My Universal horror retrospective chronicling the transition away from the genre that made the production company famous throughout the 30s and 40s and into the sci-fi realm continues with This Island Earth.
At the time of its release the movie was noted for its state-of-the-art effects and use of Technicolor but it would later be famously ridiculed in Mystery Science Theater 3000, showing just how far the film had fallen in the public’s eye.
For me, it will always conjure up the image of the Metaluna Mutant, once a rejected choice for It Came From Outer Space (1953) It’s an iconic character that probably deserves a little more screen time than it actually receives than the short scare towards the film’s climax.
Upon closer scrutiny, TIE does suffer with minimal plot narrative to bind it together; a case of more style than substance. So you can understand the mockery that it fell subject to in more recent years,
The story essentially follows Dr. Cal Meacham (Rex Reason) who is mysteriously rescued when his jet almost crashlands with the aid of a strange green glow. He is then gifted a set of instructions to build a complex machine; a test to see if he has the smarts to be selected for a special research project run by the equally mystifying Exeter (Jeff Morrow).
Before long Cal is recruited by Exeter and meets up with old flame Dr. Ruth Adams (Faith Domergue) and a few other hand-picked scientists. The film quickly develops from a proposed science espionage flick into an intergalactic war when Cal and Ruth are whisked away to the planet Metulana, a planet under attack from the unseen Zagons.
There are great leaps in the imagination here from a screenplay based on the novel by Raymond F. Jones, and one needs to give in to the mindless direction it takes you in and not pay to close mind to the obvious flaws within.
It remains a film with some great images for its time, despite this, and is indicative of the b-movie sci-fi flicks that would swiftly follow suit and one that would capture the imagination of cinema-goers in the mid 50s.
On the other side of the pond however, Britain’s Hammer Films were offering up an alternative spin on the science fiction scene with… The Quatermass Xperiment.
- Saul Muerte