This Island Earth

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For the novel by Raymond F. Jones, see This Island Earth (novel).
This Island Earth
ThisIslandEarth.jpg
Original two-sheet promotional poster
Directed by Joseph M. Newman
Produced by William Alland
Written by Raymond F. Jones
Franklin Coen
Edward G. O'Callaghan
Starring Jeff Morrow
Faith Domergue
Rex Reason
Lance Fuller
Russell Johnson
Music by Joseph Gershenson (music supervision)
Henry Mancini (uncredited)
Hans J. Salter (uncredited)
Herman Stein (uncredited)
Cinematography Clifford Stine
Edited by Virgil Vogel
Production
  company
Universal-International
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s)
  • June 1, 1955 (1955-06-01) (U.S.)
Running time 87 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $1.7 million (US)[1]

This Island Earth is a 1955 American science fiction film directed by Joseph M. Newman. It is based on the novel of the same name by Raymond F. Jones which was originally published in the magazine Thrilling Wonder Stories as three related novelettes: "The Alien Machine" in the June 1949 issue, "The Shroud of Secrecy" in December 1949, and "The Greater Conflict" in February 1950. The film stars Jeff Morrow as the alien Exeter, Faith Domergue as Dr. Ruth Adams, and Rex Reason as Dr. Cal Meacham. In 1996, This Island Earth was edited down and lampooned in the film Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie. However, upon its initial release, the film was praised by critics, who cited the special effects, well-written script and eye-popping color (prints by Technicolor) as being its major assets.[2][3]

Plot[edit]

Dr. Cal Meacham, a noted scientist, receives an unusual substitute for electronic condensers that he ordered. Instead, he receives instructions and parts to build a complex communication device called an interocitor. Although neither Meacham nor his assistant Joe Wilson have heard of the device, they immediately begin construction. When finished, a mysterious man named Exeter appears on the interocitor's screen and tells Meacham he has passed the test. His ability to build the interocitor demonstrates that he is gifted enough to be part of Exeter's special research project.

Intrigued, Meacham is picked up the next day at the airport by an unmanned, computer-controlled Douglas DC-3 aircraft with no windows. Landing in a remote area of Georgia, he finds an international group of top-flight scientists already present – including an old flame, Dr. Ruth Adams. Cal is almost immediately suspicious of the odd-looking group of men leading the project.

Cal and Ruth flee with a third scientist, Steve Carlson (Johnson), but their car is attacked and Carlson is killed. When they take off in a small plane, Cal and Ruth watch as the facility and all its inhabitants are incinerated, and their plane is drawn by a bright beam into a flying saucer. They learn that Exeter and his group are from the planet Metaluna, having come to Earth seeking uranium deposits as well as scientists to help defend their planet in a war against the Zagons. Exeter informs the Earthlings that he is taking them back to his world. Exeter and the Metalunans are attacked by Zagon star ships, carrying meteors, to be used to destroy them and Metaluna. The Metalunan saucer easily avoids each attack, dodging the oncoming meteors.

They arrive to find the planet under bombardment and falling quickly to the enemy. Metalunan society is breaking down and there is little hope. Their leader, The Monitor, reveals that the Metalunans intend to relocate to Earth and insists that Meacham and Adams be subjected to a Thought Transference Chamber in order to subjugate their free will so they cannot object. Exeter believes this is immoral and misguided since it impedes their ability to help the Metalunans. Before they can enter the brain-reprogramming device, Exeter decides to help Cal and Ruth escape.

Exeter is badly injured by a Mutant while the three escape from Metaluna just before it is destroyed. The Mutant also boards the craft, but dies as a result of pressure differences on the journey back to Earth.

As they enter Earth's atmosphere, Exeter sends Cal and Ruth on their way in their small plane, but Exeter himself is dying and the ship's energy is nearly depleted. With no other options, he turns his ship out over the ocean and rapidly accelerates until it is enclosed in a fireball and finally crashes into the water, exploding.

Cast[edit]

* Not credited on-screen.

Reception[edit]

This Island Earth was released in June 1955[4] and by the end of that year had accrued US$1,700,000 in distributors' domestic (U.S. and Canada) rentals, making it the year's 74th biggest earner.[5]

The New York Times review opined, "The technical effects of This Island Earth, Universal's first science-fiction excursion in color, are so superlatively bizarre and beautiful that some serious shortcomings can be excused, if not overlooked."[2] "Whit" in Variety wrote "Special effects of the most realistic type rival the story and characterizations in capturing the interest in this exciting science-fiction chiller, one of the most imaginative, fantastic and cleverly-conceived entries to date in the outer-space film field. "[3]

Since its original release, the critical response to the film has continued to be mostly positive. Bill Warren has written that the film was "the best and most significant science fiction movie of 1955…[it] remains a decent, competent example of any era's science fiction output.."[4] In Phil Hardy's The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction the film was described as "a full-blooded space opera complete with interplanetary warfare and bug-eyed monsters…the film's space operatics are given a dreamlike quality and a moral dimension that makes the dramatic situation far more interesting."[6] Danny Peary felt the film was "colorful, imaginative, gadget-laden sci-fi." [7] On the review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a score of 71%, based upon 14 reviews.[8] Greater Milwaukee Today described it as "An appalling film…" [9]

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie[edit]

This Island Earth is the film-within-the-film in Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie (or MST3K: The Movie). As in the television series, the fictional crew of the spaceship Satellite of Love are forced to watch the film as part of an "experiment"; while watching the film, the crew can be seen in silhouette at the bottom of the screen, mocking the action. The film also includes "host segments" (skits with the crew and Mad Scientists), including two scenes with the characters using an Interocitor.

In order to maintain a 73-minute running time and to accommodate several "host segments", This Island Earth was edited down by about 20 minutes, removing numerous scenes, some important (like a sequence of the Zagon fleet attacking Metaluna). Consequentially, this makes MST3K: The Movie shorter than the original This Island Earth, or even the average, 90-minute "MST3K" episode.

Other references[edit]

  • A brief homage to This Island Earth is seen in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982). E.T. turns the TV on during a showing of the film, at the scene when Cal and Ruth are being abducted by the aliens and Cal says "They're pulling us up!"
  • The 1988 video game Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders contains key references to this movie, such as large-headed aliens disguised as humans, communications through interstellar teleconferencing, and an airplane pulled into a flying saucer.
  • Shock rock metal band GWAR`s 4th album, This Toilet Earth (1994) and its companion short form movie Skulhedface contain numerous references to this movie, including the title, an alien with an oversized brain posing as a human, and communication between aliens using an interstellar teleconference device.
  • New Jersey punk band The Misfits included a song tribute entitled This Island Earth on their 1997 album American Psycho.
  • The alien Orbitron, the Man from Uranus, from the 1960s toy line "The Outer Space Men", also known as Colorform Aliens, is based on the Mutant.
  • Weird Al Yankovic, a fan of This Island Earth, has featured the Interociter in both his film UHF and the music video for "Dare to be Stupid".
  • The Metaluna Mutant is one of the many alien monsters held captive at Area 52 in Looney Tunes: Back in Action. It was later one of the aliens released by Marvin the Martian so that it could stop the main characters from taking the "Queen of Diamonds" card.
  • Experimental pop artist Eric Millikin created a large mosaic portrait of the Metaluna Mutant out of Halloween candy and spiders as part of his "Totally Sweet" series in 2013.[10][11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1955', Variety Weekly, January 25, 1956
  2. ^ a b "This Island Earth (1955) 'This Island Earth' Explored From Space". New York Times, June 11, 1955. Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  3. ^ a b "Whit". Review from Variety dated March 30, 1955, taken from Variety's Complete Science Fiction Reviews, pg. 107, edited by Don Willis, Garland Publishing, Inc., 1985. ISBN 0-8240-6263-9
  4. ^ a b Warren, Bill. Keep Watching The Skies Vol I: 1950–1957, pp. 228–234; 444, McFarland, 1982. ISBN 0-89950-032-3.
  5. ^ Gebert, Michael. The Encyclopedia of Movie Awards (listing of 'Box Office (Domestic Rentals)' for 1955, taken from Variety magazine), St. Martin's Paperbacks, 1996. ISBN 0-668-05308-9. "Rentals" refers to the distributor/studio's share of the box office gross, which, according to Gebert, is roughly half of the money generated by ticket sales.
  6. ^ Hardy, Phil (editor). The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction, Aurum Press, 1984. Reprinted as The Overlook Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction, Overlook Press, 1995, ISBN 0-87951-626-7
  7. ^ Peary, Danny Guide for the Film Fanatic, Fireside Books, 1986, pg. 433. ISBN 0-671-61081-3
  8. ^ "This Island Earth (1955)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  9. ^ Snyder, Steven. "This Island Earth Reviews". Greater Milwaukee Today. Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  10. ^ Burkart, Gregory. "Get a Taste of Eric Millikin's Totally Sweet Candy Monster Mosaics". FEARnet. Retrieved 9 November 2013. 
  11. ^ Millikin, Eric. "Eric Millikin's totally sweet Halloween candy monster portraits". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 9 November 2013. 

External links[edit]