Director: Joseph Newman
Writers: Franklin Coen and Edward G. O’Callaghan
Cast: Jeff Morrow, Faith Domergue, Rex Reason, Lance Fuller, Russell Johnson, Douglas Spencer, Robert Nichols, and Karl L. Lindt
Composer: Joseph Gershenson
Release Date: 6/1/1955
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Upon assembling an interocitor, Dr. Cal Meacham (Rex Reason)—a jet pilot and electronic engineer—communicates with a man named Exeter (Jeff Morrow), who wishes to recruit Cal for a special project. Transported to a top-secret facility in Georgia, Cal and his assistant, Dr. Ruth Adams (Faith Domergue), soon discover that with the aid of mind control, aliens from the planet Metaluna are utilizing humans to help win a war against the Zagons. Determined to resist the Monitor (Douglas Spencer), Cal and Ruth are confronted by a Mutant—a giant-brained, insect-like creature—while attempting to escape from Metaluna.
A classic science fiction film, This Island Earth makes effective use of many concepts introduced in Raymond F. Jones’ 1952 novel of the same title. The awkward pacing of this film does, however, hamper the scale of an otherwise epic, interplanetary conflict between two opposing alien factions.
This Island Earth should be commended for its enthralling visual effects, which, by combining lifelike explosions with matte paintings, provide the surface of Metaluna with a haunting, perhaps even surreal, atmosphere—a factor that, when complemented by the organ music originally composed for Creature from the Black Lagoon, accentuates the alien nature of Cal and Ruth’s adventure on a faraway world.
By spending an inordinate amount of time detailing the investigations of Cal Meacham, Ruth Adams, and Steve Carlson (Russell Johnson), This Island Earth fails to showcase the Metalunan home world (arguably the main highlight of this film) prior to the final act—much in contrast to the aforementioned novel by Jones, which benefits from a swift and absorbing pace from start to finish. As a result of this, viewers may struggle to invest in the conflict between the Zagons and the Metalunans (whom the book refers to as “Guarrans” and “Llannans” respectively), the aspects of which are revealed extremely late in the story.
Despite forgoing the social commentary of Jones’ novel, This Island Earth examines the ethical considerations of exploiting a lesser-evolved species, either directly or covertly, in order to advance or preserve a higher race of beings. Against the protestations of Exeter, for example, the Monitor resorts to kidnapping, manipulating, and coercing humans into fighting the Zagons, fearing that a diplomatic approach would spell doom for the Metalunan people—a fascinating dilemma for a science fiction movie to explore.
This Island Earth is a thought-provoking and aesthetically captivating, if slow-moving, sci-fi/adventure film. Alien invasion buffs, Universal Monster fans, and creature feature enthusiasts may therefore enjoy this offering, uneven pacing and dated special effects notwithstanding.
Overall Quality: 8/10
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