George Nelson, reports experiencing interference on his television. Hazen and Charlie trace further interference as it moves toward the Huntington Beach oil fields. After an explosion at the oil fields causes another death, Hazen meets again with Bowers who, although initially suspicious that Betty and her friend murdered her husband, now believes that the interference and the deaths may be connected. When a police sketch artist completes a drawing of the unidentified killer, Betty and her friend ... +


At 7:15 in the evening, radar picks up an unidentified flying object above Barrow, Alaska. The object travels south at an estimated speed of 5,000 miles per hour and continues south at a reduced speed and altitude until shortly after 8:00 p.m., when it disappears from the radar near Santa Monica, California. Around the same time, the Los Angeles Communications Commission office receives numerous complaints about radio and television interference and sends out mobile units to investigate. Lt. Hazen and his driver Charlie in Mobile Unit 1 are hailed by Betty Evans at the beach, where her husband and their friend have been attacked by a man in a suit at the picnic grounds. After assisting Betty, whose husband has died, Charlie remains in the area to investigate further while Hazen goes to the police station to make a report. There, Hazen listens as Betty’s friend tells Lt. Bowers that they were attacked by an unidentified man wearing what appeared to be a diving suit and helmet, although no face could be distinguished under the mask. Not long afterward, a second death occurs at a gas station in the same area, and a neighbor, George Nelson, reports experiencing interference on his television. Hazen and Charlie trace further interference as it moves toward the Huntington Beach oil fields. After an explosion at the oil fields causes another death, Hazen meets again with Bowers who, although initially suspicious that Betty and her friend murdered her husband, now believes that the interference and the deaths may be connected. When a police sketch artist completes a drawing of the unidentified killer, Betty and her friend confirm its accuracy and are released. A night watchman from the oil fields adds further confirmation that the sketch matches the appearance of a person who was near a tank when it exploded. Bowers receives instructions from the the Central Bureau in Washington, D.C., with whom he had consulted, to contact Maj. Andrews and scientist Dr. Wyatt at the Griffith Institute observatory. When Andrews and Wyatt see the drawing, Andrews suggests that the “phantom” may be linked to the U.F.O. sighted earlier that evening. Although skeptical about the existence of spaceships, Andrews and Wyatt note that the U.F.O. could not have been a missile or meteor because of its trajectory, controlled speed and descent. Wyatt’s assistant, Barbara Randall, interrupts to tell them that newspaper reporter Joe Wakeman has followed Bowers to the observatory and insists on seeing him. Bowers, however, refuses to give Wakeman any information about the suspected murders. After midnight, Andrews, Wyatt, Barbara, Bowers, Hazen, Charlie and Wakeman travel to a brickyard where a disturbance has been reported. There they see the phantom and follow his trail of radiation by using a Geiger-Müller counter. When the phantom slips inside a building and removes his helmet and suit, he becomes invisible and eludes the investigators. The suit and helmet are taken to a laboratory at Griffith where Wyatt and Barbara discover that the suit’s material cannot be torn, cut or burned, but is magnetic. By 3:00 a.m., they also determine that the suit is capable of protecting a body outside the earth’s atmosphere, and that the contents of the helmet contain gases proving that the wearer does not breathe oxygen and will need the helmet to survive. When Barbara is alone in the lab, the phantom enters the room and locks her in. Although he is invisible, the phantom’s footprint appears in some spilled powder on the floor. Barbara calls out to her husband Bill when he arrives, and he brings Wyatt and Andrews to help, but when they get to the lab it is empty. The phantom carries Barbara, who has fainted, through the planetarium but returns to the lab, where Barbara awakens and sees the phantom put on the helmet to breathe. The phantom attempts to tap out a code with a pair of scissors but Barbara is unable to interpret its meaning. When she turns on an ultraviolet light, however, she sees a ghostly hand and screams. By the time help arrives, the phantom has escaped out the window, leaving the helmet behind. Moments later, the suit disintegrates. Based on the the phantom’s footprint, apparent intelligence and the suit’s and helmet’s advanced technology, Wyatt asserts that the phantom is a super-human whose spaceship was accidentally pulled into earth’s orbit and crashed in the ocean. Recalling that Betty’s husband attacked the phantom before being killed himself, and that the gases in the phantom’s helmet may have ignited the tank at the oilfield, Bowers concludes the series of deaths may have been accidental. Unknown to Charlie and Bill, who are conversing outside the planetarium, the phantom is operating the radar inside Charlie’s car in an attempt to send out a signal. The Communications Center picks up the signal and radios Charlie, who is astonished to see the car door seemingly open on its own. Wyatt, Andrews, Bowers and Hazen set up surveillance machines to alert them when the phantom returns. Around 3:45 a.m., Barbara is again alone in the lab when the phantom returns to draw air from the helmet. Barbara announces the phantom’s presence over a loudspeaker system, after which everyone arrives at the laboratory and attempts to calm the phantom. However, the flash on Wakeman’s camera goes off and terrifies the alien, causing him to drop and smash the helmet, which then dissolves. Everyone then follows Wyatt’s dog Venus, who detects the phantom’s presence and barks. After the phantom climbs up to a platform on the big space telescope, its full human-like form can be seen through the use of ultraviolet lights. Although the alien appears to be attempting to speak, only the dog can detect the sound. The phantom then suffocates and falls to his death to the floor, where his body evaporates. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.