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Phantom from Space (1953) - Plot Summary Poster

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Summaries

  • An alien being with the power of invisibility lands in Santa Monica. Killing two people who attacked him due to the menacing appearance of his spacesuit, the creature takes it off while being pursued by government authorities.


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The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • We open with title and credits shown over a sky filled with billowing clouds. A narrator tells us, "This is Washington, D.C., and in the files of the Central Bureau there is a story so strange in its implications that it defies ordinary classification. It is the story of a handful of people, who in the course of one desperate night, held back a wave of panic and pandemonium." At 7:19 p.m. an unidentified object was picked up on radar 200 miles southwest of Point Barrow, Alaska. At 7:27 the UFO was picked up in Fairbanks, Alaska at a height of 75,000 feet and with an estimated speed of 5,000 miles per hour. The craft dropped speed and altitude until it reached Santa Monica, California. At 10,000 feet and 1,200 miles per hour it disappeared off radar at 8:18 p.m. Radio and Television signals were disrupted by the beach and teams were sent out to track the disturbing force to its origin. Hazen (Ted Cooper) and Charlie (Tom Daly) made up Mobile Unit 1, while Joe (Burt Wenland) made up Mobile Unit 7. The operator (Steve Acton) coordinated reports from the field and directed the teams to the likely source of the interference. Hazen and Charlie, en route to the location, encountered a woman on the road. Betty Evans (Lela Nelson) was in a panic and reported that her husband and a male friend were attacked and are hurt. Hazen and Charlie tried to radio in the report but encountered radio interference. Betty went on to describe the attacker as wearing a diving suit and helmet. Hazen joined Betty at the picnic area to check on the two victims of the attack.

    Hazen was asked to provide a report at Police Headquarters. Pete Darrow (Bert Arnold) was there giving his statement. Since Betty's husband died, they questioned Pete's actions and motives. They weren't buying his fantastic story. The description of his assailant was hard to believe. Pete claimed it didn't have a head. Lt. Bowers (Harry Landers) was skeptical, and asked Pete to go over his story again. Bowers suspected a love triangle and murder. A phone call sent Bowers to the site of another murder in the same area.

    Hazen returned to collect his partner Charlie. They went to the site of a reported disturbance by Mobile Unit 7. Bowers was working the crime scene with the policeman on duty (Sandy Sanders). It appeared to be a robbery homicide of a shop owner. The neighbor, George Nelson (Harry Strang) reported the crime. He complained of TV interference. The communications teams continued to track the source, which appeared to be moving. It was finally tracked to an oil field. When Mobile Unit 1 arrived the field was on fire.

    A reporter, Joe Wakeman (Jack Daly) was trying to get information on the two murders from the police Sgt. (Jim Bannon) with no luck when Hazen arrived. Hazen and Bowers talked about the interference and the murders. They went to see the police artist to see how the alleged assailant was dressed. Pete and Betty were present and confirmed the artist sketch as accurate. Pete and Betty were allowed to leave. The watchman (Michael Mark) at the oilfields was brought in for questioning. He confirmed the identification of the diving suit and the fact that it had no face. Hazen and Bowers decided to send a wire to Washington to report their suspicions - namely that the assailant was dropped into commit sabotage and was carrying something radioactive which is causing the interference. They got a quick reply to contact Dr. Wyatt (Rudolph Anders) and Maj. Andrews (James Seay) at the Griffith Institute (Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles, CA).

    Hazen and Bowers briefed Andrews and Dr. Wyatt. Andrews volunteered the military was tracking a UFO to Santa Monica earlier in the evening. They speculated a connection between all the various stories. Barbara Randall (Noreen Nash) interrupted the meeting to tell Bowers that Joe Wakeman from the Chronicle Newspaper was here to see him. Bowers did meet with the reporter, but wouldn't tell him anything. The mobile Communication Units were back on the road trying to track down the phantom. They had a location and surrounded the building. There on the roof was the phantom in the diving suit and helmet matching eyewitness accounts. They chased the signal and spotted the phantom. They trapped it in a tool shed. It removed its helmet and suit. The phantom was invisible. They broke down the door. All they found was the suit and helmet and a high level of radioactivity on their Geiger counter. The helmet was clean, but the suit registered very high levels of radioactivity. They put the suit and helmet in a lead lined box. The box was placed in the station wagon for transport back to the Griffith Institute. No one saw the phantom go back to the vehicle, open the back tailgate and open the box to examine its suit. It hitched a ride back to the Institute. Barbara and her husband, Bill (Steven Clark) were getting ready to leave for the evening. Bill had their dog, Venus with him. Dr. Wyatt asked Barbara to stay to work on their discovery. No one noticed the rear door of the station wagon open and close. The dog must have sensed something because she began to bark and chase something. Barbara chased Venus around the building trying to convince the dog there was nothing there. Wyatt and Andrews examined the suit and helmet for clues. Wyatt tried to take a sample of fabric of the suit with both scissors and a knife, but both tools were unable to cut the material. Andrews tried to burn the fabric, but that proved ineffective. Barbara noticed that it was magnetic. Under the microscope they noticed no weave pattern. It was a solid mass - a metallic alloy of some type that was also acid resistant.

    An analysis of the breathing mixture was inconclusive, but Barbara was able to identify that 11 percent of one was methane. They are puzzled, but they do conclude that the phantom will need to return to the suit for the gas mixture. Wyatt and Andrews consent to see the newspaperman, Wakeman. He wants to photograph the suit and helmet for his story, but of course they refuse. In the lab, Barbara continues her work. She hears something enter the lab and accidently drops a can of powder on the floor. She gets something to clean up the mess and is startled to see a human looking footprint appear in the powder. She rushes to the lab door, but stops when she sees the key turn itself locking her in the lab. She walks back carefully as the key floats mysteriously in the air towards her. Bill Randall returns to collect his wife. He finds the lab door locked and calls to his wife. Barbara tells him she is not alone and it locked her in the lab. Bill gets Andrews and Wyatt to assist, but when they get to the lab the door is open and Barbara is gone. They search the building for her. The phantom carries the unconscious woman to the Planetarium then back to the lab and locks the door. The phantom dons the helmet and begins a labored breathing. With a pair of scissors it begins to tap out a code of communication. Barbara writes down the code of taps. Shining an Ultra-Violet lamp on the creature she sees a human like hand and screams. The phantom escapes the lab through a window. The suit begins to disintegrate into a fog-like gas. Andrews retrieves the dog to assist with finding the phantom.

    Wyatt speculates the invisibility may be due to silicon replacing carbon in the body and the phantom is from a race far advanced than humans. The phantom gets into the communications vehicle and again taps out the same code on the radio. Charlie notices the car door open and close, and reports this to Wyatt and Andrews. They wire the facility to detect the presence of the Phantom. They suspect it will return for what little gas remains in the helmet. They want to take it alive. Something trips the alarm, but what they find is the nosy reporter inside the building. But an alarm from another part of the building sends the dog running. Barbara again sees the helmet floating in the lab and hears labored breathing. It is back. She tries to communicate with the phantom, and alerts the others to its presence in the lab. Hazen raps out the code on the table while Joe Wakeman set up to photograph the Phantom. The flash startles the creature, and the helmet is thrown across the room and breaks. The remains appear like broken glass that turns to liquid then a gas. The phantom bolts the room with the dog in hot pursuit. They follow the dog to the telescope room carrying UV lights. They shine the lights and see the phantom (Dick Sands) glowing white up on the telescope support structure. It is very human like, but lacks ears. It taps out its communication code on the framework. It appears to try to talk but cannot be heard. It falls to the floor, now visible in ordinary light. Dead, it begins to vaporize, its bones becoming visible. When the fog is gone, so is the body. Dr. Wyatt opens the dome and proclaims it is now morning. We close with a view of the structure of the observatory dome opening to the daylight outside and closing credits.

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