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Cosmic Man, The Print E-mail
Tuesday, 17 October 2000

The Cosmic Man

Image Entertainment
MPAA rating: Unrated
starring: John Carradine, Bruce Bennett, Angela Greene, Paul Langton, Scotty Morrow, Lyn Osborn, Walter Maslow, Herbert Lytton
release year: 1959
film rating: Two and a half stars
reviewed by: Bill Warren

By the late 1950s, the boom in science fiction films was waning, and repetition, always a curse, had set in even more strongly. 'The Cosmic Man' is a low-budget variation on 'The Day the Earth Stood Still;' it has a few ideas of its own, but is mostly a smudged carbon of a much better movie.

Dr. Karl Sorenson (Bruce Bennett) is summoned to investigate a strange object found in a canyon. Colonel Mathews (Paul Langton), also assigned to the incident, is eager to bring military power to bear on the odd object, while Sorenson holds out for more humanistic approaches.

The object is a white sphere about ten feet in diameter, solidly levitating above the canyon floor. Presumably this surprisingly intriguing prop was anchored to the canyon wall by a beam behind it, with the support being hidden by the sphere itself. However this was done, the fact that it sits there in the air, stubbornly unmoving, lends an unworldly air to this otherwise mundane movie.

Word has spread about the strange object, and local woman Kathy Grant (Angela Greene) arrives with her young son Scotty (Ken Grant), who's confined to a wheelchair. Scotty, who's crazy about astronomy, is impressed to meet Sorenson, one of his main heroes. Kathy runs a nearby hotel, which isn't doing very well.

Local people are frightened when a half-visible figure wanders about, peering in -- of course -- at a gorgeous blonde in her bath. Soon, a dark-clad stranger (John Carradine) in a slouch hat and wearing dark glasses shows up at Kathy's inn, taking a room. He befriends the boy while hunt for "the Cosmic Man" goes on elsewhere.
It turns out that like Klaatu in 'The Day the Earth Stood Still,' the purpose of the Cosmic Man's visit is benign, though vaguely threatening. The movie ends in a manner similar to Robert Wise's classic.

The shots in which Carradine is half-seen required simple effects. The actor wore a white garment, complete with hood; footage of him was printed in negative and combined with the on-set photography. The idea is sound, but the execution is pedestrian.

The same is true of the movie itself. Writer Arthur C. Pierce churned out a lot of half-smart science fiction movies in the late 1950s and 1960s, including 'Beyond the Time Barrier,' 'The Human Duplicators,' 'Dimension 5' and 'Cyborg 2087' (which starred Michael Rennie -- Klaatu himself). All of his films as writer demonstrate a real interest in science fiction, while all of them equally betray Pierce as only a mediocre writer. 'The Cosmic Man' was one of his first -- maybe the very first -- scripts to be filmed; although it's nothing to be ashamed of, it's probably the least interesting of any of Pierce's scripts. It's slow, maudlin and talky.

This is only of only two movies directed by Herbert S. Greene, who went back to assistant-directing after 'The Cosmic Man.' There's a certain earnestness, almost a fussiness, to some aspects of this movie that suggest that, like Pierce, Greene's ambitions outstripped his abilities. He uses a circle motif throughout the movie, linking various circular shapes to others. This adds a certain visual interest, but little else. John Carradine, with his flamboyant voice and delivery, not to mention his gaunt frame, was a good choice for the role of the alien visitor; he makes the stilted dialog Pierce felt was required for an alien almost work. Bruce Bennett is really the star of the film, and as usual for him, delivers a solid, workmanlike performance.

The print on this DVD is clean and crisp, obviously made from the best materials available. The mono sound is standard for a low-budget movie of the period: it's clear but unimaginative.

The same can be said of 'The Cosmic Man' itself. If you've a taste for science fiction movies of this period, it's a good purchase; if you're not -- well, there are many better movies available.

more details
sound format:
Dolby digital mono
special features: only extra is a trailer
comments: email us here...
reference system
DVD player: Kenwood DV-403
receiver: Kenwood VR-407
main speakers: Paradigm Atom
center speaker: Paradigm CC-170
rear speakers: Paradigm ADP-70
subwoofer: Paradigm PDR-10
monitor: 36-inch Sony XBR

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