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The Phantom Planet
"The Phantom Planet" (1961) imagines the 1980s as a time when space travel can lead a stoic-faced astronaut to a world full of tiny people, gladiator-style duels, love triangles, and sad-eyed, dog-faced bad guys. It's also a time when terms such as "planet," "asteroid," and "meteor" are interchangeable and people clever enough to devise an effective means of space travel are evidently unaware of the power a simple safety tether might hold when one works in zero gravity.
As much fun as simply watching this sci-fi classic is, it also lends itself well to Family Game Night. For instance, see who can name the most Star Trek episodes that have things in common with the film, or take turns thinking of ways to replicate the special effects with materials from your kitchen. The short and the long of it is, when low budget sci-fi takes itself this seriously, you just know it's going to be fun.
For instance, is the fact that only one Solarite is actually shown in the film thanks to the expense of the costume? (It doesn't appear until late in the film, but it's a doozy.) Incidentally, that actor under the Solarite mask who staggers around scaring those poor Rhetons out of their wit is supposed to be the legendary character actor Richard Kiel. You know the 7' 2" actor as the steel-toothed bad guy Jaws in the James Bond movies "The Spy Who Loved Me" (1977) and "Moonraker" (1979). The big guy done good since his Solarite days: in addition to a healthy number of feature film roles as an actor, Kiel owns a film production company and occasionally graces an occasional sci-fi convention.
Kyle DawsonKyle Dawson, professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Utah, discusses the planning phase of a remote observatory and separates science fact from science fiction in the 1961 film “The Phantom Planet.”
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