At a small, rural British lab, monomaniac Dr. Laird and his staff create ultra-intense magnetic fields. Inexplicably, the apparatus seems to be affecting distant objects, and to be drawing "extra power" from...somewhere. One night, after a "freak" storm, strange and deadly things start happening in Bryerly Woods, and a strange man from "a long way off" appears in the district...concerned about Laird's pulling down disaster from the skies.
Directed by: Gilbert Gunn
. Starring: Forrest Tucker
, Gaby André
, Martin Benson
, Alec Mango
, Wyndham Goldie
, Hugh Latimer
, Dandy Nichols
, Richard Warner
, Patricia Sinclair
, Geoffrey Chater
, Hilda Fenemore
, Susan Redway
, Peter Assinder
. Music by: Robert Sharples
This film was a British attempt to get into the 1950s craze of "giant monster" sci-fi thriller movies, and ends up being a bizarre hybrid of "The Day The Earth Stood Still", "Tarantula" and "Plan 9 From Outer Space". Unfortunately, this film takes far too long to get to the point and an opening 45 minutes of tedious talk and precious little action is likely to make viewers give up on it.
A film can easily get away with being short on action if there are other elements in place to maintain the viewer's interest, but this one is horribly lacking, with the most lacklustre dialogue and direction, ham-fisted plotting and truly dreadful, one-dimensional characterisations. The romance between Forrest Tucker's 'hero' (who actually doesn't do very much throughout the film) and Gaby André's token female scientist who is brought in to assist him (with some overtly sexist reactions, even by the standards of the time) is forced through with no natural or credible development. Some characters are completely superfluous and others could do with more screen time to flesh them out. For instance some of the female characters appear to be included just so that they can put under threat, but the sense of menace against them is considerably diluted in every case when the viewer has had no time to warm to the character in the first place.
A sense of menace is ill-served by the direction also. Dramatic events just happen without any build-up of suspense, such as when the woman is attacked at the bus-stop: we don't see her being watched, we don't see mysterious feet creeping towards her, we don't see her growing sense of unease as she begins to feel that something is wrong... And then when she is set upon, she's saved almost instantaneously (by a man arriving in a car who has somehow weighed the whole situation up before he's even close enough to see what is happening).
The shots in scenes where characters are interacting are, almost without exception, composed with very little imagination, and too often actors are static, standing there with their bodies facing the camera straight on with both arms hanging straight down by their sides as though they have been placed there like mannequins.
The plot lacks proper thrust and although there's a lot of debate about the merits of the scientific experiments going on at the research centre, in the first half of the film there's no foreshadowing of the startling effects they will have on wildlife, with the only things to worry about seeming to be that they make strips of metal become flexible, briefcases fly across rooms and television sets in the local pub explode. Resultingly the viewer is left wondering where the film is possibly heading, but not in the sense that one is compelled to see what happens next.
Of course what ultimately happens is that the experiments cause the area to be exposed to cosmic rays, which naturally enough cause all of the insects to grow to giant proportions... Not just doubled in size or anything, but conveniently large enough to be bigger than humans. At least at that point the film becomes more interesting, albeit rather nonsensical. At times the effects of the magnetic field generated by the laboratory are described as covering 80 miles, and yet the threat from the cosmic rays appear to be neatly confined to just a small area of woodland and this is where the giant insects appear, causing no damage to the vegetation yet vigorously pursuing any woman they see. André foolishly gets herself tangled up in the web of a giant spider, but luckily Tucker, being a macho man, can simply tear it off her to set her free. And then a lot of soldiers turn up and start shooting at the insects.
This film, wisely perhaps given some unconvincing equivalents such as those in "The Monster From Green Hell", opts to use footage of real insects in extreme close up to achieve the illusion of its giant mutants, images which must have been unsettlingly effective when seen on the big screen. They move quickly and naturally, avoiding all the pitfalls of lumbering props, but regrettably the integration of these cutaway shots is seldom satisfactory as the different lighting levels and frequent view of soldiers shooting at something off-screen highlight that these are just film inserts rather than give any sense that the insects are really present in the same scene. To be fair, though, there is an unexpectedly graphic shot of a dead soldier having his face chewed away by one of the bugs.
Martin Benson plays "Smith", the requisite alien visitor concerned about man's tampering with forces he does not fully understand, and delivers a pleasing performance of calm assurance given the constraints. Too much about Smith's involvement with events seems fortuitous, and it is his character who delivers most of the solutions which perhaps doesn't say much for mankind's chances. His eventual departure in his flying saucer is the final act of cheapness in this film, as we neither see him entering his craft nor see it taking off, instead only getting a glimpse of a rather hilarious cutaway shot of the other characters raising their heads as though they are watching the ascent of a spacecraft.
I did like the twist about the real identity of the titular Planet X, but there's precious little to like overall in this piece. Its final third is a bit of silly but escapist hokum, but the opening two-thirds are utterly dull, and there's no harsher judgement to place on a film than it being dull!
Review by DPMay from the Internet Movie Database.