Who's a good Solarite? You are! Yes you are! Yes you are!
"Captives of a power far, far out!"
"Science Shocker of the Space Age"
"See!! A 6 ft. astronaut shrink to 6 inches before your very eyes! See!! The Moon Maidens! See!! The attack of the Fire People! Staring DOLORES FAITH the Girl from Outer Space!"
—Taglines from the film's poster
Astronaut Frank Chapman has been sent out into space with Navigator Ray Makonnen
on a search for another pair of astronauts who died. After some odd philosophy
from Makonnen, the two are separated when a meteor storm hits the ship and Makonnen is propelled into space while Frank is left barely conscious.
Luckily, Frank's rocketship lands on what he claims to be a wandering planet, the "Phantom Planet" of the title, where Frank encounters a race of tiny people who are six inches tall
. After the planet's atmosphere causes him to shrink to their size
, Frank is forcibly integrated into the society of the planet Rheton. Over the course of the film, he deals with a love triangle between an aggressive woman named named Liara (not that one
), her own suitor Herron, and Cute Mute
Zetha, whom Frank really
falls for. Over the course of the rest of the film, Frank learns the history of the strange world, duels with Herron, and helps fight off an invasion of the Solarites. Though the invasion leads to Zetha finally gaining the ability to speak, Frank learns of a way to leave Rheton and return to his original size. Zetha gives him a rock to remember her by and the films ends with Frank being rescued by astronauts from earth while contemplating the rock and trying to figure out if the whole film was a dream.
The movie was later featured in an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (episode 902)
- All Just a Dream: It's left up in the air whether the whole Rheton thing was a vivid dream. Frank seems to think the rock Zetha gave him confirms it was real, but... it's just a rock.
Frank: Now they'll never believe me...
- All There in the Manual: In the comic book that came out when Phantom Planet was released, it's explained that Ray Makonnen was formerly a priest, partially explaining his speech and his reciting The Lord's Prayer as he drifts off into space.
- Betty and Veronica: With Zetha as the Betty and Liara as the Veronica.
- Bittersweet Ending: Chapman escapes, but can't be with Zetha, who he loves. It was worse in the comic book, The Phantom Planet is completely destroyed when Chapman escapes, and any inhabitants killed.
- Contemplate Our Navels: Ray Makonnen's oft-mocked speech.
Ray: You know, Captain, every year of my life, I grow more and more convinced that the wisest and best is to fix our attention on the good and the beautiful... if you just take the time to look at it.
- Cute Mute: Zetha.
- Defeat Means Friendship: Herron and Frank hate each other until Frank beats Herron at Combat Rod. Shortly afterwards they're good pals. While Herron is still eager to see Frank off to regain his status as alpha male, he thinks of it in terms of helping Frank. Frank is convinced that he and Herron would've become buddies on any planet.
- Dissonant Serenity: "But I am plagued with regret when I am forced to destroy." Said by Sessom with a warm, avuncular tone and a broad smile.
- Does Not Like Shoes: In addition to being mute, Zetha is always barefoot.
- The women on Rheton go barefoot, the men on Rheton don't.
- Duel to the Death: The Duel of Rheton, which is a kind of inverse Tug of War (two people hold a rod and try to push the other onto a high gravity plate). Herron challenges Chapman out of jealousy when Liara shows an interest in the Earthman. Chapman wins, but refuses to kill Herron, which marks Defeat Means Friendship.
- Dull Surprise: Frank seems to be barely awake throughout the entire movie.
- Flashback Cut: By the end of the movie, there is a quick montage recapping Frank's experiences throughout the movie.
Crow: We didn't like this stuff the first time!
- Full-Name Basis: Liara initially has trouble with the idea of someone having two names, and calls Frank "Frankchapman"
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Richard Kiel (previously seen on MST3K in Eegah!!, The Human Duplicators, and The Magic Sword) played the Solarite. His face is covered, but the body language is definitely recognizable if you know what you're looking for.
- Furthermore, the would-be romantic lead, Liara, is played by Colleen Gray, who played the titular Leech Woman of a previous episode.
- Also from a previous episode, Fire Maidens from Outer Space, is Tony Dexter playing the romantic rival, Herron.
- Francis X. Bushman, who was a huge star in the silent era and here firmly in the depressing "anything for a buck" career phase.
- Incredible Shrinking Man: "See!! A 6 ft. astronaut shrink to 6 inches before your very eyes!"
- Jerk Ass: Frank Chapman. Par for the course for a 1950's white male lead in a B-movie, for the most part.
- Love Makes You Evil: Liara appears to be plotting some dark revenge after Chapman refuses her, but we later discover... no, she wasn't.
- Magic Pants: Averted. Our hero is starkers upon being shrunk within his space suit. If it weren't for the conveniently large crowd of guys pulling him out of his suit he'd probably be very cold and embarrassed.
- No OSHA Compliance: The high-gravity plates used in the duel just sit there in the middle of the main room with absolutely nothing keeping anyone from stepping on them and being vaporized.
- Made even worse by the fact that when we first see the plates in operation, they're clearly turned on by someone. Meaning it's possible for them to be turned off. Which means that rather than these plates being some weird tech that can't be turned off, the people of Rheton are just really stupid and/or lazy.
- Nothing to keep our space men from flying out into space while trying to pull repairs on their ship.
- This isn't forgetting what is apparently an auto-closing door that apparently can only be opened up from the inside.
Mike: "...c-could you just give a message to my wife and kids if you have the tim- well, nevermind."
- The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Frank Chapman doesn't do anything remotely heroic, while the proud people of Rheton just... fly away. That's it.
- Space Does Not Work That Way: The astronauts are able to easily walk along the wing of their rocket... in outer space.
- At one point one of the Earth rockets just takes a sharp left... in space.
- Technobabble: Any technical dialogue is really nothing more than several inappropriately-used scientific terms strung together.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: The captured Solarite is supposed to be evil, but comes off as... cute.
- Artistic License - Biology: Apparently, Rheton's atmosphere will cause you to shrink. But thankfully all you need to get back to normal is air from your homeworld.
- The only effect this has on the plot is to explain why the planet Rheton is so difficult to locate. There are a hundred ways they would have explained that without shrinking people to 6" tall.
- Zeerust: The movie's prologue takes place on March 16th... 1980.note The rest of the movie, and technology, pretty much fits with early 1950s imaginations of the future, despite coming from 1961. And Frank was making ready for a mission to Mars before being sent out to look for the expendable Red Shirts from the opening.