DIRECTOR: Joseph M. Newman
I first saw This Island Earth back in 1989, on Channel 4 if I remember correctly, as part of a Sci Fi season. Along with watching a variety of other flicks from the 50’s, this stood out as both entertaining and surprising smart for a film at the cutting edge of Science Fiction at that time.
Based on the novel of the same name, though removing some of the more intellectual elements as it went on, the film boasts special effects over two and half years in the making, but it generally looks as if a blow torch has been taken to the models and green tints have been applied from time to time but who cares. It’s both charming, cool and leans towards something much more serious and intelligent.
The first half of the movie is quite scientific, with lots of big words like a ‘atomic’ and cool and equally attractive scientists being drawn into the intriguing world of a scientific institute managed by men with abnormally large foreheads. This alone, should really have raised alarm bells with any half decent scientist but like I said, who cares! I also felt that this resembled Contact, made over 40 years later, in the way that the aliens drop feed the scientist instructions on building pieces f their technology.
But as the film enters its second half it becomes much more Sci Fi and less grounded, with an early attempt to explore space travel, interstellar warfare and alien civilisations. Whilst it does so in an acceptable fashion, it just doesn’t carry the same weight as the opening, where our leading man methodically builds a massive video phone, to prove that he has the smarts to work at the institute. But is still very entertaining no matter which way you look at it.
Besides films such as The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951) and Forbidden Planet, this must rank as one of the best and most seminal Sci Fi films of the 50’s. A must see for any fan and recommended for late night viewing for anyone else.