The Phantom Planet, 1961. 5/10

The best thing about Phantom Planet is its title. But it’s not terrible; there’s an earnestness about the tone that makes you want to see what happens, given about a ten-year-old’s sense of adventure.

The plot’s pretty good too: once stuff gets in gear on Rheton, we’ve got a primitive/advanced civilization living underground with new-age doodads poking out of the rocks, a formal duel over the coolest girl, a Snauffaluffagus monster, and invading flaming marshmallows. The cunning strategy that the Captain and his rival go in on makes sense and provides a convenient resolution for the story.

I can’t figure out how the monster gets loose if he’s supposedly walled off with a force field. Thankfully he’s dumb enough to stand on the anti-gravity thingie before he makes off with the dark-haired chick.

What hurts Phantom Planet is the long lead-up to the landing on Rheton. I agree with the reviewer who sees the poignancy in the astronaut praying as he realizes that he’s doomed to drift in space. But what’s an astronaut doing trying to fix a spacecraft with a crescent wrench? Not to mention the fact that there’s a bit of an atmospheric issue when he wrenches the inspection plate off, obviously ruining the oxygen inside the ship.

Phantom Planet is worth a look for a decent story, and for special effects, some fairly cool and some just dorky. But ten stars for some pithy comments from other reviewers: especially zardoz-13’s description of Rheton as “crispy chunks of fried chicken,” and likening the spacecraft to “a candied dart.” Those are some slick sci-fi fans right there. 5/10.

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