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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Horror > This Island Earth (Universal DVD)

This Island Earth (Universal DVD)

 

Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C-     Film: B-

 

 

So many B-movie Science fiction films were being made in the 1950s, often on the very cheap and usually in black and white, that color entries of any kind were more of an event that many might consider.  Joseph Newman’s This Island Earth (1955) is one of the fun gems of this era that at the same time is beautiful to look at, always interesting, yet obviously dated and with many unintended hoots.  It is so interesting as to be the subject of the first (and still only feature film version) of the hit TV series Mystery Science Theater (TV version reviewed elsewhere on this site) where three characters (two machines) constantly hurl pop-culture rich jokes at the film’s shortcomings.

 

If you can get past that, the film is an interesting story of semi-cold human “earthlink” scientists abducted by aliens when a nuclear project turns out to be a sham by aliens almost cleverly disguised as humans.  They do this since their planet has been invaded, but believe the humans are onto something that could save them or destroy everything.  The Franklin Coen/Edward G. O’Callaghan screenplay (based on the Raymond F. Jones book) is not terrible for a film that was like a handful of productions at the time, trying to be intelligent and offer cutting-edge visuals.  Today, we just get bad visuals and no good script, so you can understand why the fascination for this film continues on so many levels.

 

Rex Reason and Faith Domergue are the human couple who land up taking on the unknown threat, while Jeff Murrow and Lance Fuller are the villains.  Future Gilligan’s Island star Russell (The Professor) Johnson is another one of the humans, though that remains irrelevant to those who have added laughs because of that association.  Though dated, the effects (as the box says) took 2.5 years to finish and alien creature designs an all-time iconic classic of Sci-Fi/Horror cinema.

 

Sci-Fi/Horror directing legend Jack Arnold even did some pick-up work, though the whole film is typical of his oeuvre.  This is also true of producer William Alland, who was responsible for the original Creature From The Black Lagoon films, the 3-D classic It Came From Outer Space, The Colossus Of New York, Tarantula, The Deadly Mantis, The Mole People and The Space Children after a series of viable Westerns.  He can be seen as the auteur of these key films as much as his directors all of which were ultimately more important to the genre in the long term and added a sense of class and weight it would not have had otherwise.  That is why the film in its original form is more than worth your time.

 

The 1.33 X 1 image is better than the old Image DVD when they were licensing titles from Universal before the studio jumped onto the DVD format.  Color, clarity and even some detail is better than their old version.  This extends to the sound, which was Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono on the old Image version and is Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono here.  Music is not bad, including work by Henry Mancini!  Overall, a noticeable improvement, even if the three-strip Technicolor here I not as good as it should look in an HD-DVD version, revealing just how great cinematographer Clifford Stine’s many memorable images.  The only extra is the trailer, but the film deserves more and including the MST3K version would be a good idea next time, as well as an audio commentary about its history with other facts.

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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