A Lesser Auteur ?

Meep! Meep!A forgotten B-movie veteran of film noir, sci-fi, and horror, or the idiot brother of an Oscar-winning icon?

Those are the most extreme views one can apply to W. Lee Wilder, brother of more famous Billy Willder (Susnet Boulevard, The Apartment, oodles more) who eked out a fairly steady career in the fifties churning out low budget films on his own, plus a few TV assignments here and there before disappearing from active filmmaking by the end of the sixties.

Wilder's movies aren't inept nor disasters; they're just not really good. Mostly workmanlike, but that may be due to their extremely pinched budgets and the need to stay within the cliches each genre seemed to mandate in order for an easy commercial sale. A fair amount of the scripts Wilder produced were written by son Myles Wilder and William (Bill) Raynor, a pair of very prolific writers who survived very well in TV during the sixties and seventies.

As part of Legend Films' colorized B-movie wave, Phantom from Space (1953) comes with a decent black & white and colorized versions, and is the first of three alien-themed films Wilder shot between 1953-1954.

Of the remaining two, I've paired Phantom with Killers from Space (1954), which starred a young, dramatically vapid Peter Graves, and like Phantom, was photographed by William Clothier, a fine cinematographer who later went on to film several classic films for John Wayne (The Alamo), John Ford (Cheyenne Autumn), and John Farrow (Sea Chase). [The stringing together of three prominent Johns here is purely coincidental.]

I'll eventually get to Wilder's third genre entry, The Snow Creature(1954), but for now, feel free to check out the DVD review of Phantom from Space (Legend Films ) and a film review of the very silly Killers from Space (available via several P.D. DVD and online sources).



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