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This Island Earth

This Island Earth on DVD

A 50's classic and guilty pleasure all in one, This Island Earth is a sci-fi movie classic that's as much fun to watch today as it was when it was new.

Cal Meacham (Rex Reason) is a famous and revered scientist who is recruited by some mysterious, large foreheaded people to join a group of his peers at a secret Georgia base, ostensibly to work on high tech nuclear energy problems.

He's intrigued by these people: before he even meets them in person his life is saved by a mysterious "green light" and he's sent a strange, metal-paged catalog from which he orders, then assembles, a machine that he thought would be far beyond what conventional earth technology is capable of at the time.

So he boards a DC-3 sent by these big foreheaded people, a plane that turns out to be remote controlled (or at least controlled by an unknown force) and is capable of landing in fog so thick that ordinary pilots wouldn't dare touch such a touch down.

In Georgia, he's met by an attractive old flame (or at least an old one night stand), Dr. Ruth Adams (Faith Domergue), who says she doesn't remember him but who also seems to be hiding some deep secret.

But if he thinks Ruth's hiding something, his new boss Exeter (Jeff Morrow) and his compatriots are really weird. You'd almost think that, with their large and prominent foreheads, mysterious ways and super high technology that they were aliens from space or something, except of course that such a thing is impossible.

Or is it? Meacham and Adams discover that they're actually aiding an alien conspiracy and by the time the movie's over they've left their island Earth and visited the far off planet Metaluna – a world desperately fighting for its survival as it's being bombarded by another alien race that has no interest in making peace (kind of reminds one of the current War on Terror in which one side wants to subjugate or destroy the free world and nothing short of our destruction or submission will mollify them).

It's a fun movie, silly and/or hokey in places, but its heart is certainly in the right place. Some of the dialogue is stilted (on the other hand, we'd bet that English isn't the Metalunans – or is it Metaloonies? – first language) and there are some silly pseudo-scientific reference that didn't make sense even in 1955. For instance, they've named their cat Neutron "because he's so positive" when if they wanted to make the joke work they'd have named the critter Proton! And there's a silly bug eyed monster, a Metalunan mutant, who's brought in near the end of the movie to menace the cast but which seems to have no real reason to be there other than to give the heroes a bug eyed monster to be menaced by.

But on the upside, we get to see an alien race portrayed not just as an evil force bent on destroying or enslaving humanity. Exeter is a very likeable creature who's torn between his duty and his orders and his sense of fairness and morality. In the end, he leaves his race behind to save the humans (not that there was any reason to stick around on Metaluna anyway!) and sacrifices himself to get them home.

Through all of this pulp fiction adventure, a sense of wonder and awe manages to shine through, and of hope for the future of mankind.  

The production values were very good, as were the special effects. While this is no "Forbidden Planet," This Island Earth stands on its own as one of the better 1950's alien invasion sci-fi flicks.

The DVD is presented in full frame, so it isn't widescreen TV compatible, but the picture quality is very good. The colors are rich and vibrant and though there are a few scratches and the like, overall it's very watchable.

Audio, not surprisingly, is glorious mono and is nothing to write home about.

Extras are limited to the trailer.

This Island Earth, from Universal Home Entertainment
Starring Jeff Morrow, Rex Reason, Faith Domergue
Produced by William Alland
Written by Franklin Coen and Edward G. O'Callaghan, Directed by Joseph Newman


Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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