This Island Earth is a 1955 American science fiction film from Universal International, produced by William Alland, directed by Joseph M. Newman and Jack Arnold, that stars Jeff Morrow, Faith Domergue and Rex Reason. It is based on the eponymous 1952 novel by Raymond F. Jones, which was originally published in the magazine Thrilling Wonder Stories as three related novelettes: "The Alien Machine" in the June 1949 issue, "The Shroud of Secrecy" in December 1949, and "The Greater Conflict" in February 1950. The film was released in 1955 as a double feature with Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy.
Upon initial release, the film was praised by critics, who cited the special effects, well-written script, and eye-popping Technicolor prints as being its major assets. In 1996, it was edited down and lampooned in Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie, a spin-off of the popular syndicated movie riffing television series Mystery Science Theater 3000.
|This Island Earth|
Theatrical release poster
by Reynold Brown
|Produced by||William Alland|
|Based on||This Island Earth|
by Raymond F. Jones
Hans J. Salter
|Edited by||Virgil Vogel|
|Distributed by||Universal International|
|Box office||$1.7 million|
Dr. Cal Meacham (Rex Reason) is flying to his laboratory in a borrowed Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star jet. Just before landing, both engines fail, but he is saved from crashing by a mysterious green glow.
At the lab is an unusual substitute for the electronic condensers that he had ordered. Instead, he discovers instructions and parts to build a complex device called an "interocitor". Neither Meacham nor his assistant Joe Wilson (Robert Nichols) have heard of such a device, but they immediately begin its construction. When they finish, a mysterious man named Exeter (Jeff Morrow) appears on the interocitor screen and informs Meacham that he has passed the test. His ability to build the interocitor demonstrates that he is gifted enough to be part of Exeter's special research project.
Intrigued, Meacham is picked up at the airport by an unmanned, computer-controlled Douglas C-47 aircraft with no windows. Landing in a remote area of Georgia, he finds an international group of top scientists already present, including an old flame, Dr. Ruth Adams (Faith Domergue). Cal is confused by Ruth's failure to recognize him and suspicious of Exeter, his assistant Brack (Lance Fuller) and other odd-looking men leading the project.
Cal and Ruth flee with a third scientist, Steve Carlson (Russell Johnson), but their car is attacked and Carlson is killed. When they take off in a Stinson 108 light aircraft, Cal and Ruth watch as the facility and all its inhabitants are incinerated. Their aircraft is then drawn up by a bright beam into a flying saucer. Exeter explains he and his men are from the planet Metaluna, and are locked in a war with the Zagons. They defend against the Zagons with an energy field, but are running out of uranium to keep it running. They enlisted the humans in an effort to transmute lead to uranium, but time has run out. Exeter takes the Earthlings back to his world, sealing them in protective tubes to offset pressure differences between planets.
They land safely on Metaluna, but the planet is under attack by Zagon starships guiding meteors as weapons against them. The defensive "ionization layer" is failing and the battle is entering its final stage. Metaluna's leader, the Monitor (Douglas Spencer), reveals that the Metalunans intend to flee to Earth, then insists that Meacham and Adams be subjected to a Thought Transference Chamber in order to subjugate their free will, which he indicates will be the fate of the rest of humanity as well upon Metalunan relocation. Exeter believes this is immoral and misguided.
Before the couple can be sent into the brain-reprogramming device, Exeter helps them escape. Exeter is badly injured by a Mutant while he, Cal and Ruth flee from Metaluna in the saucer, while the planet's ionization layer becomes totally ineffective. Under the Zagon bombardment, Metaluna heats up and turns into a lifeless "radioactive sun." The Mutant has also boarded the saucer and attacks Ruth, but dies as a result of pressure differences on the journey back to Earth.
As they enter Earth's atmosphere, Exeter sends Cal and Ruth on their way in their aircraft, declining an invitation to join them. Exeter is dying and the ship's energy is nearly depleted. The saucer flies out over the ocean and rapidly accelerates until it is enclosed in a fireball, crashes into the water and explodes.
Principal photography for This Island Earth took place from January 30 to March 22, 1954. Location work took place at Mt. Wilson, California. Most of the Metaluna sequence was directed by Jack Arnold; the front office was apparently dissatisfied with the footage Newman shot and had it redone by Arnold, who unlike Newman had several sci-fi films already under his belt.
Most of the sound effects, the ship, the interociter, etc. are simply recordings of radio teletype transmissions picked up on a short wave radio played at various speeds. In a magazine article, the special effects department admitted that the "mutant" costume originally had legs that matched the upper body but they had so much trouble making the legs look and work properly they were forced by studio deadline to simply have the mutant wear a pair of trousers. Posters of the movie show the mutant as it was supposed to appear.
This Island Earth was released in June 1955, and by the end of that year, had accrued US$1,700,000 in distributors' domestic (United States and Canada) rentals, making it the year's 74th biggest earner. [N 1]
A review in The New York Times by Howard Thompson opined, "The technical effects of This Island Earth, Universal's first science-fiction excursion in color, are so superlatively bizarre and beautiful that some serious shortcomings can be excused, if not overlooked." "Whit" in Variety wrote "Special effects of the most realistic type rival the story and characterizations in capturing the interest in this exciting science-fiction chiller, one of the most imaginative, fantastic and cleverly-conceived entries to date in the outer-space film field. " Philip K. Scheuer of the Los Angeles Times was also positive, calling it "one of the most fascinating—and frightening — science-fiction movies to come at us yet from outer space ... To the camera and effects men must go the major laurels for making this wonders visible and audible — in awesome Technicolor and a sound track that is as ear-wracking as it is eerie." The Monthly Film Bulletin was less positive, writing, "Faced with the wonders of space, man's reactions prove, as usual, dreadfully limited. The dialogue—especially in the faked-up romance between Doctors Meacham and Adams—remains resolutely earth-bound, while the ending is simply a spacial variation on the conventional curtain. Joseph Newman has done his best to make his characters as intriguing as his special effects, but they have neither the stature nor the expression."
Since its original release, the critical response to the film has continued to be mostly positive. Bill Warren has written that the film was "the best and most significant science fiction movie of 1955…[it] remains a decent, competent example of any era's science fiction output.." In Phil Hardy's The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction, the film was described as "a full-blooded space opera complete with interplanetary warfare and bug-eyed monsters ... the film's space operatics are given a dreamlike quality and a moral dimension that makes the dramatic situation far more interesting." Danny Peary felt the film was "colorful, imaginative, gadget-laden sci-fi." At the film review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a score of 71%, based upon 14 reviews. Greater Milwaukee Today described it as "An appalling film ..."
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Faith Marie Domergue (; June 16, 1924 or 1925 – April 4, 1999) was an American film and television actress. Discovered at age sixteen by media and aircraft mogul Howard Hughes, she was signed to a contract with Hughes' RKO Radio Pictures and cast as the lead in the studio's thriller Vendetta, which had a troubled four-year production before finally being released in 1950.
Domergue went on to appear in a multitude of science fiction and horror pictures, such as Cult of the Cobra, This Island Earth, It Came from Beneath the Sea, and The Atomic Man, all released in 1955, earning her a reputation as an early "scream queen". Domergue's later career consisted of B movies, television guest roles, and European productions.Interocitor
An interocitor is a fictional multi-functional device that first appeared in the 1949 story "The Alien Machine", which became the beginning four chapters of the 1952 novel This Island Earth, which in turn was made into the 1955 science fiction film This Island Earth. The device arrives in kit form as an intelligence test for scientists who might prove helpful to an alien race.Joseph M. Newman
Joseph M. Newman (August 17, 1909 – January 23, 2006) was an American film director most famous for his 1955 film This Island Earth. His credits include episodes of The Twilight Zone and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.
He was nominated for two Academy Awards in the now defunct category of Assistant Director, for David Copperfield and San Francisco. He was also the last person nominated Assistant Director to die.Lance Fuller
Lance Fuller (December 6, 1928 – December 22, 2001) was an American actor. He was born in Somerset, Kentucky.
He was a contract actor for most of the 1950s with Universal-International.
He had many uncredited roles for the first several years of his Hollywood career. His first role was in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), and he was featured (uncredited) in several movies into the 1950s, including Singin' in the Rain (1952).
He co-starred in Cattle Queen of Montana with Ronald Reagan, in Apache Woman with Lloyd Bridges and was featured in Ed Wood's The Bride and the Beast, as well as Universal's first color sci-fi film, This Island Earth. He also appeared in The Other Woman, The She-Creature, Pearl of the South Pacific and God's Little Acre.
His film career stalled in the late 1950s, as was the case for many actors once under contract to the studios. Fuller moved to a career in television, where he appeared on the shows Bat Masterson, The Rifleman, 77 Sunset Strip, Maverick (in the episode "The Cats of Paradise", in which he played a spoof of "Paladin" from Have Gun, Will Travel opposite James Garner and Buddy Ebsen), The Twilight Zone, Tombstone Territory and others. He quit the business in 1962, after resisting several offers from Warner Brothers to star in his own series.
In 1968, Fuller attacked a police officer in Los Angeles, who reacted by shooting Fuller in the chest and left him in critical condition. He recovered and in the early 1970s attempted a comeback and landed small roles in a few films and TV programs. His career ended much like it began, with many uncredited roles including The Andromeda Strain (1971) and Hustle (1975), which was his final acting role.
Fuller was married to actress Joi Lansing from 1951 to 1953. He died on December 22, 2001 at age 73, after a lengthy illness, in Los Angeles.Leslie I. Carey
Sound recordist Leslie I. Carey (August 3, 1895 – June 17, 1984) first hit Hollywood in 1938, where he embarked on the first of over 300 films. Some of these were A Double Life in 1947, The Naked City and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein in 1948, Winchester '73 in 1950, Creature from the Black Lagoon and Magnificent Obsession in 1954, Man Without a Star and This Island Earth in 1955, The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) and Operation Petticoat (1959). Also in the late 1950s, he worked extensively on the "Peter Gunn" TV series. Nominated six times for the Academy Awards, he won an Oscar in 1954 for The Glenn Miller Story.Raymond F. Jones
Raymond Fisher Jones (15 November 1915 – 24 January 1994) was an American science fiction author. He is best known for his 1952 novel This Island Earth, which was adapted into the eponymous 1955 film.Rex Reason
Rex Reason (November 30, 1928 – November 19, 2015) was an American actor best known for his role in This Island Earth (1955).Reynold Brown
William Reynold Brown (October 18, 1917 – August 24, 1991) was an American realist artist who painted many Hollywood film posters. He was also briefly active as a comics artist.
He attended Alhambra High School and refined his drawing under his teacher Lester Bonar. A talented artist, Brown met cartoonist Hal Forrest around 1936-37. Forrest hired Brown to ink (uncredited) Forrest's comic strip Tailspin Tommy. Norman Rockwell's sister was a teacher at Alhambra High, and Brown later met Rockwell who advised him to leave cartooning if he wanted to be an illustrator. Brown subsequently won a scholarship to the Otis Art Institute.
During World War II he worked as a technical artist at North American Aviation. There he met his wife, fellow artist Mary Louise Tejeda.
Following the war Brown drew numerous advertisements and illustrations for magazines such as Argosy, Popular Science, Saturday Evening Post, Boys' Life, Outdoor Life, and Popular Aviation. Brown also drew paperback book covers.Brown taught at the Art Center College of Design where he met Misha Kallis, then an art director at Universal Pictures. Through Kallis, Brown began his film poster work, then did the art work for dozens of film posters, including:
Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
This Island Earth (1955)
The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957)
Man of a Thousand Faces (1957)
The Land Unknown (1957)
Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958)
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)
The Atomic Submarine (1959)
The Alamo (1960)
The Time Machine (1960)
The Fabulous World of Jules Verne (1961)
King of Kings (1961)
How the West Was Won (1962)
Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)
Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964)
War of the Zombies (1964)
Shenandoah (1965)Brown's original painting for the poster of The Alamo hung for many years at the actual Alamo in San Antonio, Texas.He suffered a severe stroke in 1976 that left his left side paralyzed and ended his commercial work. Brown and his family moved to Dawes County, Nebraska; with his wife's help, Brown continued to paint landscapes until his death in 1991.
In 1994, Mel Bucklin's documentary about Reynold Brown entitled The Man Who Drew Bug-Eyed Monsters was broadcast on US public television. A book reproducing many of Brown's artworks, Reynold Brown: A Life in Pictures, was published in 2009.Russell Johnson
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This Island Earth is a 1952 science fiction novel by American writer Raymond F. Jones. It was first published in Thrilling Wonder Stories magazine as a serialized set of three novelettes by Raymond F. Jones: "The Alien Machine" in the June 1949 issue, "The Shroud of Secrecy" in the December 1949 issue, and "The Greater Conflict" in the February 1950 issue. These three stories were later combined into the novel entitled This Island Earth in 1952. The novel became the basis for the 1955 science fiction film This Island Earth.
The story revolves around a race of aliens who, in recruiting humans for a group called "Peace Engineers", are actually using Earth as a pawn in an intergalactic war. Both the novel and the film contain some intriguing concepts that had not previously been considered by most science fiction of the time, but while the movie starts out in a very similar manner to the novel, it quickly goes its own way.William Alland
William Alland (March 4, 1916 – November 11, 1997) was an American film producer and writer, mainly of western and science fiction/monster films, including This Island Earth, It Came From Outer Space, Tarantula, The Deadly Mantis, The Mole People, The Colossus of New York, The Space Children, The Creature from the Black Lagoon and its two sequels. He worked frequently with director Jack Arnold. Alland is also remembered for his acting role as reporter Thompson who investigates the meaning of "Rosebud" in Orson Welles's Citizen Kane (1941).
Films directed by Joseph M. Newman