This Island Earth (1955)

And now a bit further back in time and literally a world away from what we’ve been watching lately… I’ve never seen an episode of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 but I’m familiar with it from reputation, and I know This Island Earth was the victim of the MST3K treatment in the movie version of that series. This strikes me as a bit of a raw deal, implying it’s on the same level of crap as the B movies the series generally skewered (the AllRovi reviewer seems particularly offended). Yeah, there are problems that even I noticed, both with the science (planets being turned into stars by meteor bombardment?) and the logic (why exactly is the interociter, if it’s basically a communications device, equipped with a kind of death ray? The question is even directly asked at one point but the answer makes no damn sense), and neither science nor logic are my strong suits. And it is pretty unabashedly true to its origins as a pulp magazine serial, particularly in its writing and characterisation, and the pacing and construction aren’t without problems either. But for all that it’s not actually badly made; dated though some of the ideas and effects surely are, some of them are still actually kind of impressive (Jack Arnold directed some of the film uncredited), and Universal made it in colour too—apparently one of the last 3-strip Technicolor jobs in Hollywood—which helps make the thing look attractively expensive at least. Would it have been a better film if Jack Arnold had directed the whole thing rather than Joseph Newman (Arnold being more of an SF specialist than Newman, who seems to have mainly done westerns otherwise)? I don’t know. But if it’s not quite an undying masterpiece, it’s not exactly a point-and-mock disaster either; it’s a mid-50s bit of SF adventure, and in spite of certain flaws it does its job in consistently watchable fashion.

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