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This Island Earth Main

This Island Earth Blu-ray Review

Written by ZigZag

Blu-ray released by Scream Factory

This Island Earth Large

Directed by Joseph Newman
Written by Franklin Coen and Edward G. O’Callaghan (based on the novel by Raymond F. Jones)
1955, 86 minutes, Not Rated
Released on July 9th, 2019

Starring:
Jeff Morrow as Exeter
Faith Domergue as Dr. Ruth Adams
Rex Reason as Dr. Cal Meacham
Lance Fuller as Brack
Russell Johnson as Dr. Steve Carlson
Robert Nichols as Joe Wilson
Douglas Spencer as The Monitor

This Island Earth 01 This Island Earth 02

Review:

Atomic scientist Dr. Cal Meacham is recruited to take part in a top secret research experiment by a strange looking man named Exeter. Cal agrees to participate and is flown to Georgia where he is met by the lovely Dr. Ruth Adams. The lab is cutting-edge and the facility is filled with international scientists all working toward the same goal of world peace. Exeter, as it turns out, is a member of an alien race visiting Earth in search of nuclear power. Upon discovering that the aliens have an ulterior motive, Cal and Ruth escape to the airport. Their plane is captured by a flying saucer that takes them to the distant world of Metaluna, a planet bombarded by meteors and in desperate need of uranium to restore the atmosphere. Can intergalactic peace be achieved or will the aliens decide it is time to colonize our planet?

In the 1950s, Hollywood was cranking out tons of low budget black-and-white science fiction titles to great success. In 1955, Universal International invested more time and money into their upcoming opus, This Island Earth, the studio’s first sci-fi movie to be shot in Technicolor. The company put a lot of resources into this production, particularly the special effects, knowing that they would be the real draw for audiences. The story is based on the popular novel by Raymond F. Jones and was directed by Joseph Newman (Red Skies of Montana). Written for the screen by Franklin Coen and Edward G. O’Callaghan, the film unfolds as something of a mystery as we follow a scientist on a strange journey into the unknown. One of the more surprising plot points comes in the second half when our heroes are captured by a flying saucer and taken to another planet. Rarely did these stories involve intergalactic space travel and this one really delivers with its alien landscape and deadly mutant creatures.

This Island Earth 03 This Island Earth 04

The cast is led by acclaimed character actor Jeff Morrow (The Robe), who delivers a strong performance as Exeter, the sympathetic alien. Rex Reason (The Creature Walks Among Us) stars as Dr. Cal Meacham, the square-jawed all-American hero trying to save the world. He is pretty stiff and comes off a bit cold, but is serviceable in the role. His co-star Faith Domergue (Perversion Story) fares better as Dr. Ruth Adams, the beautiful scientist along for the ride. She doesn’t have a lot to do in the beginning, but shines in later scenes, particularly in her time aboard the spaceship. The always-welcome Russell Johnson (It Came from Outer Space, Gilligan’s Island) turns up in a supporting role as fellow scientist Dr. Steve Carlson and does a fine job with the material.

This Island Earth was a hit with critics and audiences alike and laid the groundwork for many films that followed. There are several iconic images here, including the spherical flying saucer capturing an airplane and the attack of the giant insectoid called Mutant. This creature arrives late in the picture and is threatening with its oversized eyes and bulbous brain. It would play a key part in the marketing campaign and the likeness has become synonymous with films of this era. The picture is kid-friendly and there is a high camp value that provides an additional layer of enjoyment for adult audiences. It takes a while to get where it’s going, but the outer space finale makes it worth the trek.

 This Island Earth 05 This Island Earth 06

Video and Audio:

The original film elements have received a 4K scan and restoration and are presented in their native 1.85:1 aspect ratio or the more familiar full frame 1.37:1. I chose the default widescreen version and am pleased with the composition of the picture. Colors are vibrant and black levels are rich throughout and there is plenty of small-object detail.

The Perspecta Stereophonic sound track has been restored and arrives in a DTS-HD MA 3.0 mix that moves dialogue and sound effects around the front speakers with satisfying results. Dialogue levels are well-balanced with music cues and are clean and clear of hiss or other forms of distortion.

Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.

This Island Earth 07 This Island Earth 08

Special Features:

Author and Academy Award-winning visual effects artist Robert Skotak (Strange Invaders, House on Haunted Hill) comments on the production history of this movie. He discusses the direction, the look of the opening credits, the use of color, the design of the aliens and differences between the source novel and the original screenplay.

Film historian David Schecter delivers an audio interview (28 minutes) discussing the music of This Island Earth. He comments on specific music cues, plays audio samples and provides background information on uncredited composer Herman Stein and marvels at his ability to produce Theremin sounds acoustically.

Filmmaker Luigi Cozzi (Starcrash) is the focus of the newly-recorded interview segment Alien Ideas (21 minutes). He recalls the impression this film made on him after seeing it as a child. He provides a plot synopsis and compares the structure to Dracula. He reveals how This Island Earth influenced some of his work and shares his thoughts on how special effects have changed over the years.

In Facts About Perspecta Stereophonic Sound by Bob Furmanek (10 minutes), a slideshow of text-based articles and illustrations, including newspaper samples, promotes the creation of a new sound design system.

This Island Earth – Two and a Half Years in the Making: The Extended Documentary (48 minutes) is an archival piece narrated by Tom Weaver featuring interviews with visual effects artist Robert Skotak, filmmakers C. Courtney Joyner (Trancers III) and Joe Dante (The Howling) and assorted film historians, who discuss the production history of the picture. There are audio interviews with various cast members offering first-hand accounts of the shoot.

Before VHS was a thing, companies would release heavily condensed film versions of select titles to the home market. There are two versions of the 1958 Castle Films release War of the Planets. Up first is the three-minute “50-Foot Silent Headline Edition”, featuring scratchy black-and-white clips of This Island Earth with title cards for dialogue. Up next is a longer eleven-minute “200-Foot Sound Complete Edition”, showcasing much of the film’s final half hour of interstellar travel.

The theatrical trailer has been included.

Trailers from Hell spotlights This Island Earth hosted and narrated by filmmaker Joe Dante, who shares his love for this movie.

There are three photo galleries that each play as silent slideshows and are self-explanatory. Up first is “Poster and Lobby Cards”, in color and black and white, followed by “Publicity Stills” and ”Behind-the-Scenes Photos”, in black and white only.

This Island Earth 09 This Island Earth 10

Grades:

Movie: Fourstars This Island Earth Small
Buy Amazon Us
Video: Fivestars
Audio: Fourstars
Features: Fourandahalfstars
Overall: Fourandahalfstars

About The Author
ZigZag
Author: ZigZag
Staff Writer
ZigZag's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
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