Friday, July 17, 2009
In Search of Planet X
I started fixating on The Man From Planet X when I was eight years old. The original poster (above) spoke to me. It's a beautiful piece of sci-fi art.
The alien's pointy features seized my sense of wonder. He looked approachable. So did his pal, who lurked in the window in the background. What was HE doing in there? Watching Earth TV? Why wasn't he checking out the dame? She was a pretty young lass. With pointy breasts!
When I finally saw the film many years later, it lived up to the promise of its poster. Although it wasn't as colorful as the art suggested (it IS black and white), its setting and events did not stray too far from the imagery the art evoked.
I remember my mum becoming frustrated with my questions about the movie. My most often asked question was: "Where's Planet X?"
"I don't know," she'd reply. "I just don't know."
"But you went to school," I'd tell her, frustrated by her lack of space knowledge. "Didn't you learn about it at school?"
"Ask your father about it when he gets home," she'd say before resuming a household chore.
When I did ask my father, he'd bark at me: "Planet what?"
"Don't ask stupid questions."
We had a set of World Book encyclopedias in our house. They were less expensive and less intellectual than Britannica. Still, they served their purpose for homework assignments.
I had no trouble locating Neptune, Saturn, Uranus, Jupiter, Mars, Venus and Pluto (R.I.P.) in the World Books, but Planet X was elusive.
I rode up to the Mount Waverley library (still going strong), home of Denis Gifford's Horror Movies (borrowed at least thirty times in five years), books on Hollywood stuntmen, and crabby old women who hated the sounds of children.
I asked a younger, pretty woman with a ring on her finger if she had any books on Planet X.
"Where's that?" she asked.
"In the sky," I told her, pointing upwards.
She looked up at the fluorescent lights and pondered Planet X. She took my hand and pulled me towards the microfiche. For ten minutes, she searched the tiny green type for information on Planet X. I was sure that she would find something. Her hands were so soft.
Unfortunately, she didn't. She suddenly got mad at me and shoo'ed me away like a wet, smelly rat.
That night, I climbed up onto the garage roof with a glass of lime cordial and several salty biscuits smeared with margarine and peanut butter. I laid down on the cooling corrugated tin and gazed up at the sky while crunching and boozing. I knew that one of those thousands of stars above me circled Planet X. Or was it the other way around?
When one to began to twinkle and pulse, I was sure that it was Planet X's sun. I sprung a pre-teen erection at the thought.
I pictured the gnome-like alien and his pal up there twirling the controls of their spaceship and eating liquefied food out of toothpaste tubes. They were busy going about their intergalactic business while enjoying zero gravity somersaults and pratfalls. What lives they were leading! What adventures they were having!
Somehow, someone in America had stumbled upon these guys when they visited my planet...
... and he'd made a movie about them (a documentary)..
It eventually dawned on me that Planet X was a secret planet, and that was why it wasn't mentioned in books. You had to fly past Pluto, the most distant planet, to get there, and even if you did manage to land and meet its people, you'd have to keep your trip secret when you got back. If anybody asked what you did up there, you'd say "Nothing" and walk away.
The film was made for just $60,000 on sets borrowed from Joan of Arc. It is splendidly photographed and affectionately imagined. The swirling fogs of Scotland (!) are impressive, and they give the film an ethereal aura. When The Man takes a brutal beating near the end, I felt terribly sorry for him. Why do the misunderstood always take a beating?!
Although I'm now 99% sure that The Man From Planet X is not a documentary, I'm only 50% sure that Planet X doesn't exist.
It makes me suspicious that Pluto has been rubbed off the planet list. It's like "they" are trying real hard to discourage space travel to that particular sector of the solar system where Planet X still crawls with gnome like aliens who won't forget the beating of one of their own took in the 50's.
As alien visitors go, The Man is fantastic.