Blu-ray Review: This Island Earth

There’s a chance you’ve seen This Island Earth without realizing it. How can that be? Was it released under a different title? Kinda. The science fiction film from the prime of Universal’s atomic age effects era was what Mike and the Bots watched in the Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie. So why should you watch it without the shadows in the front row seats making cracks about the action? First off they only used about half the film within their film. MST3K: The Movie is only 74 minutes and This Island Earth runs 85 minutes. Figure in time for the opening, ending credits and comedy bits, you’ve only seen highlights of this seminal classic of science fiction. You deserve to see all of This Island Earth to devour a film that flipped the alien meets humanity formula that was popular in ’50s cinema.

Dr. Cal Meacham ( The Creature Walks Among Us‘s Rex Reason) is on a jet when the engines fail. Instead of crashing, the plane begins to glow and lands safely. When he returns to a lab, he finds unusual equipment and a manual to build an “interocitor.” Turns out this device for communicating with a triangle shaped TV monitor. A man with a large forehead named Exeter (The Creature Walks Among Us‘s Jeff Morrow) appears on the screen and tells Cal that he’s proven to be smart enough to work on a major project at this secret lab. He agrees to fly on an unmanned plane to this place where he encounters Dr. Ruth Adams ( It Came from Beneath the Sea‘s Faith Domergue) and Steve Carlson (Gilligan’s Island‘s Russell Johnson). He’s impressed by the research opportunity, but feels something is off about the whole thing. He quickly learns that Exter and his buddies are aliens and whisk them off to planet Metaluna on their spaceship. There’s a battle between them and another alien race and the Earthlings are supposed to tip the balance. But can Dr. Ruth and Cal really help on this strange planet under siege?

This Island Earth isn’t the usual UFO lands on Earth and aliens zap humans and hook up with the ladies plot. There’s a smartness to the film as Exter sets up a research lab and lures in the genius scientists. And even better is when Cal and Dr. Ruth get to visit the other planet instead of merely see inside the space craft and get told about their home world. Sadly the planet Metaluna isn’t in the best of shape thanks to the war. The effects are cool for the time with matte paintings and rear projection. Sure it’s nothing compared to today’s hyperactive CGI universes. But it feels like an artist with a brush was involved instead of a team of coders. The mutant servants of the Metalunas are extra creepy with their exposed brain and claws. While the first part of the film is heavy on the science angle, the second half has plenty of action including laser attacks and creatures going wild. It’s a well balanced film and not the formulaic flick. This Island Earth doesn’t always need smart aleck robots to be thoughtful and entertaining.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. There’s also the 1.37:1 version so you can see the full frame and even more of the effects. The 4K Scan of the Inter-Positive brings out the odd color tinting in scenes. The audio includes a DTS-HD MA Mono of the original mix. There’s also the DTS-HD The Original Perspecta Stereophonic Sound Restored By 3-D Film Archive really give the picture a surrounding touch. Audience must have been thrilled to have their ears used so much.

Audio Commentaries include two different takes with the emphasis on the special effects and the music. The first has Author And Academy Award Winning Visual Effects Artist Robert Skotak talking of how they made things look so good at Universal. The second lets Film Historian David Schecter focus on the music.

Alien Ideas (21:11) is an Interview with filmmaker Luigi Cozzi (Starcrash). He loved seeing the film as a kid and it influenced his approach to science fiction. He speaks highly of the entire production so you can feel it had an international effect.

Facts About Perspecta Stereophonic Sound By Bob Furmanek (9:39) includes the booklet for how this directional stereo system worked in theaters.

This Island Earth – Two And A Half Years In The Making: The Extended Documentary – A Look At The Making Of This Island Earth (47:55) gets deep into the creation of the film. The film talks about how when Universal merged with International, the studio wanted to get away from the B-movie and Horror films. But the market was going to science fiction in the ’50s and the studio had to respond.

WAR OF THE PLANETS (11:05) is the 1958 Castle Films release for the home market. They include the 50-Foot Silent Headline Edition and the 200-Foot Sound Complete Edition. This was what your grandparents would have watched before Betamax arrived. It’s rather fuzzy because of the source material.

Trailers From Hell (2:45) has Joe Dante (The Howling) talk about This Island Earth‘s trailer. He points out how the film was so special it wasn’t part of a double feature. He shares his joy for the film he saw as a kid.

Theatrical Trailer (2:20) promises “the supreme entertainment of our time!”

Still Galleries – Poster And Lobby Cards (6:53), Publicity Stills (4:24) and Behind-The-Scenes Photos (2:31) has all the views they used to promote the film.

Scream Factory presents This Island Earth. Directed by Joseph M. Newman. Screenplay by: Franklin Coen & Edward G. O’Callaghan. Starring: Jeff Morrow, Faith Domergue, Rex Reason & Russell Johnson. Rated: Unrated. Running Time: 85 minutes. Released: July 9, 2019.

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