THIS ISLAND EARTH
Two and a half years in the making and with some very cool special effects for the period, THIS ISLAND EARTH ($15) is one of the most significant science fiction films of the 1950ís. Sure, in recent years, THIS ISLAND EARTH has had some of its luster removed by being scoff at by the folks behind MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000, but I still look quite fondly upon THIS ISLAND EARTH, as do a great number of other fifties science fiction fans.
The basic premise of THIS ISLAND EARTH follows the strange experiences of scientist Dr. Cal Meacham (Rex Reason), after he receives a strange catalogue of electronic components- of the ilk never before seen. Ordering over two thousand individual parts, Cal assembles a device known as an Interocitor, an accomplishment which garners him an invitation from Exeter (Jeff Morrow) to join an exclusive group of scientists on a secret project that will bring an end to war. Intrigued by the offer and the technology, Cal boards a robot plane, and is whisked of to a secret facility in Georgia, where he encounters fellow atomic scientists Dr. Steve Carlson (Russell Johnson) and Dr. Ruth Adams (Faith Domergue), with whom Cal once had a brief relationship.
In his short time in the facility, Cal and his two associates begin to suspect there is something odd about Exeter and his assistant Brack (Lance Fuller) beyond their appearance. While trying to escape the facility, Cal and Ruth are forcibly taken onboard a spaceship, where they learn that Exeter and Brack are actually alien beings from Metaluna, who were sent to Earth to utilize our planetís finest scientific minds to find an alternate means of creating nuclear energy to save their world from destruction. After a slow build to its final act, THIS ISLAND EARTH delivers the kind of payoff that sci-fi fans expect from a movie that was two and a half years in the making!
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has made THIS ISLAND EARTH available on DVD in a full screen transfer that frames the movie in the 1.37:1 aspect ratio. There is enough headroom in the film's framing to suggest THIS ISLAND EARTH could be screened theatrically at wider aspect ratios, but it still looks good in the standard Academy ratio. As for the existing transfer, this is the absolute best I have ever seen THIS ISLAND EARTH look in the home venue, but this isnít to say that the presentation is perfect. Personally, I would like to see what could have been achieved with THIS ISLAND EARTH had it undergone something like Warnerís Ultra-Resolution process and then had been given a clean up at Lowery Digital. As it stands, image sharpness and clarity puts past incarnations video to shame, but the transfer does make minor blemishes more noticeable. Colors occasionally approach what one would expect from a movie originally released in IB Technicolor, but the hues and saturation are somewhat inconsistent, not to mention the flat looking flesh tones that scream Max Factor. Blacks are fairly deep, whites are accurate and contrast is smooth. The film elements used for the transfer do show signs of age, which usually takes the form of small blemishes that can sometimes be numerous. Grain is milder than it was on my Laserdisc edition of the film and the picture seems smoother. Compression artifacts are always well contained.
The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack is pretty good for a film that is more than half a century old. Most of the age related background hiss and other audible anomalies have been cleaned up in the mastering process, leaving the track with a respectable sonic quality. Fidelity is decidedly limited, with the top and bottom ends of the track being somewhat truncated. Dialogue is cleanly rendered and easy to understand. No other language tracks have been included on the DVD, but English, French and Spanish subtitles are provided.
The basic interactive menus allow one access to the standard language set up features. Chapters are encoded onto the DVD, but they cannot be accessed from the menu system, instead, the chapter ship function can be engaged while the film is playing. The only supplement provided on the disc is a theatrical trailer.
THIS ISLAND EARTH is a 1950ís science fiction classic that has yet to be given the kind of respect it deserves. Universalís DVD edition is a large step up from what has been released on home video previously, but there is still some room for improvement. I still hope to someday see a full-blown collectorís edition with a complete video restoration (perhaps in wide screen) and some cool supplemental materials. However, considering that this bargain priced release of THIS ISLAND EARTH can be had for 10 bucks or less online, it comes recommended.
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