Tonight’s feature is The Phantom Planet , and I do recall seeing this one in the dim recesses of youth. But I remember little about it, so that’s okay then!
We open on a black screen and a countdown, which, when it reaches zero, becomes an image of an atomic bomb being detonated. Um. Well, I hope the rocket was insured, then. Or, alternatively, that it was supposed to blow up good.
”Through the splitting of the atom, only a few decades ago,” says a portentous narrator, “and through his God-given genius of science, man, at last, has succeeded in penetrating further and further—“ We see a spaceship fly across a starfield. “—into the unknown vastness of space. The Moon [which we see next] has become the launching base for advanced exploration. From this pivotal point, astronauts, at the risk of their lives, set out to conquer nature’s mysterious forces.” Asteroids fly across the screen. “Yet many questions remain unanswered. What is his Earth, in relation to the inconceivable number of other worlds? Is his speed truly the fastest?” Images of galaxies and like that. “His achievements, the greatest? Or is he a mere unimportant piece of driftwood, floating in the vast ocean of the universe?” We’re zooming in on one galaxy. “Could there be life, similar to our own, on other planets? Is it not possible, that atmospheric conditions of relative environments control their shapes and forms? If so, would they be giants, or could perhaps the opposite be true?” We’re still zooming in on the same galaxy, and we’re zooming in on one of its arms.
”Could their intellect have reached a scientific level far above man’s dreams? What then will the future reveal?” A solar system, then a rocket. “If this story you are about to witness is only…the beginning…” We see more of the rocket trundling along, then we cut to the interior, which is loaded with dials and stuff. And some musical stings and stuff.
And some guy tells us that this is the ship’s log and it’s 1980. Pardon me while I sigh for a long while. Anyway, he’s he captain, and the other guy is the navigator. He goes on to note other factors in their current location and stuff. “It’s quiet and lonely out here,” he says, “and frankly, we’ll be happy to get back to that dreary old Moon.”
The music takes a somewhat ominous turn after he says that. And sure enough, something goes wrong, the ship starts getting all bothered by a gravitational anomaly, and they both see a crappy asteroid which is bothering the whole situation. They try to correct but it doesn’t work. And they crash a lot into this asteroid, which pops out the titles, “The Phantom Planet.” And we get a lot of cast members. And some crew, including Gordon Zahler as “Music Supervisor.” That’s never a good credit to see.
Robert Kinoshita (Production Design) seems familiar, and there’s Hugo Grimaldi again (as Assistant Producer and Supervising Film Editor). More space shots, more shots of the Asteroid Gang floating across the screen. Fred Gebhardt produced (story and co-script), William Marshall directed (I remember a credit for additional dialogue from him).
Yeah, well, it all sucks now. I mean, makes sense! Sorry about that.
Anyway, we cut to the Moon, where some radar equipment turns. Inside, a top brass guy is wondering about the missing ships (two of them in this month alone). He mentions to an underling that the ships crash into something big enough to be thought of as a planet, but then the damned thing disappears!
”It’s against all theories of space,” says the underling. General Topbrass asks if Underling got the same reports, and he admits he did, and is just as puzzled by this appear/disappear thing as General Topbrass is.
Speaking of the General, who is actually just a Colonel, he gets a call on the space telephone from the Big Boys and they want answers! But Colonel doesn’t have answers. He mentions how he has the log of the last flight, and it tells “What happened” but not “How” and “Why.”
General Phone asks for a suggestion, but no one has any ideas. Colonel Moon says that the “mysterious planet” comes and goes when it wants, and is thus impossible to track. What a dilemma!
The voice over the phone scoffs about “phantom planets” and Colonel Moon takes umbrage at the suggestion that he is slacking off. General Phone apologizes, and suggests sending “another reconnaissance flight with Chapman.”
”Chapman?” Colonel Moon says, sounding as if he’d been asked to taste-test underwear. I’m going to guess he thinks pretty less of Chapman. And probably even less of Chapman’s underwear.
But let’s put underwear beside us, as we press on. Turns out Colonel Moon had Chapman in mind for the Mars Project, but General Phone reminds him that any Phantom Planets will put the kibosh on any Mars Projects, even if they’re only theoretical!
Well, Colonel Moon asks the Secy to call Chapman in, and she does, in two different voices. And the guy who looks like Martin Scorsese/Dick Miller looks awkward and uncomfortable as he stands there, having no lines.
Chapman, who has weird blonde hair, shows up and complains about testing “equipment for the Mars Project” and Colonel Moon tells him he’s going off tomorrow, the General ordered it, and Chapman, who I guess is ultra-telepathic, seems to know everything and wonders if he’s honored or not. He asks what he should be looking for and, miming, suggests a “floating space monster.”
Colonel tells him it’s “no joke” and Chapman apologizes for being frivolous and mentions how he’ll do his best.
And we cut to Frank Chapman’s rocket blasting off and hurling into space and all that. Not bad model work. Onboard, Chapman and his Stocky Pal read out the readouts that can be read out and they acknowledge stuff. Wow, the future!
The two of them talk about how take-off is always a nervous thing. A-yup, chuckle, then they look through screens and see the Moon retreating, and they note how it’s just breathtaking and stuff.
”You know, Captain,” says Stocky Pal, as he reads his lines from a teleprompter, “every year of my life, I grow more and more convinced, that the wisest and best is to fix our attention on the good, and the beautiful.”
Well Chapman allows how Stocky Pal is “some guy” but then Lunar Base One calls and wants to know what is what. Colonel Moon asks Chapman if there is anything out there, and Chapman says no, “it’s almost too quiet.” Ooo, that can’t be good to say!
Back in Colonel Moon’s domain, Colonel Moon wants to know whenever anything happens, whatever, and Martin Miller blinks a lot and we barely see the space operator’s face. Colonel Moon says, “I hope whatever was out there is gone now,” but a musical sting and the image of the ship flying through space put paid to that hope!
Chapman and Stocky talk about elapsed time and how boring it is, but Chapman has an idea that maybe they aren’t on course any more. Yes, I know it sounds wacky or space-happy but he might be on to something! He asks Stocky to follow the same course Pegasus Three was taking…which I guess I thought was part of the mission in the first place, but then I have never lived in space! So how would I know anyway!
Chapman avers how the phantom planet goes where it wants, so why would it go where it’s already been? Stocky pipes in that “lightning never strikes in the same place twice” so I guess that shows us futuristic super science at work!
And further, Stocky decides to follow Chapman’s (as yet unstated) plan. So he unstraps to go do something, somewhere. We see the ship in space—whoah! “You could go nuts out here, just waiting for something to happen,” Chapman says, echoing my thoughts on a daily basis when watching this kind of stuff. Stocky offers how it is the same as fishing, “you gotta be patient, and wait.”
Suddenly, the “electro-stagmeter” is “going haywire” and Lunar Base chooses THAT moment to call and bother them! Lunar Base tells them they are “completely off course,” but Stocky notes that the something-meter and the other-meter are “out”! Chapman assures Lunar Base that being off-course wasn’t planned, but they “are entering a heavy magnetic field” so that should excuse everything. Chapman asks for their “exact position” but the radio cuts off before they can get it! Wow, talk about not only cooking the brownies, but eating them too!
They decide to go to manual control…which I thought they were on, being able to change their course and all…but suddenly meteors show up! If you have seen any sci-fi films with space parts, ever, you know that meteors are never good things to see, as they are basically intergalactic criminals out to terrorize innocent space travelers! DOWN WITH METEORS!
Luckily, those meteors just walk on by, though Chapman insists the danger is still around. And sure enough, here come another flock of meteors! Could things BE anymore poop-stacked? I think not! Also, I need some beer!
The intrepid ship Whatever speeds through the meteor fields. Those meteors politely go over or under the ship. Despite their rare luck, the crew on board the Whatever decides going at a ninety degree angle would bode best for them all. Why? Um, you’re asking me?
At any rate, or (sigh) because of, Chapman and Stocky go with this ninety-degree plan to avoid these polite meteors. Because, otherwise, well, stuff would be doomed for sure! So the ship turns and heads right into the meteors’ path! Um, what? This doesn’t seem to be a plan derived from super-science! Rewrite!
But guess what! That worked! The meteors have passed on to menace hot-dog stands in other solar systems, and Earth and stuff are all clear and things. Stocky goes to check stuff while Chapman agrees it is a good idea to do so. Stocky assures Chapman, via the ole clap on the shoulder, that he avers they’ll make it to the Moon. Well, everyone hopes so. Except me, I guess, as I was looking forward to thrills and haven’t gotten any yet.
Stocky and Chapman go through the checklist, which is all OK except for “Main Circuits” one and two, which are negative. This seems worrisome. Even the auxiliaries are out, too! So Chapman is going to do…something. He gets out of his chair, and counters the playful banter from Stocky about training exercises and assorted folderol. Oh good. Wouldn’t want me to get scared! Or awake!
Chapman and Stocky go through a door, and a bit later, Chapman goes outside the ship to check on things. Because, you know, even if a meteor shower is over, it might not be over for those cosmic pranksters. They might have, after all, um, well, flown around behind and hid in some…they….zzzzzzz.
WHAT? MAN THE RAMPARTS, it…oh, sorry! I kind of fell asleep there. Snerk!
Anyway, Chapman is going outside, to the appropriate music. He sees a bit of the ship venting air out into the aether. Stocky comes along. They use a blow-torch, er somehow, to try and fix this, but it just makes things worse. More stuff starts venting!
Somehow (cough) one of them figures out that the retro-rocket feedlines have to be cut. So, I guess they do this, while little bits of things whiz around them. (Polite of them to wait like that.)
Chapman notices that Stocky’s airline is broken. And he shoves him back into the airlock. I’m not going to comment on defective space equipment this early in a mission…except I just did, I guess. Darn!
All the while, li’l meteors zip around, and while Stocky is shoved to safety, apparently one of the little meteors gets Chapman, as we get to see Stocky safe and the door close in Chapman’s face before he can get inside. He is drifting off into, um, excitement and adventure. Well, let us all hope! Meanwhile, Stocky, all those pizza rolls are yours!
Chapman drifts off into…whatever-world. He recites the “Our Father” as he drifts away from the ship, and we cut to where everyone is worried. Colonel Moon says to keep looking damn it all! He (Chapman) just has to be somewhere, is the reasoning.
Onboard the USS Whocares, the guy on the floor—Stocky—gets up and wanders around. That’s…well, that’s entertainment, I guess. But then, Chapman comes back on board apparently and starts the air, but it sure seems like this will be too late. But, he starts to talk into the phone.
He sees that they are going to smash into an asteroid, so he talks a good show and figures out stuff a scientist couldn’t do, because being about to die, he has insights.
Um, yeah. Chapman notes he is totally without control He notes how Stocky is probably dead and he can’t read his own position, thus, well, you know. What the hell happened how things are dead and not fixed anymore? Did I fall asleep again? Was it Stocky who fell off the ship, and I thought it was Chapman?
Chapman notes how he doesn’t think he’ll make it, etc. (Typical stuff, for the time. I mean, we all know he will or we’d be sans feature here.)
We watch the ship being pulled toward the asteroid rather severely, and finally everything shivers a lot and we see a beam of light yank the rocket toward the asteroid surface in a gentle fashion. When it finally lands, Chapman unstraps and breathes a sigh of relief. He then opens the hatch and steps outside (while the music takes a bit of an oriental approach). Finally, he falls off the ship and onto the asteroid surface. Then he gets up. And moves around. And starts walking, and falls down again.
Why, he’s no fun, he fell right over! But as he does so this time, we get some flashback dialogue and like that. All right! Grrl Power! YES! NO!
And as he snores to the scenes of the previous bits of movie, some tiny people come right up to where he is, and point at him. Hey, look, a giant is what I imagine they are saying. They seem to be about four inches tall.
Chapman wakes up and sees them gesture, in slow motion. They knock on his faceplate to no avail, other than to make him wake up in a bad mood. The little people scatter. And, to discordant electronic noise, he staggers and falls again. And as the astonished tinies watch, Chapman shrinks down to a tiny doll thing, just the same size as everyone else. So now everyone is equal and everyone’s vote counts.
The tiny people approach the tiny (though naked) Chapman and he resists them, but is ultimately captured to be brought to trial.
And we cut to the trial, or rather the aftermath of same. A lot of folks who dress very much alike are going to judge Mr. Chapman and his naked rampage. Chapman is called in so he can face his sentence.
He’s asked if he’s ready for trial and he’s all defiant, like, for example, he doesn’t know what he’s done wrong. Hey, just like us! The other day! Ha ha!
BANG. Ouch! Anyway, he wants to know his crimes. As he looks at the assembled ladies, the judge-voice says, “We’ll let you know in time. What are you called?”
He gives his name as Chapman, and wonders how everyone here (on “Raton”) speaks English. They explain that they “are able to translate all languages through voice tone waves.”
Some official type guy says these explanations are all well and good, but what about the charges? Eh? Hello?
Assistant Dork Guy says Heck Yes and he says that Chapman injured one of the natives. Chapman says he thought he was being attacked and he defended himself thusly. He notes that he didn’t want to come here anyway, bleah, but his ship was pulled here by “an enormous gravitational force.”
”You were, when you came into our path of travel,” says Assistant Dork Guy.
”Path of travel…” Chapman muses. “…phantom planet.”
Assistant Dork Guy notes that, “We managed, just in time, to control your landing, by releasing the pressure in our space warp.”
Chapman notes that he doesn’t understand this…join the club…and the elderly guy says that there will be many things that Chapman will not understand. Oh, that is so reassuring.
Anyway, Assistant Dork Guy demands a vote on the crime in question, and to a tympani roll, the (noted: largely female) jury finds Chapman innocent of serious stuff but guilty of being totally hot. Also, “guilty as charged” but that means he’s now a free citizen of Raton. So…uh, I guess that’s okay, then, just like in Bizarro World? Hello?
Some of the ladies flutter their eyebrows at this turn of events. Okay, hey, good. We’re told (as we ogle the cute brunette) that the jury is dismissed and Chapman is now a subject of the asteroid world. He gets a hand put on his chest to emphasize this. Man oh man!
Chapman shows he has some bite by saying, basically, that their system sucks and there’s got to be something better. Hooray! Also, he didn’t ask to come here, these tiny troublemakers pulled his ship to them.
The old guy says, in a sense, tough but says they have to keep themselves secure. So, Chapman has to be guilty, even though he won’t suffer “any penalties” except to become a citizen of Raton. And the trial is over and Chapman is free to go…um, elsewhere on Raton.
Chapman rants about this, and a hot blonde comes up to him and says he shouldn’t worry about anything, and also she’s Liara, the old guy’s daughter, and she’ll show him to his quarters.
And as Chapman turns to talk to her, and the camera angle changes, his extremely white blonde hair…
…becomes a very dark brown.
Say, this phantom planet sure does have its amazing qualities!
But as she leads him away, his hair turns bright blonde again! The mystery and awe on display is making me weep with glycerin! Also, lamp shades. The dark-haired gal watches as the two of them leave, and she lowers her eyes.
As they walk the corridors, Chapman asks what’s up with the midgetosity of everyone, and Liara explains that it’s a combination of gravity and strange gasses in the atmosphere. Everything here has been rendered “proportional” to the size of the world, and Liara explains how all the worlds they’ve found do this, with folks either big or small or regular depending on how big or small or regular the world is. Of course, this makes perfect sense if you’re a chowderhead but let’s be charitable and move on.
She explains that “oxygen” in Chapman’s world would restore him to his normal size, but he (according to her) shouldn’t worry about that, since (she cheerfully asserts) “You’ll never see your world again!” And she strides off. After glowering a moment, he follows.
And irony of ironies, WE see Chapman’s world again! We cut to Colonel Moon and his happy gaggle of babbling hecklers. He notes from another guy there that, yes indeed, no word from the USS Whoever for two days. Colonel Moon looks off into the distance, and says that after twenty-four more hours he’s going to send out a search party. I guess if he sent them out sooner he’d miss out on double buffalo wing night at the Peach Pit Bar and Grill, and we can’t have that. National security, you know. Oh, and fade out on that exciting bit.
Fade in as Chapman walks up to a crowd of tinies who are gathered around Old Guy. Old Guy dismisses the crowd, and he and Chapman talk about Chapman’s future. Old Guy wants it here on Raton, Chapman wants it back on Earth, Old Guy says no way. He says Chapman should be “productive.”
In response to Chapman’s query (“What is it you want me to do?”) Old Guy says Chapman should help keep Earth ships from getting near here. Chapman says that’s his only hope of getting back. Your host falls asleep again, but is awakened with the sound of a gingerbread house collapsing around him. The two folks on screen blather for quite some time. Chapman notes the two previous ships to crash, and Old Guy says Yah too bad about them but lucky for you, and Chapman notes how advanced the Phantom Planeteers are but how primitive too.
Old Guy notes how there’s a story behind that…oh, thanks. He drones on about how they used to have machines do all the work, and everyone got really lazy. Because they had so much free time, they started to fight each other. Really? Usually it’s the opposite.
Chapman says the same thing is starting on Earth. Really? Because of too much free time? “Too much free time—too little work!” Wow! And they say the cinema can teach us nothing!
Old Guy nods. “Problem not at all unique in the history of the universe.”
”What happened on Raton?” asks Chapman. Wait, isn’t this Raton? Hello? GrrlPower!
Anyway, Old Guy says the Raton folks decided to go back to the land and stuff, only they kept their super science things. Y’know, just in case and all. S o, you don’t have to hate the Raton people, they’re not real hippies. Whew!
And you know that dark-haired guy, who I thought was Chapman in a really bad edit? I think it might have been some other guy, who blurts up about impatience, then pops off. He has dark brown hair, though he shares Chapman’s gift for the stony expression. So, instead of being a bad edit, it might have just been a bad edit.
Old Guy calms Bad Edit, and tells Chapman he wants to acquaint him with their way of life and other space hippy stuff. Old Guy also tells Chapman that in time, he can choose a wife, either Liara (blonde) or Zeta (the brunette from earlier). Old Guy mentions that Zeta cannot speak, but both would be totally hot bods to press against on cool nights, so sez the Old Guy, though not in those terms.
Chapman avers how it would be hard to choose, and Old Guy says he can take his time, but when he (Chapman) makes his final choice, “it must not be taken lightly!”
Liara pops up and grabs Chapman’s arm, and tells him he “must be hungry!”
Bad Edit steps forward and takes exception to this. But Old Guy tells Chapman that he “must learn our ways” because I bet there’s a quiz later and Old Guy gives really hard grades. “And perhaps you may help us with our problems,” Old Guy says, without, you know, spelling out what those problems might be. Changing lightbulbs or killing bugs I bet, or maybe cleaning the litter box.
Liara grabs Chapman’s arm and leads him off stage, gabbing about “eat and rest” while Zeta looks on and lowers her eyes (but in the opposite direction from before, in a directorial flourish).
Cut to Chapman tearing manly chunks of something that looks like a hank of fried chicken. Liara says it’s equivalent to breadfruit. She also says it was made chemically, since nothing grows on this sorry equivalent of a planet. She then hands him a cup of tranquilizer. Well, she says it’ll help him rest. Like this movie is doing to me. Could we please cue the attacking monstrosity please! THANK YOU. (It is important to be polite.)
Liara says they here don’t need to eat much because of the air. Oh okay then, glad that was cleared up. Like acne. In other words, it wasn’t cleared up at all.
Later, Liana watches Chapman awaken from his sleep. He admits he’s feeling better but still wants to leave this paradise of the puny. She counters that he’s strange, but he counter-counters that everyone else is strange, also he doesn’t like how she pronounces his name so he corrects her.
She spits out his correct name, and he apologizes for “being so rough.” Then he says he wants to return to his ship, if he had his druthers and all. She says he can’t, he says that means he’s a prisoner, she says no, he can go anywhere, but he counters with “except to my ship.”
She says that the rocket was popped off the planet last night, when Chapman was sleeping.
Well that’s a fine how-do-you-do! And we cut from Chapman’s angry face to the ship floating in space, and then to the inside of the ship, where we hear Chapman’s previous pre-crash dialogue, where he was taking about how he’s doomed and all, with no navigation or instruments or anything like that. Stocky is mentioned as being “lost” and then we see the ship drift some more.
In Colonel Moon’s realm, everyone is excited when the radar tech spots a new blip. They’re all sure it’s Chapman and they start blurting about all the cool reasons why. Also, nobody is supposed to be flying in this area, too. So it all adds up for these guys. It’s Chapman and he’s back and everyone is happy…except, one guesses, Chapman, who is, after all, not really back at all. At all! He must be damning everything at this moment.
Colonel Moon asks about “contact” and is told by the radar cuties that there’s nothing but static. He notes this as curious, but still clings to his theory that this has to be Chapman, as it could not be anything else, ever. He phones some guy to come along and prove stuff. Fade a bit, cut to a model rocket ready to launch, and back to Colonel Moon who’s going to tell the folks assembled on that rocket to get ready to launch. So, we’re in a rescuing mood I guess. Okay then!
Colonel Moon talks to folks to assure the launch is ready to go. He tells “Beacher” who is in the rocket and ready to be hurled that “something unusual” must have happened to Chapman and Stocky, so, get ready for unusual stuff! Okay! Hello! He tells Beacher and his co-pal that space is important, and they have to find out things, so good luck and all that. Beacher says they’ll do their best. My arms itch even as I type!
And the second ship lifts off and shoots through space, and drifts along until it finds the Chapman ship, and they both stop like dogs sniffing tails. And a guy does a spacewalk toward the other ship, and it looks like it could be fun for daredevils, but there is work to be done first! Then thrills, we’re told.
So, he shoots over to the other ship, and goes inside, and he closes the door and he hears the last bit of Chapman’s log which is still playing after all this time. It repeats the bits previously heard about being out of control, drifting toward an unknown asteroid, Stocky dead, and so on.
Beacher listens, then calls in and tells Major Moon that there’s no one on board. Major Moon says that’s impossible, but they’re listening to the tape too, so it may all sort itself out. Beacher is ordered to come back and bring the Chapman ship with him, “and good luck!”
And we fade to Chapman writing something out on some paper or parchment or papyrus, or maybe a big ole rock. It honestly doesn’t matter, and pity those who think it does. Brunette Lady is coming up behind him. Oops, it’s Liara (blonde, but lit dark for this scene). Probably with a bag of insects or sugared donuts or something. But no, she just stands there while he chalks away. Finally, he throws his chalk down and says he “can’t work under these conditions” and he needs to know “more about the directional flight machine.” Me too.
”When the time comes,” offers Liara.
”Well, the time has come!” he barks, and he demands to speak to “Sesson” who, if these liquor drinks aren’t lying, might have been Old Guy. At least, he’s important enough to be demanded to be spoken to. “Now!” adds Chapman.
And Liara takes him to meet Old Guy. Old Guy’s talking (silently) with Bad Edit, but turns to talk to Chapman. He asks if Chapman wants to talk about Liara (oopsie), but Chapman says no, he wants to talk about the “gravity control.” Is that the same as the “directional flight machine”? Bad Edit pulls Old Guy aside. “It is too soon,” he says. “How do we know he is not a spy for the Solarites?” That’s sure a reasonable question. I guess. Solarites? Did we meet them or is the director asleep again?
Old Guy dismisses these qualms and takes Chapman to see the multi-named machine. Actually, he just opens a screen and waves his hands over a console, and something out in space—it looks like a hunk of trash--moves forward across the screen. Kind of looked like it was already doing that anyway, but Chapman is sure impressed, and asks Old Guy how it works.
”The high density of our planet makes it possible for us to advance gravity and, therefore, antigravity theories,” Old Guy explains, I guess.
”It’s beyond me,” Chapman says. He then says that Einstein was “working on this problem” but he went and died. Damn, and we were so close! He asks what causes Raton’s density, while Liara and Bad Edit scowl at each other in the background.
Old Guy explains, “The atoms on this planet have narrower electronic orbits than the atoms on most other planets. The smaller they become, the easier it is for us to control and take advantage of positive and negative gravity.” Damn, that is sure convenient! We see the space crap shoot forward, and then back, and then forward again. You must be THIS high to ride the space crap shoot-out!
Chapman asks why Raton is getting smaller. Old Guy explains that Raton is “slowly using up the energy that holds the atomic particles together.”
”You mean, you might disintegrate into nothing,” Chapman asks.
Old Guy confirms this dire fate. Hey, omelettes and eggs and stuff. Whatever. He does say it’ll be a while, so who cares? Chapman chuckles and says that folks on Earth are similarly cavalier about doom. But Old Guy alludes to the possibility of “attack” and hints at enemies…and we fade as the space crap goes back into space. Oh, good, glad you cut away before we had a chance to get excited and stuff. I only brought the one change of underwear.
Fade in as Chapman is walking along the rocky tunnels…with their precisely carved doorways…and he comes to Brunette’s chamber rock, and her open doorway. (This time it really is Brunette.) She’s lying on a rocky slab, waking up I guess, and Chapman says, “Hello.”
She wakes up and stretches and comes over to greet him. He tells her he’s going to take a walk and asks if she’ll join him. She’s reluctant but accompanies. They walk through the corridors, and he notes how this is the first time he’s had to “talk to her” alone. Since she can’t speak, I think this is a joke? We see a quick shot of the old giant space suit from which Chapman emerged, and the two of them stop to talk next to it.
Chapman asks why Brunette is “different” from the others, not just in being a mute but in being “warmer” than the others. He then says it wasn’t really a question anyway. Oh good. Also, that he knows she can’t answer, anyway, but this sure is a strange world and everything. He doesn’t want to hurt anyone, and neither does she, but Bad Edit heard all that and climbs out of the old space suit and makes to follow.
Except we fade, and find Bad Edit making “charges” against Chapman before Old Guy. He says Chapman is “imposing” himself on both Liara and the mute Brunette. He also notes that he (Bad Edit) loves Liara so this is a big deal. He demands to challenge Chapman to “the duel.” And at that moment, Chapman, Liara, Brunette and, um, slightly ominous music show up.
Chapman asks if he was sent for and Old Guy says yep, he has reports about Chapman that “are not good.” Ooo, sounds serious! Have you noticed how exciting this is? Because I haven’t. I haven’t noticed anything except boring-ness. Of which this tiny realm possesses giant handfuls of. Damn! Ended on a preposition.
Well, Bad Edit says Chapman has been “forcing his attentions” on both Liara and Brunette, and they both deny this, but he says they’re lying anyway. Could someone toss this trouble-maker off his asteroid and end the movie? Chapman says he’d like to belt Bad Edit a good one, and Old Guy says Bad Edit has challenged Chapman to the “Duel of Raton.” It’s a “duel of bravery” according to Liara. Well, I didn’t think it was a “duel of banjos.”
Chapman accepts and we fade. Some other guy is explaining the rules, which is basically fisticuffs around “gravity plates” which will disintegrate anyone placed on them. The explaining guy demonstrates with a boulder, and Liara gets incredibly excited. I mean, she’s in the background and all, but you can’t help but note it. Explaining Guy says they’re to use poles to push the opponent onto the gravity plate. Since Chapman has about a foot on Bad Edit, this shouldn’t take long. Why do I have the feeling it will?
There’s only one pole between the guys, so it’s kind of like tug-o-war, only more of a shove-o-war. So, they start, and they struggle and stuff. Chapman wins, but he doesn’t push Bad Edit onto the plate. “I don’t want to kill you,” he says, “I never did.” And he walks away while Bad Edit looks like he is totally shamed and probably gonna commit some kind of ritual suicide. Liara puts her arm around Chapman and leads him away, and Brunette looks pretty ticked-off at this event.
Liara notes how Bad Edit would have killed Chapman, but she loves Chapman. Chapman says that if she “felt anything for either one of us, you could have stopped this duel.” He then theorizes that she’d have happily told either winner that he was the best ever. He then goes on to say that he’s pretty sure he doesn’t like her much. Well, this is sure to cause trouble. Chapman, you dolt, you’ve been watching too many Hercules movies. As you can imagine, she’s not happy about this.
He goes on to make some talk about how love has to come naturally, but you can tell she’s all cheesed off. He asks her to help him return to his own kind, and she (pretty evilly) agrees to help him.
Fade, and fade in as Bad Edit is waving a knife over the sleeping Chapman’s face. Chapman, you are such an idiot. Chapman wakes up and notes the knife, but Bad Edit says he won’t kill him, he’s going to help Chapman leave the planet. Chapman notes the whole “tiny person” thing, and Bad Edit says that the oxygen tanks in the old suit hold air from Chapman’s world, and that might restore him. Bad Edit wants to get Chapman off the Phantom Planet before the Earth people come here and, I guess, stomp all the tinies.
Chapman says fine, then notes that Bad Edit loves Liara. He admits this, and says that maybe with Chapman gone, Liara will love him too. Chapman asks how they can get his suit where he can get into it and be rescued by Earth people. “I have some men I can trust,” says Bad Edit. Also, Old Guy “must never know” about this.
Does this sound really bad to anyone other than me? Yes, I mean this Bad Edit plot, but I also mean the whole movie. On the other hand, Bad Edit just had a knife to a sleeping Chapman’s throat, he could have killed him and dumped the body, then claimed Chapman went back to Earth, and saved himself a whole bunch of work. This he did not do.
Fade, and Bad Edit explains how he is in charge of the Master Control center two nights a week, and one night, he’ll maneuver the planet near Earth’s Moon, and I guess Chapman can pop off then. Sounds fine to everyone.
Suddenly, a shrill whine sounds, and this time, it’s not the movie giving me a headache! It’s an alarm of some kind. From nowhere, Brunette runs up and grabs Bad Edit’s arm. Then everyone runs off to where Old Guy is. Chapman wants to know what’s happening. Old Guy says they’re being attacked, and just to stretch the running time, it’s up to Bad Edit to say they’re being attacked by “Solarites.” See, they’ve stayed in one place too long and the Solarites have found them! What a clever trap!
Chapman asks about who the Solarites are, and Bad Edit has no time. Chapman asks, right in front of Old Guy, if this will kill their (Chapman and Bad Edit) plans, and Bad Edit just kind of looks at him like, “Not now, not now!”
The viewscreen shows that space crap from a while ago, and it goes away, and some attacking firebombs show up and attack! Everyone waves over consoles, and the space crap floats, um, after the firebombs pass the screen…but this works. Huzzah. Old Guy says they’re safe “for the moment.” Well, good, glad we missed any kind of excitement.
Chapman again asks about Solarites, and Old Guy and Bad Edit fill him in. Seems they’re from a “Sun satellite” and want the gravity control. They can use this to keep from being tugged into the Sun, and if they can avoid that, they’ll conquer everyone, including “your Earth”! Old Guy tells Liara to show Chapman “the prisoner.”
So, they walk through some halls and see a Solarite behind some kind of force field. He kind of looks like a humanoid bloodhound, with big glowing eyes. And a huge exposed brain. And a mean streak, at least as far as concerns rocks tossed at disintegration fields. As Liara explains the force field to Chapman, we can also see that the creature has huge spiked shoulders. “He could kill us all if he escaped,” Liara notes.
Chapman mentions how Earth folk have always wondered about life on other planets, and Liara says, “There are many inhabited worlds, but only these fire-people bother us.” And we get another close-up of the Solarite, just in case we thought he was convincing or something. Okay, we’re not convinced. Great! Let’s have the Solarites destroy everything soon, okay, so we can go home. I’m getting tired of this. Also sleepy.
We fade, and fade in as Chapman and Liara are arriving back at cave central with Bad Edit and Old Guy. Someone on the radio is saying that the enemy are concentrating themselves into formation “six” which is much worse than “two” I guess. We see several fiery balls pass in front of the viewscreen and everyone laconically notes how new this is. “We must try to break up the attack,” Old Guy reasons.
In space, we see the Phantom Planet, just kind of sitting there, and a bunch of fiery balls menace it from the left. We see a close up of one of the flaming ships, which looks like a chess piece being burned to a crisp, and inside, a Solarite is in the flames squealing like a pig. It almost looks less like an invasion than a barbecue delivery service.
Old Guy waves his hands over the most impressive of the glowing globes. And the Phantom Planet moves away, while the Solarites squeal after it. There are two fleets of Solarites, and they seem to cross one another and move on before the Phantom Planet even gets to where they were…what the hell kind of a plan is this? The Solarites don’t seem to have much on the ball, really. Hey, there’s an idea! Throw a giant rubber ball and the Solarites will bark and chase it!
Inside, they discuss outrunning or fighting. Old Guy says they are tired of running, they should settle this once and for all, “living in constant danger isn’t worthy of us.” Bad Edit notes they still have the gravity control, but Old Guy notes the Solarites have “heat bombs” which can blow up the Phantom Planet instantly. Old Guy asks “What would you do?” and Bad Edit says he would fight, and when Old Guy asks again, Chapman says he would fight too. Old Guy says that’s his choice too. Liara looks really happy at this turn. This gal would LOVE the WWE and NASCAR.
So Old Guy and Bad Edit wave their hands over the globes to maneuver the Phantom Planet to attack position. We see the Phantom Planet do this. You know what the Phantom Planet looks like? A piece of fried chicken, what they usually called Chicken Fingers. Maybe that’s what the Solarites want. Fried chicken.
I do have to admit, the model work in this is pretty good. The fried chicken…I mean, Phantom Planet…turns and spins and retreats nicely. Old Guy tells Bad Edit to tell everyone to get ready to do what they gotta do and all. I mean, fight the Solarites. Not play the blues or go on the stage or like that. Bad Edit says, “All units! Prepare for frontal attack!” Not frontal nudity, no, “attack” was they word they used.
The fried chicken…I mean, Phantom Planet…turns to face the Solarite pursuers. And the Solarites shoot little animated rays at the Phantom Planet, which again is fairly impressive effects work. And the Phantom Planet launches a devastating counter attack! Well, no, they don’t. They sit there and get shot at and the Solarites fly off to make a second run.
Which they do. And a third and a fourth run, too. They keep shooting their rays, and the Phantom Planet does nothing to defend itself. Okay, I’m lost here. What was the plan again?
We cut to the Solarite in its force-field prison. Two guesses what happens here. Sure enough, the lights start flickering.
But not flickering enough, because we’re back outside watching ray after ray strike the Phantom Planet. Sometimes lots of rays at once. And then, in a brief cut, we see the Solarite’s prison shield short out. Uh oh!
”Activate the gravity curtain!” says Old Guy. And I hope if that doesn’t work, they’re ready with the gravity drapes and the gravity venetian blinds as a back-up. Outside, a series of concentric waves envelops the attacking Solarite ships and they all explode! Yay! As Liara almost squeals with joy as she grabs Chapman, Old Guy is instantly down with them too to celebrate their victory over the dogs. Bad Edit, too, looks at Chapman like “Man, you are the one! Good job!” Even though Chapman did, cough, nothing. Still, he said he would help, I guess that’s enough, right?
”I’m deeply plagued with regret when I’m forced to destroy,” says Old Guy, interjecting the obligatory “bummer!” note.
”If it wasn’t them, it would’ve been you,” Chapman counters.
”Perhaps you are right,” Old Guy notes. “You are wise, Chapman. One day you and Haran will lead our people.”
”I’m honored and I’m grateful—“ Chapman starts to object.
”I will teach him all he needs to know,” Bad Edit says. I hope that will include who “Haran” is because I’ve forgotten.
I haven’t forgotten the Solarite, though, and neither has he forgotten the force-field. He tosses a boulder at it, and the boulder doesn’t disintegrate, so he has probably figured out that he is free now. Free to eat fried chicken! After making doubly and triply sure that he is no longer encaged, he steps out and plans the havoc he might wreak.
Back at central control, they note the absence of the mute girl (who went off to sleep). Old Guy says sleep sounds good to him, too, so he’s off to its tender embrace. Everyone thinks sleep is good, including your reviewer! But I am denied this pleasure.
Because after we follow Old Guy off to his bed, we cut to the Solarite up to no good, then to Brunette writhing in her sleep. Sure enough, we pan back, and the Solarite shows up and looks around, and eventually spots Brunette. He stands there a bit, then slowly approaches, then brushes her hair, hen the lights flicker, and he leaves.
Then she wakes up, and walks around, and in the dark, she touches him, and he touches her, and this generally gets tense. She, being a mute, can’t scream of course. He has some sucker-ended fingers which he is slowly moving toward her….finally, she faints and he carries her off. For rather a long time. Then, he seems to get confused about something…he stops and looks around in alarm. So he puts her down.
And along comes Old Guy, lost in thought. Solarite puts the sucky fingers on him, and he yells out “Aaaagh!”
Back in the central cave, quick-witted Chapman asks, “What was that?”
”Over there!” says Bad Edit, pointing, so they (and Liara) rush off to see. They find Old Guy a bit dazed (Solarite, bored I guess, has wandered off) and rush to his aid. In response to their questions (“Was it the Solarite?” “Did you see him?”) he is less than helpful: “I don’t know…it was terrible.”
In the mean time, the Solarite has carried Brunette to the central cave, where all the controls are. Uh oh! He puts her down on a table and starts screwing around with important things, and you know that can’t be good! He does look like a bad dog when he does it, though.
Chapman goes to the control room and finds Brunette, and when the Solarite is about to jump them both, she screams (yay!) but not before he shoves Chapman hard. Bad Solarite! No biscuit! He then advances slowly on Chapman, who (pardon me while I yawn) is probably going to lure him onto one of those disintegration plates from a while ago.
Bad Edit shows up, yells, “Watch the plates!” and he and Chapman play tag with the Solarite while Brunette screams. Eventually, the two guys get the Solarite to stand nicely on the deadly plate and he disintegrates. They look and gesture at this outcome until we fade.
And we fade in as Chapman and Bad Edit are talking about returning Chapman to his own world. And this seems like a good talk. And all good, and stuff. And we fade to later when Mute Brunette comes into Chapman’s cube and thanks him, and he is all surprised about how she can talk. She explains how the fear she had recently made her talkable.
They talk about how this is great an all, and they kiss. Yes! Awesome! Blah! Chapman says something below the level of human hearing (he is tiny) but I think it has to do with shrinking and hearts and stuff. She counters that she’s never been able to express these feelings because she couldn’t talk which would make such things tough anyway.
He says he has to leave, too bad, but there’s another kiss and stuff.
Fade to the two of them showing up in Bad Edit’s shift at the control room. He’s happy to see them both and notes the pressing of time. As Chapman and Mute look forlorn, we fade to some rocket footage.
And inside this rocket are two guys who are being called by the Lunar Base. They answer. Lunar Base tells them they’ve picked up readings for a giant asteroid. One of the guys immediately leaps to the conclusion that this is “the Phantom Planet!” so they ask for directions. They’re told they should land and investigate. Fade to Chapman and Brunette.
”I hope you find happiness back with your people,” Brunette says.
”You would be my happiness, if you were there,” Chapman mutters.
She gives him a rock, saying it will be a good luck charm. She says that (somehow) this will make his journey back more safe. Okay. They chat a bit more, then Bad Edit shows up. He says that the rocket is on its way, and it won’t crash because the best guy is on gravity control. And they’re ready to put Chapman hack in his suit and turn on the oxygen.
“You know, we’ve become friends
here,” Chapman tells them both, “Good friends. We would have become friends
anywhere. Your planet, or my
Earth.” He offers his hand. “I wish you and Liara much
happiness.” Bad Edit smiles, shakes
hands, and then walks off without saying anything. Then Chapman walks off, leaving Brunette
He walks over to his suit and shakes Bad Edit’s hand again—is he running for office or something? Then he starts taking off his clothes because they’d be too tiny to survive his ascent into behemothitude. The cover of his helmet is closed, and the oxygen turned on, and the suit inflates and Chapman’s face grows into the faceplate window.
We get a swirly effect as he remembers scenes from previous in the picture. This goes on for rather a while, but I guess it's there because in the theatre the ushers would be going around waking people up and the patrons would want to know what they've missed. (Answer: not much.) Then a normal human astronaut leans over the sleeping Chapman and shakes him awake. He radios back that he found Chapman, but “there’s no trace of McHonen” who I guess was the chunky guy Chapman flew with.
Chapman staggers to his feet and confirms Chunky’s death. He asks where the “others” are and names several of the wee folk. Astronaut doesn’t know any of these names and probably thinks Chapman is space-happy. As they walk back to the ship, Astronaut tells the guy still on board everything that Chapman just said. Good lord, the repetition in this film…
Astronaut tells Chapman he’s lucky and all that, but Chapman keeps babbling about little people. Astronaut tells him he needs rest. And so do the rest of us, damn it.
Fade to the inside of the ship, as Chapman is put into a spare space chair, and preparations for launch are made. Some dolt asks Chapman how he feels, and as expected this gives forth a large venting of half-sentences.
”I don’t know…I don’t understand…it’s unbelievable.”
There’s more chatter, then Chapman takes the lucky rock out of his pocket. See, that proves it all happened and it wasn’t just a dream.
We get the entire countdown before liftoff, and then we see the rocket in space, and then we see a view of the Phantom Planet receding into the distance and the music swells and can it be over, please?
”What then, will the future reveal?” asks a narrator. “If this story is only the beginning, is only the beginning, only the beginning.” Sure enough, the title THE BEGINNING shoots out at us, and that would be really mean if this film still had a bunch of hours left to go. Fortunately, it does not and we're done.
Well, there's not a lot that can be said about this. Sure, I've seen worse. Much worse. But I've seen better, too. This one...slow-moving and repetitive, it didn't seem to know what to do with anything that might be exciting, like the battle, or the escape of the Solarite. Both those things occurred in the latter part of the film, and they seem shoe-horned in, like nervous producers insisted on a monster after test audiences for "Planet of Discussions" fell asleep in droves.
In fact, it honestly wouldn't surprise me if this was the case. There were all sorts of sub-plots, like Liana's scheming, that started up and went nowhere, as if the whole movie was planned as a kind of "palace intrigue" thing. As other reviewers (Bill Warren, for one) have noted, it feels like a serial--most serials were full of repetition and talk, because those were cheap to produce and since the chapters were only fifteen minutes or so, who would care? The main feature would start up anyway and the serial would be forgotten until next week. Besides, as I have noted elsewhere in these pages, serials seemed to need to have very little happen in the middle two-thirds, because what if someone missed one of those chapters? Hence, while a lot "happened," not a lot of it really mattered much.
All in all, I can't really say there's anything worth your while in this. The acting is pretty cliche (though largely serviceable), the story is dull and slow-moving, the ideas are largely old-hat and the "exciting" bits seem purposely drained of any real excitement. The poor Solarite looked as if he wanted to join in the discussions, not wreak the half-hearted havoc he wrought. Some nice model work does not a compelling movie make, though I guess if you had to watch this it's at least something. The Solarite...well, he was interesting looking, all right, though he looked like he stepped right out of a Dr. Seuss book. Not exactly the most fear-inducing thought, yes?
Alas, for all the good intentions on display, the "entertainment" part is the real phantom here.