‘This Island Earth’ – A Cinema Static Classic Reflection

by on August 20, 2011

in Entertainment, movie reviews

This Island Earth

This time around under Cinema Static Classic Reflections, we’re taking a look at the 1955 classic sci fi movie, This Island Earth.

THIS ISLAND EARTH

If you took all the science fiction movies of the 1950s and rolled them into one, you’d probably come up with This Island Earth.  (I am, of course, counting all the good and bad movies here.)  The story was taken from the novel by sci fi writer Raymond F. Jones who wrote for many of the pulp magazines of the day like “Astounding Stories, and “Thrilling Wonder Stories.”  Universal Studios bought the rights to the story soon after it was published and I wasn’t able to find out how or why they chose Joseph Newman to direct it, nor the scriptwriter Franklin Coen.  But both director and scriptwriter seemed to be aiming for something more than just another monster–in-outer space movie.

They spent 2 ½ years on the visual effects alone which was unprecedented for the times.  While the effects may seem dated to our jaded CGI eyes, this was state of the art for the mid 50s.  They even brought in Jack Arnold (“It Came from Outer Space”) to direct some of the space scenes.  It was also one of the last films to be made using the old 3-strip Technicolor process, which was also very expensive.  This gives the film its luminous color and other worldly feel.

The actors were all good quality but none would be considered well-known today with the exception being Russell Johnson, aka the Professor from Gilligan’s IslandRex Reason is Dr. Cal Meacham, the scientist with dark good looks and a deep, manly voice; Faith Domergue is Dr. Ruth Adams, an old flame of Meacham’s; Jeff Morrow is Exeter, the guy with the really giant forehead and funny white hair; and the aforementioned Russell Johnson is Dr. Carlson.

THIS ISLAND EARTH

Dr. Meacham, after returning to his lab from testing a new jet, finds some condensers that he ordered have unusual strong properties and seem light-years ahead of anything he’s ever used.  After writing to the company that supplied them, he receives a catalog.  Curious, he orders the parts listed inside and with his assistant puts together a giant “Interocitor,” a machine with a triangular screen that quickly tunes in strange looking guy who calls himself “Exeter.”

Exeter tells Meacham he passed the test and invites him to join a special group of scientist from all over the world to work on a project that Exeter controls.  Against the advice of his assistant, Meacham takes off in a remote controlled airplane for rural Georgia where he’s met by Dr. Ruth Adams.  He remembers her as a romantic interest, but she seems eager to not remember him.  Later Ruth explains why and introduces him to Dr. Carlson and together they share their suspicions about Exeter and his possible alien connections.

THIS ISLAND EARTH

A daring escape lands them inside a spaceship headed for the planet Metaluna, the world of Exeter.  As they fly off through space Exeter tells them he recruited them to help his planet fight a war against the Zagons.

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In 1995 the creators of Mystery Science Theater 3000 chose this movie to lampoon in their first and only feature film.

Yes, it’s a bit dated and maybe campy in some places but overall it’s sincerely trying to reach for and be something more.  This Island Earth had decent reviews when it first premiered and it continues to make different lists for top science fiction movies from the 50s.

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Cinema Static Classic Reflections is a section of Brusimm.com that takes a look back at some older films that are worthy of letting readers know or be reminded of.  It’s not just a movie review, but a look back at the era that the movie comes from!


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