Tuesday, March 6, 2007

THIS ISLAND EARTH (Universal International 1955) Universal Home Video

Billed as ‘the supreme excitement of our time’, Joseph M. Newman’s This Island Earth (1955) is a painfully obtuse claptrap sci-fi adventure. Relying more on comic books than scientific data, the film stars Rex Reason as Dr. Cal Meachum – a scientist whose work in pressing the limits of outer space is channeled by a strange gentleman, Exeter (Jeff Morrow). Exeter is not of this earth. He belongs to a dying breed of aliens from the planet Metalunan.

Exeter hopes that Meachum and other alumni, Dr. Ruth Adams (Faith Domergue) will be able to find a cure for his planet’s disintegration before an infestation of hostile bug-eyed aliens from another planet arrive to destroy his advanced civilization. But Meachum begins to suspect that Exeter is not telling them the full truth. Could it be? Does Exeter want to conquer the earth for his own people?

After attempting escape, Meachum and Adams are forced into a flying saucer that lands on Metalunan moments before the bug-eyed aliens attack and conquer the advanced civilization. Muscle over brains, I suppose. Rushing back to the ship for escape to earth, Exeter and company accidentally take on one of the attackers as passenger and are thereafter forced to bludgeon it to death in order to ensure their own survival.

Typical Saturday matinee fodder, the screenplay by Franklin Coen simply does not cling together. More a series of unsustainable and flatly staged vignettes, This Island Earth comes apart at the seams long before the final fade out. The special effects – while state of the art in their day – do not hold up under today’s scrutiny. There is no substance behind any of the central performances, but particularly in the leaden romance between the laconic Reason and the lifeless Domergue.

Universal Home Video’s DVD exhibits a rather impressive image quality. Colors are rich and finely detailed. The image is very sharp with nice contrast levels. Blacks are solid and deep. Whites are nearly pristine. Age related artifacts are present throughout but do not distract. Edge enhancement is moderate to light for a very smooth visual presentation. The audio is mono but adequately rendered. There are NO extras – and NO menu for chapter stops – though one can advance to various points in the story using the toggle button on the remote control.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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