This Island Earth
|This Island Earth|
Original two-sheet promotional poster
|Directed by||Joseph M. Newman|
|Produced by||William Alland|
|Written by||Raymond F. Jones
Edward G. O'Callaghan
|Music by||Joseph Gershenson (music supervision)
Henry Mancini (uncredited)
Hans J. Salter (uncredited)
Herman Stein (uncredited)
|Edited by||Virgil Vogel|
|Box office||$1.7 million (US)|
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, Faith Domergue and Rex Reason. 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.
Dr. Cal Meacham (Rex Reason), 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 (Robert Nichols) have heard of the device, they immediately begin construction. When they finish, a mysterious man named Exeter (Jeff Morrow) appears on the device'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 (Faith Domergue). 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 (Russell Johnson), but their car is attacked and Carlson is killed. When they take off in a Stinson 108 light aircraft, Cal and Ruth watch as the facility and all its inhabitants are incinerated, and their aircraft is drawn up 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 starships guiding meteors as weapons against them and Metaluna. The Metalunan saucer easily avoids each attack, dodging 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 (Douglas Spencer), 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 would impede their ability to help the Metalunans. Before the couple are sent into the brain-reprogramming device, Exeter decides to help them escape.
Exeter is badly injured by a Mutant while the three flee from Metaluna in the saucer as the planet's protective "ionization layer" becomes totally ineffective. Under the Zagon bombardment, Metaluna heats up and turns into a lifeless "radioactive sun". The Mutant also boards the saucer and tries to attack, 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 aircraft, but Exeter himself is dying and the ship's energy is nearly depleted. The ship flies out over the ocean and rapidly accelerates until it is enclosed in a fireball and finally crashes into the water and explodes.
* Not credited on-screen.
Principal photography for This Island Earth took place from January 30 to March 22, 1954. Location work took place at Mt. Wilson, California.
Most of the sound effects, the ship, the interociter, etc. are simply recordings of radio teletype transmissions picked up on a short wave radio played at various speeds. In a magazine article the special effects department admitted that the "mutant" costume originally had legs that matched the upper body but they had so much trouble making the legs look and work properly they were forced by studio deadline to simply have the mutant wear a pair of trousers. Posters of the movie show the mutant as it was supposed to appear.
This Island Earth was released in June 1955, 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. [N 1]
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." "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. "
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.." 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." Danny Peary felt the film was "colorful, imaginative, gadget-laden sci-fi."  On the review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a score of 71%, based upon 14 reviews. Greater Milwaukee Today described it as "An appalling film ..." 
Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie
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). Consequently, this makes MST3K: The Movie shorter than the original This Island Earth, or even the average, 90-minute "MST3K" episode.
In popular culture
- 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!"
- Season 2 episode 10 of the 1977 Wonder Woman Series uses Space Battle footage from this and the alien planet is also recycled footage.
- The 1987 album "Happy Together" by the a cappella group "The Nylons" featured a track titled "This Island Earth". 
- 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 aircraft 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 Interocitor 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.
- The final track on Bryan Ferry's 1978 album The Bride Stripped Bare is entitled "This Island Earth," although it contains no overt references to the film.
- "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.
- Internet Movie Database Box office/Business for
- "The Top Box-Office Hits of 1955". Variety Weekly, January 25, 1956.
- Thompson, Howard H. "This Island Earth (1955) 'This Island Earth' Explored From Space." The New York Times, June 11, 1955.
- Willis 1985, p. 107.
- "Original print Information: This Island Earth (1955)." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: October 30, 2014.
- Internet Movie Database Trivia
- Warren 1982, pp. 228–234; 444.
- Geber 1996.
- Hardy 1995.
- Peary 1986, p. 433.
- "This Island Earth (1955)." Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved: October 30, 2014.
- Snyder, Steven. "This Island Earth Reviews." Greater Milwaukee Today, December 12, 2002. Retrieved: October 30, 2014.
- Millikin, Eric. "Eric Millikin's totally sweet Halloween candy monster portraits." Detroit Free Press, December 9, 2013. Retrieved: October 30, 2014.
- Gebert, Michael. The Encyclopedia of Movie Awards. New York: St. Martin's Paperbacks, 1996. ISBN 0-668-05308-9.
- Hardy, Phil (editor). The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction. London: Aurum Press, 1984. Reprinted as The Overlook Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction, Overlook Press, 1995, ISBN 0-87951-626-7.
- Peary, Danny. Guide for the Film Fanatic. New York: Fireside Books, 1986. ISBN 0-671-61081-3.
- Warren, Bill. Keep Watching The Skies, Vol. I: 1950–1957. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 1982. ISBN 0-89950-032-3.
- Willis, Don. Variety's Complete Science Fiction Reviews. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1985. ISBN 0-8240-6263-9.