Jeff Morrow

This Island Earth (1955)

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Every now and then in the distant past when I was a lad, TV networks used to run seasons of classic science fiction films around 6pm in the evening. One of them was typically This Island Earth, a film that encapsulates pretty much everything there was to know about early 50s pulp SF. Which is to say that it’s actually quite staggeringly dreadful by any objective analysis.

But let’s at least start with the positives: it’s in colour, in an age when science fiction was firmly relegated to the black and white cheap B-movie scene. The effects (both photographic and model) are state of the art for their day and still rather good and stand up passably well even more than fifty years later. And the first half of the film is actually quite decent and solid, a sub-X Files conspiracy tale of Dr Cal Meacham (played by the delightfully named Rex Reason!) tracing back some unusual incidents to a mysterious scientific company that has unbelievably advanced technology. Meacham ends up recruited into the company’s ‘brains trust’ community situated in a distant part of the Georgia countryside headed by the very strange Exeter (Jeff Morrow) whose conspicuously odd cranial development practically shouts “Look at me, look at me, I have vastly superior mental capacity!”

Then it almost feels like there’s a reel missing, because suddenly Meacham goes from puzzled and unsettled to full-on making a run for it, and the hitherto benign aliens respond by wiping out their entire precious brains trust of painstakingly gathered world scientists with their laser weapons; all save for square-jawed Meacham and the equally photogenic Dr Ruth Adams (the quite beautiful Faith Domergue) that is, who they inexplicably instead decide to save and scoop up into the flying saucer that has emerged from a local hillside in timely fashion. The rest of the film depicts their journey to Exeter’s distant home world; and after no more than ten minutes and a couple of monorail rides at their destination, they promptly turn around and come all the way back again. Finally, Exeter declines a perfectly reasonably invitation to settle down incognito on Earth in preference for crashing his flaming ship into the ocean. The, err, end. Read the rest of this entry »