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THIS ISLAND EARTH (director: Joseph Newman; screenwriters: Franklin Coen/Edward G. O’Callaghan/based on the novel “The Alien Machine” by Raymond F. Jones; cinematographer: Clifford Stine; editor: Virgil Vogel; music: Henry Mancini; cast: Rex Reason (Dr. Cal Meacham), Faith Domergue (Dr. Ruth Adams), Jeff Morrow (Exeter), Lance Fuller (Brack), Russell Johnson (Dr. Steve Carlson), Douglas Spencer (The Monitor of Metaluna), Regis Parton (The Mutant), Robert Nichols (Joe Wilson), Karl L. Lindt (Dr. Adolph Engelborg); Runtime: 87; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: William Alland; Universal International; 1955)
Intelligently directed by Joseph Newman.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

“This Island Earth” is based on the 1938 story “The Alien Machine” by Raymond F Jones. It’s intelligently directed by Joseph Newman (“Dangerous Crossing”/”The Big Circus”/”Tarzan, the Ape Man“) and tautly written by Franklin Coen and Edward G. O’Callaghan. The well-crafted pic was considered by many critics as one of the best sci-fi films of the 1950s (I concur).

It’s a thoughtful film, made on a substantial budget, that deserves some respect for looking so good in its three-strip Technicolor format, not going the cheesy route as most popular sci-fi pics of its day and for making valid subtle pointed comments about the Manhattan Project (something few if any sci-fi films dared to do at the time). Though weakened because it’s acted in a wooden manner, is somewhat less than evocative in its storyline, and its special effects and ideas on space travel dated badly. The film was a tremendous box office success and has remained a geek cult favorite, even through modern times.

Atomic scientist Dr. Cal Meacham (Rex Reason), an expert in electronics, miraculously lands a plane that has lost all its power, and soon finds himself chosen along with several other noted scientists by the mysterious advanced scientist Exeter (Jeff Morrow) to do research in his secret center. Cal is unaware that Exeter, who has an odd appearance because of his extra-large sized forehead, is an alien. Exeter has sent Cal a mysterious catalog with strange materials, which the American scientist puts together with reasonable ease to build a communication machine called an interociter–something that goes beyond the technology of the modern world. The curious scientist volunteers to board a weird looking plane without a pilot sent by Exeter to take the scientist to his secret research center in the promise of doing humanitarian experiments to make the world a peaceful place. There Cal meets fellow American nuclear scientists Dr. Ruth Adams (Faith Domergue) and Dr. Steve Carlson (Russell Johnson), and several other genius scientists from around the world. Cal soon learns what the aliens really want is for the Earth scientists to show them how to harness atomic energy so they can fight back the attack of a rival planet, Zahgon, that has killed off most of their population and decimated most of their planet. Exeter is from the distant unknown planet Metaluna, who when ordered by his supreme ruler forces Ruth and Cal to go by high-tech flying saucer to Metaluna. To escape that doomed planet, the Americans must blow up the Metalunan Earth lab, fight off a mutant monster called the Metaluna Mutant (Regis Parton), and avoid attacks from laser beams that can destroy people, aircraft and cars. With the help of the self-sacrificing Exeter, who turns out to be a free thinking swell guy after-all when not doing the dirty work for his political boss, the shanghaied scientists return safely back to Earth and are much the wiser for having learned how deadly a nuclear war can be.

The climactic war-like Metalunan scenes were effectively directed by Universal’s sci-fi maven, Jack Arnold.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”