EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|THIS ISLAND EARTH (director: Joseph Newman; screenwriters: Franklin Coen/Edward G. O'Callaghan/based on the novel "The Alien Machine" by Raymond F. Jones; cinematographer: Clifford Stine; editor: Virgil Vogel; music: Henry Mancini; cast: Rex Reason (Dr. Cal Meacham), Faith Domergue (Dr. Ruth Adams), Jeff Morrow (Exeter), Lance Fuller (Brack), Russell Johnson (Dr. Steve Carlson), Douglas Spencer (The Monitor of Metaluna), Regis Parton (The Mutant), Robert Nichols (Joe Wilson), Karl L. Lindt (Dr. Adolph Engelborg); Runtime: 87; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: William Alland; Universal International; 1955)|
|"Intelligently directed by Joseph Newman."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
"This Island Earth" is based on the 1938 story "The
Machine" by Raymond F Jones. It's intelligently directed by Joseph
("Dangerous Crossing"/"The Big Circus"/"Tarzan, the Ape Man") and tautly written by Franklin Coen and Edward G. O'Callaghan.
The well-crafted pic was considered by many critics as one of the best
sci-fi films of the 1950s (I concur).
It's a thoughtful film, made on a
substantial budget, that deserves some respect for looking so good in
its three-strip Technicolor
format, not going the cheesy
route as most
popular sci-fi pics of its day and for making valid subtle pointed
comments about the Manhattan Project (something few if any sci-fi films
dared to do at the time). Though
weakened because it's acted in a wooden manner, is
somewhat less than evocative in its storyline, and its special effects
and ideas on space travel dated badly. The film was a
tremendous box office success and has remained a geek cult favorite,
even through modern times.
Atomic scientist Dr. Cal Meacham (Rex Reason), an expert in electronics, miraculously
lands a plane that has lost all its power, and soon finds himself
chosen along with several other noted scientists by the mysterious
advanced scientist Exeter (Jeff Morrow) to do research in his secret
center. Cal is unaware that Exeter, who has an odd appearance because
of his extra-large sized
forehead, is an alien. Exeter has sent Cal a mysterious catalog with
strange materials, which the American scientist puts together with
reasonable ease to build a communication machine called an interociter--something that goes beyond the technology
of the modern world. The curious scientist volunteers to board a weird
looking plane without a pilot sent by Exeter to take the scientist to
his secret research center in the promise of doing humanitarian
experiments to make the world a peaceful place. There Cal meets fellow
American nuclear scientists Dr.
Adams (Faith Domergue) and Dr. Steve Carlson (Russell
Johnson), and several other genius scientists from around the world.
Cal soon learns what the aliens really want is for the Earth
scientists to show them how to harness atomic energy so they can fight
back the attack of a rival planet, Zahgon, that has killed off most of their
population and decimated most of their planet. Exeter is from the
distant unknown planet Metaluna, who when ordered by his supreme
ruler forces Ruth and Cal to go by high-tech flying saucer to Metaluna. To
escape that doomed planet, the Americans must blow up the Metalunan Earth
lab, fight off a mutant monster called the Metaluna Mutant (Regis Parton), and avoid attacks from laser beams that can
destroy people, aircraft and cars. With the help of the
self-sacrificing Exeter, who turns out to be a free thinking swell guy
after-all when not doing the dirty work for his political boss, the
scientists return safely back to Earth and are much the wiser for
having learned how deadly a nuclear war can be.
The climactic war-like Metalunan scenes were effectively directed by Universal's sci-fi maven, Jack Arnold.
REVIEWED ON 11/11/2010 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ