“This Island Earth” (1955)


Atom­ic sci­en­tist Doc­tor Carl Meacham (Rex Rea­son) is select­ed to join a very secret sci­en­tif­ic research orga­ni­za­tion, based on his abil­i­ty to assem­ble a device beyond any human sci­ence. What he dis­cov­ers is more than just baf­fling, and the peo­ple run­ning the orga­ni­za­tion are strange, includ­ing the leader, Exeter (Jeff Mor­row). Even more strange, the oth­er sci­en­tists are act­ing odd­ly, with a few excep­tions like Doc­tor Ruth Adams (Faith Domer­gue), Doc­tor Carl­son and Doc­tor Engel­borg, but even those excep­tions are act­ing conspiratorially.

But things don’t stay that way: as Doc­tors Meacham and Adams flee in a small air­plane, a space­ship ris­es from beneath the manor where the research was locat­ed, destroy­ing all evi­dence of the aliens’ exis­tence on Earth, includ­ing the oth­er sci­en­tists who fled before the manor was destroyed. As for Meacham and Adams, they are brought on board the space­ship where they are told the truth: Exeter and his com­pan­ions are from the plan­et Met­alu­na, here on Earth seek­ing sci­en­tif­ic answers to aid in the defense of their planet.

Brought to Met­alu­na, it is obvi­ous that the plan­et is close to destruc­tion, and there is noth­ing the two sci­en­tists can do to help. Even the leader of Met­alu­na seems to under­stand that, and intends to move the pop­u­la­tion of the plan­et to Earth. Dis­as­ter strikes before that can hap­pen, and Exeter man­ages to return the two sci­en­tists back to Earth before per­ish­ing himself.

And where is the mind con­trol? While not a major plot point, it was used by the Met­alu­nans to make the sci­en­tists more coop­er­a­tive, with a cor­re­spond­ing loss of some of their intel­li­gence. It was that loss that caused Exeter to resist using that tech­nique on sev­er­al of the sci­en­tists, includ­ing the Mecham and Adams, which is prob­a­bly why they escaped the orig­i­nal destruc­tion of the manor.

Com­men­tary: While this movie com­bines ele­ments of a mys­tery and a trav­el­ogue, with a lit­tle bit of hor­ror thrown in, there is one thing it is lack­ing: a real sto­ry with any kind of defined char­ac­ter devel­op­ment or much sense of real con­flict. I guess that’s why the whole ‘Met­alu­nan mutant’ mon­ster ele­ment was thrown in, but its too lit­tle, too late.

How­ev­er, it is still visu­al­ly very intrigu­ing, espe­cial­ly for the time it was made. The use of comets as mis­siles against the plan­et of Met­alu­na as a mil­i­tary tac­tic is one that is both phys­i­cal­ly sound and remark­ably pre­scient: Robert Hein­lein wrote about some­thing sim­i­lar is “The Moon is a Harsh Mis­tress”. Its enough that aster­oids can strike the plan­et by acci­dent, but quite anoth­er if they’re guid­ed missiles.

Triv­ia: If Doc­tor Carl­son’s appear­ance seems famil­iar, despite the few times seen on screen, it is that the actor, Rus­sell John­son, is more famous as the Pro­fes­sor on “Gilli­gan’s Island”.

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