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  This Island Earth Message From Space
Year: 1955
Director: Joseph M. Newman, Jack Arnold
Stars: Jeff Morrow, Faith Domergue, Rex Reason, Lance Fuller, Russell Johnson, Douglas Spencer, Robert Nichols, Karl Ludwig Lindt
Genre: Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: Dr Cal Meacham (Rex Reason) is chatting with reporters by the jet plane he is about to take off in, and they want to know all about the nuclear power project he is undertaking, but he tells them it's top secret until they can get the problems ironed out. Then he zooms off into the skies, heading for his remote base of operations; when he reaches it, he contacts the control tower of the nearby airstrip and shows off with some fancy moves. Suddenly, he loses control of the plane and equally abruptly the craft is surrounded by a mysterious green glow and he is guided into land - someone has their eye on Meacham...

...and they might not be from planet Earth. The cachet of This Island Earth has fallen steadily over the years from a dazzling science fiction epic to the butt of jokes on Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie, which is unkind to a film that may seem quaint now, but had a sincere moral at its heart. Scripted by Franklin Coen and Edward G. O'Callaghan from Raymond F. Jones' original story, as it begins it looks to be in love with technology, starting with the aeroplane that Meacham pilots, yet after a while a tone of ambivalence creeps in.

Although if you've heard of this film you'll probably have a decent idea of where it's all heading it actually is set up as a mystery, with the audience left in the dark about what exactly is going on as we find out at the same time as Meacham. The scientist is sent a small bead that has incredible properties at first, which is then followed up with a catalogue where he can order the parts for his Leonard - sorry, interociter, a far advanced machine that acts as a sort of combination videophone and laser gun. When he and his assistant switch it on, they discover who has been sending them all this.

Appearing on the triangular screen there is none other than Exeter (Jeff Morrow), a white-haired, tall-browed chap who invites Meacham to board a plane that he will despatch for him. In the spirit of adventure he agrees and before you know it, the intrepid scientist winds up in a remote country house and ordered to start work on a nuclear programme along with the other eggheads there, including old flame Ruth Adams (Faith Domergue) who oddly denies she has ever met him before. The men in charge of the project all share Exeter's look, but there's an amibiguity about them that throws up all sorts of questions, like whose side they are on for a start.

It won't come as much of a surprise that Exeter and chums are not of this Earth, and that Meacham and Adams are transported across the galaxy for the final act. The special effects may look variable now, but they have an advantage over today's work in the field in that they're a lot of fun to watch, whether they're a flying saucer or the bombed wasteland planet of Metaluna. This is where the thoughtful element comes in: if we let nuclear energy, never mind nuclear weapons, get out of control then will we end up like the futuristic society Exeter hails from? He may be philosophical (Morrow is perfectly cast), but it's clear his kind have let their technology get away from them, so This Island Earth, in its modest way, acts as a warning. Oh and there's a man-in-a-suit mutant designed to menace the visitors as well, which to this day garners most of the publicity for its exposed brain, claw-handed, towering outrageousness.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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