director W. Lee Wilder
To simply say that Phantom from Space (1953) is better than W. Lee Wilder’s Killers from Space (1954) would be technically true but potentially misleading. The two films share a few things, including Wilder himself, his son Myles as co-screenwriter, and several bits of stock footage of guys doing “sciencey” stuff. Oh yeah, and that “from Space” title thing.
I’ve been working my way through W. Lee Wilder’s 1950’s sci-fi horror films, all property of the public domain these days, and as I’ve noted before, he’s found an interesting niche just one tick up or so from Ed Wood, Jr. Actually, Killers from Space is a lot closer to Wood that Phantom.
Phantom‘s crime is that it’s mostly talky and boring (as many have noted). It involves a meteor-like space landing in Southern California, a strange spaceman who looks a bit like a deep-sea diver, a couple murders, and a pursuit of the “phantom.”
Check out this artist’s rendering of the suspect:
Turns out the phantom is also invisible in life, strips from his suit to escape detection, but dies as a result of Earth’s low methane atmosphere. He appears briefly, nakedly, before dissolving into nothingness.
In a lot of ways, he’s one of the more pathetic and sad alien invaders, not just of the 1950’s, but of all time. Maybe he was just misunderstood.
Ah, yes, final comment: I watched this on Amazon Prime where a lot of public domain goodies are available. There are multiple version on there. The first one I started with was in rough, rough shape. I switched to another which was actually pretty clean. Just FYI for those poking around for quality.