Sunday, 2 February 2014

MOVIE: This Island Earth (1955)

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This Island Earth

US 1955, 87m, Universal-International

DVD: Universal Pictures (UK), Cert PG

A top scientist is carried by a remotely controlled plane to a gathering of some of the leading lights in their respective scientific fields. It becomes apparent that their hosts may not be of this world, but are their motives sinister or well intentioned?

Although perhaps less celebrated than their classic horror cycle of the 1930's and 40's, Universal-International (as the studio was known from 1946 to 1963) actually gave the world a second cycle of more sci-fi orientated horrors in the 1950's, mostly with involvement from producer William Alland and/or director Jack Arnold, before the studio distributed Hammer's Dracula in 1958 and the horror landscape shifted back to gothic chills.

The best known films from this boom are probably It Came From Outer Space and Creature From The Black Lagoon. The less championed This Island Earth is a more unusual entry and well worthy of investigation. Unlike its monochrome stablemates, it was shot lavishly in Technicolor and widescreen. It's also quite a thoughtful, philosophical piece, and plays with the audience's perceptions of the day. After several years of being told that mankind's deadliest threat would come from outer space, it must have been quite novel then to find this particular group of visitors actually trying to enlist help to save their race from annihilation in an intergalactic war. Whilst they are not an entirely benevolent bunch, the source motivation for their actions is still a noble one.

Perhaps a tad over-talkative in its earthbound sequences, things really hit the high notes once the action shifts to the aliens' home planet of Metaluna, and there's a real visual feast on display. All garish colours and retro-futuristic decor, it's arguably one of the closest film approximations of the sci-fi comics and magazines of the era. Just about any frame from this portion of the film could be a front cover illustration, and special mention should be made here of the art direction of Alexander Golitzen and Richard H. Riedel.

Even with the passing of time and the obvious advances in special effects, there's still much to enjoy in the space battle scenes, flying saucer sequences and space vistas. This Island Earth remains a fun hour-and-a-half, and just the thing for a Saturday morning picture. Sadly, a proposed sequel, Aliens In The Skies was rejected as being too expensive by the then cash-strapped studio...


Original Theatrical Trailer:

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