Watching The Phantom Planet is like watching an extended episode of Lost in Space or Star Trek or even more specifically, it gives you that same feeling of fun and excitement that those shows always tended to evoke. It is not to say that The Phantom Planet is the greatest of pictures though, because it is not, but you cannot help but enjoy it no matter how hokey or cliché it is. As it stands, the picture finds Captain Frank Chapman as played by Dean Fredericks crash-landing on a planet after having problems with his rocket. For a moment, he is like a giant compared to the humanoids he sees upon the surface, but once exposed to the atmosphere, he shrinks down and soon becomes one of them as he is told that he can never leave so that the secret of their society and their technology might be preserved. Chapman of course, with no option but to stay, falls in love with the leader`s daughter and soon discovers the menace of the Solarites. When all is said and done, Chapman gets rescued which should be his happy ending, but with a little bit of amnesia, he cannot help but think he left something or someone important behind.
For the most part, the film features some pretty poor special effects, but they are good enough that you understand what they are trying to convey and you simply have to let your mind fill in the blanks. The sequence with the little people was done well and looked great with the worst abomination the movie had to offer being the Solarite and the horrific costume actor Richard Kiel had to wear. If the goal was to strike fear in the viewing audience, the makers of the film including director William Marshall accomplished the exact opposite as it turned out to be utterly laughable when the Solarite was revealed. That being said, there are some really good performances from the cast including the aforementioned Fredericks – better known for his role as Milton Caniff`s Steve Canyon, Francis X. Bushman as Sessom with Coleen Gray and Dolores Faith as Sessom`s daughters.
The only thing that this film does not do is innovate and while not every movie does so, if it has a good story and some decent direction, which this one does, then innovation is not always necessary. It would have been nice to see something a little different when all was said and done, but The Phantom Planet never failed to be an enjoyable viewing experience which is more than many films can say. The one thing that this movie does manage to do is leave off on something of a downer and that was a good thing. While Chapman did originally want to go home, not wanting to stay on Rheton at all, he did eventually come to call it home and after finding love with Zetha, the fact that he had to leave it all behind was a little sad to say the least. Thankfully his memories of the place had disappeared so he would never know what he lost, but all the same, it was a little tragic in a way and a novel way for a movie such as this to end. Tragedy aside though, The Phantom Planet is a good movie and a surprising discovery for those looking for a little bit of old-school science-fiction.
3 out of 5