This Island Earth is a 1955 American science fiction film directed by Joseph M. Newman. It is based on the novel of the same name by Raymond F. Jones. The film stars Jeff Morrow as the alien Exeter, Faith Domergue as Dr. Ruth Adams, and Rex Reason as Dr. Cal Meacham. The film was one of the first major science fiction films to be made in Technicolor. In 1996, This Island Earth was also edited down and lampooned in the film Mystery Science Theater 3000:
When initially released, the film was praised by most critics, many[who?] citing the special effects, well-written script and eye-popping color (prints by Technicolor) as being its major assets. The film was one of the last films to use the three-strip Technicolor filming process. Even during production, the film’s special effects were shot on the more conventional Eastman color process, which most studios had already adopted.
“This Island Earth” begins with a mystery – where are all of the world’s top scientists disappearing to? The answer is given to us when we follow a group of scientists who are lured to a remote mansion. Here, they are supposed to be conducting research, but really aliens are spying on them to see which scientist is the best.
The Metalunian aliens have been busy kidnapping our scientists to help them save their war ravaged planet. Through their selection process, they take the ‘best’ scientist and a female companion on board their flying saucer. As they fly to Metaluna the ship is attacked by meteor-like projectiles. At Metaluna itself, the whole surface of the planet has been reduced to cratered rubble by a deluge of these meteors used as weapons. Things have gotten so bad that the inhabitants now live underground. The war with the Zahgons is going to destroy their planet if nothing is done.
Our scientist is unable to do anything about the situation, and, avoiding a crab-clawed genetically created monster with a huge head that exposes its brain, he and his woman escape in a flying saucer. As they fly away the planet explodes, presumably putting an end to the armed struggle and anything living there.
The story and acting are rather weak, but the opening is suspenseful. The aliens look like us, but have white hair and bigger heads – almost a classic popular idea of a Scientist. They even contact one scientist through his TV set! They act like the creepy Men in Black (MIB) that we know so well today. The visual imagery is at times stunning; in one sequence the aliens’ flying saucer swoops upon and gobbles up a light aircraft. The battle scenes on the planet are reminiscent of pictures of the London blitz. What makes this 1956 movie stand out in my mind is that it is brightly colored, giving it a dream-like quality.
The film seems to be a cautionary tale that war, helped by science, will destroy us and even our best scientists are not clever enough to pull us away from the abyss. We all too easily could turn planet Earth into another Metaluna.