Based on Raymond F. Jones’s 1952 novel of the same name, which appeared in Thrilling Wonder Stories as a trilogy of novelettes: “The Alien Machine” (June 1949), “The Shroud of Secrecy” (December 1949), and “The Greater Conflict” (February 1950), This Island Earth is an iconic science fiction film, notable for its special effects. On July 9, 2019, Scream Factory released the film on Blu-ray from a new 4K scan.
After a few unexplained technological incidents, scientist Dr. Cal Meacham (Rex Reason) is sent 2486 parts and coded instructions to build a device called an Interocitor. Unbeknownst to him, building the machine is an aptitude test. Once he and his assistant complete it, Exeter (Jeff Morrow), a man with an odd looking head and hair, communicates through it. Exeter reveals he is seeking scientists for a project. He offers to send a plane to pick up Cal and remotely destroys the Interocitor.
Although no one is on board the plane when it lands, Cal is too intrigued not to go. He is flown to Georgia where he is greeted by Dr. Ruth Adams (Faith Domergue), a woman he thinks is an old flame, but she doesn’t remember him like that. Exeter reveals he and his fellow scientists are looking to put an end to war, which is partially accurate. Exeter is from the planet Metaluna, which is at war with the Zagons, and his people were hoping humans could figure out to lead to uranium because their supplies for the latter are running out.
The timetable is accelerated by Exeter’s superiors, who want the Earth scientists brought along. Cal and Ruth try to escape but to no avail. Special effects show flames coming off the ship as it travels through a portion of space. It looks real cool, but without oxygen not sure how it is possible. There is also fantastic-looking effects work as they approach and are on the war-torn Metaluna.
While the mystery of what’s happening is intriguing, the script falters in the end. The Monitor, leader of the Metalunans, states that the remaining Metalunans will be going to Earth and the humans will be brainwashed to accept them. Exeter is against this plan and helps Cal and Ruth escape. First, they must deal with a Mutant, a slow-moving creature with bug eyes and an exo-brain, It is startling at first glance, but turns out to be no threat. In fact, it is so easily defeated it’s a tad disappointing that Ruth, herself a scientist, does little but shriek in response to it. It’s a wonder the creature was included at all, seeming like something required from producers rather than a character of importance to the story. I do like the futility of the Metalunans’ plans for conquest.
Sourced from a new 4K scan from the interpositive, the video has been given a 180p encoded transfer displayed at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The colors really shine here. In Exeter’s house, there are a variety of greens in the foyer and the violet flowers pop. A spectrum of colors stand out during a special effects shot of a car exploding. Blacks are inky and whites are bright. A pleasing amount of film grain is intact, which increases during the stock footage shots and when Cal and Ruth are encased in smoke-filled tubes. There are some specks and scratches, like the POV shot of them looking at the viewscreen as they approach Metaluna.
The audio comes in a DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono mix and the original three-channel Perspecta Stereophonic sound restored by 3-D Film Archive. The latter broadens the audio. As the film begins, the score sounds a little clipped at the loud end. Dialogue is clear, especially the deep baritone of Reason. The voices are placed across the front as Cal talks to reporters. The track has a wide dynamic range, from the booming explosions to the high-pitched whine of the aliens’ tractor beam.
The special features are:
- Two new audio commentaries. Author/visual effects artist Robert Skotak, who knew director John Newman, is informative about the film’s production. Monstrous Movie Music’s David Schecter focuses on the film score, which had three composers, whom Schecter knew.
- This Island Earth Open Matte – This version is presented with am 1.37:1 aspect ratio and DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono.
- Alien Ideas – Interview with Filmmaker Luigi Cozzi (HD, 21 min), The director of Starcrash talks about This Island Earth, which he saw as a child, and explains why it continues to fascinate him.
- Two and a Half Years in the Making: The Extended Documentary (HD, 48 min) – a thorough featurette that provides some Hollywood history in addition to details about the creation of the film.
- Trailers from Hell – This Island Earth with Joe Dante (SD, 3 min) – who offers a commentary on the trailer.
- War of the Planets 8mm and 16mm Films (HD, 11 min) Castle Films edited This Island Earth into a silent 8mm version and a sound 16mm version, both black and white, under a new title for home viewing.
- Facts about Perspecta Stereophonic Sound with Bob Furmanek (HD, 10 min) A collection of articles about the format are presented.
- Theatrical Trailer
- Galleries: Behind the Scenes; Poster and Lobby Card; and Publicity Stills
Scream Factory has done impressive work with This Island Earth. The high-definition video looks marvelous and augments the special effects. Its audio counterpart is a fitting counterpart and isn’t hampered by its age. There’s a slew extras and multiple viewing options that should please old fans and make new ones. Highly recommended for the sci-fi film buff.