W. Lee Wilder, brother of renowned "Some Like It Hot" director Billy Wilder, directed the low-budget, science fiction fantasy "Phantom from Space." This modest thriller spends most of its 73 minutes to the authorities as they try to corner a murderous alien from outer space clad in a helmet and suit. Wilder and scribes William Raynor and Myles Wilder adopt a "Dragnet" documentary style with heavy reliance on narration and the constant reminder of the time and place of each scene to enhance its verisimilitude. Wilder imitates special effects that the "Invisible Man" franchise used when the Phantom dons his uniform and helmet. This is the kind of science fiction invasion epic where the alien attacks only when threatened. Moreover, the alien cannot speak English so nobody can understand his demands.
"Phantom from Space" opens with a brief overview of the constant surveillance that our vigilant military maintains on land, at sea, and in the air. An unidentified flying object appears on radar around 7:19 p.m. over Point Barrow, Alaska. The U.F.O. hurdles southward at 5,000 miles per hour, but it gradually loses both speed and altitude. Eventually, its vanishes off the radar in the vicinity of Santa Monica, California. No sooner has the UFO vanished from radar than people start complaining to the Los Angeles Communications Commission office about radio and television interference. The LACC dispatches mobile units to deal with the complaints. Lieutenant Hazen (Ted Cooper of "Arizona Manhunt") and his driver Charlie (Tom Daly of "Mighty Joe Young") in Mobile Unit 1 encounter Betty Evans (one-time only actress Lela Nelson) near picnic grounds at the beach. She explains an individual in a deep-sea diving outfit and a helmet assaulted her husband Ed and their friend Pete. Betty and Pete knew each other because they attended school together.
When the ambulance and the police arrive, they find Betty's husband Ed dead and bandage Pete's head injury. Later, when the police question him, Pete tells inquisitive Lieutenant Bowers (Harry Landers of "Charro!"): "How would you feel if somebody with a helmet with crazy pipes sticking out of it came for you in the dark? And look, I know this sounds--sounds crazy, but there was no head in that helmet." During the interrogation, Bowers receives news about another murder near the beach and leaves to investigate. A neighbor, George Nelson (Harry Strang of "Detour"), tells Bowers that he found the body after he experienced interference on his television. Hazen rejoins Charlie, and they keep tabs on the interference. They cruise out to the Huntington Beach oil fields. An explosion at the oil field facility claims the third victim. Hazen catches up with Bowers again. Initially, Bowers suspected both Betty and Pete may have killed her husband. However, he changes his mind when he believes a connection may lie between the interference and the homicides. A police sketch artist draws a picture of the mysterious killer that looks like the assailant that confronted Betty and Pete. An oil field facility night watchman (Michael Mark of "Jet Pilot") verifies that the sketch resembles the individual he saw by a tank when it blew up.
The Central Bureau in Washington, D.C., has Bowers contact Major Andrews (James Seay of "Vera Cruz") and Dr. Wyatt (Rudolph Anders of "Magnificent Obsession") at the Griffith Institute Observatory. When Andrews and Wyatt examine the sketch, Andrews believes the so-called "phantom" may be connected with an earlier U.F.O. sighting. Andrews and Wyatt express skepticism about the presence of an alien spaceship. Furthermore, they rule out any possibility that the U.F.O. was either a missile or meteor because of its extreme speed and direction of travel. Wyatt's assistant, Mrs. Barbara Randall (Noreen Nash of "Giant"), pokes her head to inform Bowers that a newspaper reporter Joe Wakeman (Jack Daly of "Raintree County") wants to talk to him. Bowers tells Wakeman nothing that the reporter doesn't already know.
About 25 minutes into the action, the Phantom (Dick Sands of "Casanova's Big Night") makes his first appearance in his space outfit. Andrews, Wyatt, Barbara, Bowers, Hazen, Charlie and Wakeman converge at a brickyard where they have located the Phantom. They wield a Geiger counter follow his trail of radiation. At one point, Wakeman snaps a picture of the Phantom before it enters a building and sheds his apparel. Our heroes confiscate the Phantom's wardrobe and perform tests that surprise them. They struggle to cut, tear, and burn the suit without success. Indeed, they discover the Phantom's outfit is magnetic. Wyatt, Andrews, and Barbara figure out the Phantom uses the suit to protect himself in the atmosphere beyond the Earth. Moreover, the helmet supplies the extraterrestrial with gases to breathe because he cannot use oxygen.
Later, when Barbara is by herself in the lab, the Phantom enters and then locks the door. It taps out a code with a pair of scissors, but Barbara doesn't understand it. She does spot one of its huge footprints when it steps on powder. Barbara's husband Bill arrives, cannot open the door, but hears her voice. The Phantom escapes from the lab with Barbara. Our heroes pursue it through the planetarium. The Phantom returns to the lab and puts on the helmet to breathe. The others show up just as the Phantom exits through a window. After the Phantom's departure, the space suit disintegrates. Barbara discovers under ultraviolet light the Phantom is visible. Wyatt explains to Bowers they are dealing with a super-human form based on the large size of the footprint, the sophisticated technology of the suit and helmet, and the creatures' acumen. Wyatt postulates the Phantom must have entered the Earth's atmosphere accidentally. They chase it into the big space telescope chamber and watch it fall to the floor. Before their eyes, the naked man turns to dust.
"Phantom from Space" qualifies as a tolerable sci-fi film that audiences can skip without missing anything.
Review by zardoz-13 from the Internet Movie Database.