Tuesday, October 3, 2006

THIS ISLAND EARTH

One of the great science fiction films of the atomic Fifties, THIS ISLAND EARTH (1955), has recently been re-released on the digital format by Universal Studios.

Directed by William Alland (aided by an uncredited Jack Arnold of THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON fame), THIS ISLAND EARTH stars Rex Reason and fetching Faith Domergue as nuclear scientists recruited into a secret research project by the mysterious (and mysteriously big-headed) Exeter (Jeff Morrow). Eventually the scientists discover the Exeter is an extraterrestrial (his HUGE cranium probably should have been a clue) desperate for new energy sources for his homeworld, and are swept away on his flying saucer to the war-torn planet Metaluna.

Produced on a comparatively huge budget, THIS ISLAND EARTH was Universal’s answer to MGM’s lavish FORBIDDEN PLANET, and the studio’s only Technicolor sci-fi extravaganza. Although the story moves a bit slowly by today’s standards, the special effects and scope of the film is still impressive.

The new Universal DVD is a bare-bones affair without a single extra feature and a static menu screen. The film is presented in 1.33:1 full-frame format, although, by most reports, the movie was intended to be matted for widescreen theatrical exhibition.

Previously released in the early days of the DVD format by Image Entertainment, Universal’s new disc is a slight improvement, with a sharper, brighter transfer. Unfortunately the print used shows some minor age-related wear, some scratches, dust and debris. It’s not terrible, but one wishes that Universal had taken this important genre film back to the computer lab and give it a full-fledged restoration. Hell, I don’t even like the way the Art Department cropped the original poster art for the DVD cover – the design is off-balance and doesn’t even show the best parts of the art.

THIS ISLAND EARTH is a classic science fiction epic that still awaits a definitive release, but for now, this one will have to do. At least it’s inexpensive.

BUY: This Island Earth