THE STRANGE WORLD OF PLANET X (1957) by Rène Ray

Ray_Strange-World-of-Planet-X_digitAnd now for a change of pace here at Fedora, featuring a novel by Irene Creese (1911-1993), better known as actress Rène Ray, who later became Countess of Midleton after marrying her longtime partner, George St John Brodrick, 2nd Earl of Midleton (1888-1979). Originally written as a TV serial, Planet X was later published as a novel, coinciding with the release of the movie adaptation (which was released in the US under various guises including, The Cosmic Monsters). It tells the story of a woman and two scientists …

This review is offered for Todd Mason’s Tuesday’s Overlooked Film meme at his fab blog, Sweet Freedom; and Bev’s Vintage Mystery Challenge.

“It looks like a sort of heavenly telephone box!” Fenella laughed. “The sort you might ring up God in.”

I am always fascinated by genre hybridity, whether it be conscious or otherwise, though of course sometimes it is less to serve the story and more to satisfy marketplace requirements. With a title like this, this could only be seen as science fiction, but for the most part, it is really a fairly straightforward crime story. The basic setup has strong similarities to Four-Sided Triangle (which I reviewed here) with two scientists loving the same woman and their invention , a dematerialisation box, driving a wedge between then, leading to death and destruction. David Graham has been working with Gavin Laird on a formula, named M.F.X., that could harness magnetic fields and potentially provide a transport mechanism to the fourth dimension and which could be weaponised too (though we don’t quite know how). In one charmingly over-the-top scene, David panics about its implications and talks to his old university professor about iT:

“Listen to me carefully, Professor” David said. “It is something of globular importance – not just national – Can you see what I’m getting at?

How’s that for emphasis – globular? That probably should be global, but … As the two men get nearer to their goal, it becomes clear that Laird is a bit of a psychopath who even used to torture his pets as a kid and who has no compunction about zapping dozens of furry creatures to reach his goals – how long will it be before he puts a human in the cabinet? Not long as it turns out, trying it our briefly on his wife, who thinks it was all a dream after passing out in the cabinet. Laird then takes things much further when he finds an accommodating lady of the night – matters are then made even worse when David declares his loves for Fenella, Laird’s wife, and is found out. Laird, having got the device to work without David’s assistance and having already stranded one inconvenient person on Planet X does the same to David after bludgeoning him – and plans to do the same to Fenella …

“You agree, Professor, that formula M.F.X. must be destroyed?”
“Of course” Schertz spoke vehemently. “It is not the only piece of unholy knowledge that man has stumbled upon …”

There is a charming naïveté about the book, which makes science work pretty much by magic and which, in one delirious moment, has David decide that they only way out is to go right to the top – so he takes a taxi to 10 Downing Street, knocks on the front door and is allowed in to talk to a secretary about some facetime with the Prime Minister (!) The book does a good job of describing Planet X in very dreamlike terms and comes up with an ending that did, to a large degree, surprise me, which was very welcome. This original TV serial was aimed at teenagers one would assume – it  was broadcast in 1956 on ATV in the Midlands between 15 September and 27 October but not all episode titles are known:

  • Episode 1: The Formula
  • Episode 2: The Terrible Cabinet
  • Episode 3: The Unholy Threshold
  • Episode 4: The Dimension Discovered
  • Episode 5-7: untitled

Cormic-Monsters_poster

In 1957 a film version was released, though the adaptation by Paul Ryder under the same tile (but also known as Cosmic Monsters, The Crawling Terror, The Strange World, The Cosmic Monster and The Crawling Horror) only takes the basic premise and character names. While Ray does have characters go to Planet X (and in describing the alien landscape provides the most successful part of the book), the movie has all manner of aliens and giant insects arrive and even a flying saucer makes an appearance for what eventually turns into a rip-off from The Day The Earth Stood Still. with an alien coming to earth to warn humans not to meddle with dangerous things they don’t yet understand. The special effects are woeful but the cast isn’t bad, most notably Martin Benson, as the equivalent to the Michael Rennie role from Stood Still, and a really nice cameo from TV comedy giant, Dandy Nicholls.

DVD Availability: This film is pretty easy to find on DVD and online – for instance …

The Strange World of Planet X (1957)
Director: Gilbert Gunn
Producer: George Maynard
Screenplay:Paul Ryder
Cinematography: Josef Ambor
Art Direction: Bernard Sarron
Music: Robert Sharples
Cast:  Forrest Tucker, Gaby André, Martin Benson, Alec Mango, Wyndam Goldie, Hugh Latimer, Dandy Nicholls, Richard Warner, Geoffrey Chater, Hilda Fennemore, Susan Redway.

I submit this review for Bev’s 2015 Golden Age Vintage Mystery Challenge bingo in the ‘borrow’ category as this was lent to me by my good chum Josephine:

022-Vintage-Ray

***** (2 fedora tips out of 5)

Advertisements
This entry was posted in 2015 Vintage Mystery Challenge, England, Science Fiction, Tuesday's Overlooked Film and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

36 Responses to THE STRANGE WORLD OF PLANET X (1957) by Rène Ray

  1. le0pard13 says:

    Great to have you back, Sergio.

  2. Delighted to see you, Sergio! And this one does look like campy fun. I’m honestly not much for sci-fi, but this story does, as you say, have a strong ‘crimefic’ feel about it.

    • Thanks Margot, good to be here 🙂 The book is quite sweet in its own daffy way and I was glad to read it. My friend knew the author a bit, so that made it a bit of a special loan.

  3. Welcome back! As someone also interested in genre hybridity, I’m fascinated by mashups of mystery-crime and SF… this one sounds bad and campy, but interesting nonetheless.

    • Thanks Chris – this is a book for kids really (not even sure YA isn’t too mature a description) but fun all the same – very different from the movie once you get past the premise

  4. tracybham says:

    Sounds fascinating, Sergio. I doubt if I will ever read it, but I am glad you shared it with us.

    And I am also glad to have you back

  5. Colin says:

    Great to have you back, and with a lovely piece of pulpy sci-fi to boot.
    Now I’ve never read the source novel but I have a copy of the film and quite like its cheesiness – it’s good fun. Of Forrest Tucker’s three UK sci-fi pictures, this may be the least (The Abominable Snowman must surely be the best) yet I still find it entertaining.

  6. Patti Abbott says:

    Hope you had a nice trip!

  7. Santosh Iyer says:

    Science fiction is not my cup of tea. Hence I will never read/see the book/film.
    However, the Helen Mccloy novel you are currently reading might be to my liking, since it is supposed to be Carr-like. I will also be reading it soon.

    • Hi Santosh – not a great book, I agree. The McCloy is a whole different animal and the Carr comparison is pretty fair actually. Review up in about 10 days (well, August 7th to be exact, so wekk on Friday)

  8. Yvette says:

    NO ONE is the equivalent of Michael Rennie, Sergio. Impossible. Phew! Had to get that off my chest immediately! And now: WELCOME BACK to movie blog central, m’dear. I know you had a grand time on walkabout but your wise film input was much missed. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I hadn’t seen this movie (I know I haven’t read the book) many, MANY years ago in my carefree youth. I used to watch all the sci fi that channels 5, 9 and 11 (all local NY movie channels from long ago) could broadcast. I also went to the movies A LOT. Funny thing is that though I enjoy movie science fiction, I rarely read it. But I still enjoyed your review.

    • Thanks Yvette, very good to be back (though it really was nice being away). Sorry about that equivalent line, I know how devoted you are to Mr Rennie 🙂 Did you even see HOTEL, starring Rod Taylor? He’s great in that as a diplomat who has a little car trouble 🙂

  9. Todd Mason says:

    In the States, at least, this one was an early MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000…I’ll admit to being insufficiently motivated to go see if they put out a 2-sided DVD of this one, as they did for, among others, THE WILD WORLD OF BATWOMAN, with their commented-on version on one side and the original film on the other (that at least partially turned around the resentment one of my cineaste friends had toward them). And Ben tornato, indeed (the spell checker, which keeps turning itself on, decided I meant “Ben tornado”–it wants a whirlwind of blog posting from you…).

    • Todd Mason says:

      Nope! I was confusing it with another Forrest Tucker item:

      (original title) The Trollenberg Terror
      Creature from Another World
      The Creeping Eye
      The Flying Eye
      UK (alternative title) Trollenberg Horror

      • Not in fact seen that – though I have to admit, Trollenberg Terror is all kinds of perfect for a cheesy horror movie! The Crawling Eye is my favourite alternate title on this, which I do want to see (all kidding aside) being a fan of writer Jimmy Sangster.

    • Well, I do generate a lot of hot air 🙂 Thanks Todd, good to be back (though my goodness, I was having a grand time in Umbria – nearly everythign was better – but that’s what families are for).

  10. Hi Sergio, good to have you back, as usual with a humdinger of a review of a TV series-novel-movie adaptation that I’d much rather read than watch. I liked the cover and poster.

  11. Bev Hankins says:

    Very cool, Sergio! I love both mysteries and SF, so this sounds like it could be good.

    Glad you had a good trip and glad also to have you back.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s