The Strange World of Planet X (1958), aka Cosmic Monsters, aka The Cosmic Monster, belongs to that sometimes-odd sub-genre of mid-century British science-fiction. Think of Hammer’s Four Sided Triangle or Spaceways… Curse of the Fly, The Brain, Konga, etc. They’re all a little dry… a little unusual. At least they are to this Yankee.
The Cosmic Monster, as it was titled on the TCM presentation that I recorded, is heavy on the science. With an emphasis on the danger Dr. Laird (Alec Mango) might cause with his experiments in magnetism, the actual effects of those experiments might be missed. Luckily (spoiler alert) a nearby alien named “Smith” (Martin Benson) notices and comes to warn us.
Long story short, and in layman’s terms, Dr. Laird and his assistants, Gil Graham (Forrest Tucker) and Michele Dupont (Gaby Andre), create a magnetic pull so strong that it causes an opening in the ionosphere through which cosmic rays can travel to Earth and make insects grow to monster size.
I exaggerate about nobody noticing the effects of the experiments. Enough people saw Smith’s spacecraft that newspapers report on an invasion from “Planet X.” They also report on “storm damage” and “freak weather,” but we see none of it. Our story is isolated to the English village where Laird’s mansion houses his laboratory.
The nearby woods seem to be the only area in the word hit by the cosmic rays, but its insect life immediately grows and starts laying giant eggs for little girls to find. (Did you know the solution for a potentially hazardous giant egg is to simply boil it?) It’s a highly travelled woods and its creatures claim a number of lives, mostly female.
The special effects in The Cosmic Monster are not very good; however, there’s something creepy about the way some of its insect stars twitch when they have their close-ups. Also, you sometimes can’t identify what kind of insect is about to strike, so that’s unsettling. It’s hard to find anything good about the visuals, though, when Michele is caught in a web.
Circling back to my mid-century British sci-fi hypothesis, the primary indicator is the involvement of the Ministry of Defense. Where else would so many other characters be involved in the story, creating a committee of sorts in which everyone wants to be involved. We have a Deputy Controller, a Brigadier, and a counter-espionage expert.
Mired in politics only as far as the budget goes, these men have good intentions when they have an inkling that something is going wrong. They have the power to pull the plug on Laird, but Laird pulls a gun on them and The Cosmic Monster then becomes a mad scientist movie. It’s not a bad film; I found it… interesting and, with Tucker and Andre, entertaining.
Written by Paul Ryder
From the novel by Rene Ray
Directed by Gilbert Gunn
Starring Forrest Tucker, Gaby Andre, Martin Benson, Alec Mango, Wyndham Goldie, Hugh Latimer
RT 75 min.
Released March 4, 1958 (UK), Dec. 31, 1958 (USA)
Recorded on Sept. 25, 2020 (TCM)
Rating 5 Godzillas (out of 10)
This review is part of the annual Countdown to Halloween. I invite you to join me as I attempt to gain some space on my DVR. Every day, I'll be watching something from the bottom of the list, thereby reducing the percentage that's full... so I can record more!
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