This Island Earth



Notes: Universal-International. 86 minutes.
Produced: William Alland
Directed: Joseph M. Newman
Screenplay: Franklin Coen and Edward G. O’Callaghan
Story: Raymond F. Jones

Exeter: Jeff Morrow
Cal Meacham: Rex Reason
Ruth Adams: Faith Domergue
Brack: Lance Fuller
Steve Carlson: Russell Johnson (The Professor from Gilligan’s Island)
The Monitor: Douglas Spencer
Joe Wilson: Robert Nichols
Dr. Adolph Engelborg: Karl L. Lindt

Summary: In Washington, D.C., Dr. Cal Meacham banters with the press about an atomic conference and the notion of combining atomic power with electronic, which would truly make for a “push-button age.” He jets to L.A., but loses control during landing. A green light surrounds the plane and we hear a “high-frequency howl” as the plane lands itself. Friend Joe and another control tower guy saw this.

Cal: “How’s the little giant?” Joe: “Going up.” These two perform destructive experiments in a lab. They test a mysterious bead, on which a diamond drill makes no scratch. A special delivery arrives: an instruction manual written on metal instead of paper. They build a machine and on the triangular screen appears a man named Exeter, claiming to be seeking scientists. A plane will arrive at 5:00 am Wednesday for Cal. Exeter destroys the manual and Cal pulls the plug on the machine.

But he boards the plane which takes him to Georgia, where he meets Dr. Ruth Adams, an old acquaintance who seems not to remember him exactly. She drives him to “The Club” where Exeter heads up a group of skilled scientists. Exeter claims the idea is to end war, even though he wants to turn lead into uranium. Clearly someone higher up is calling the shots, which we learn when the two doctors get shoved out of Exeter’s office and Exeter speaks to someone on his screen about “Plan A.”

The “personnel roster” is complete now, and the scientists enjoy dinner, although Exeter doesn’t seem to know who Mozart is. Cal realizes that all the scientists are involved in nuclear energy. He meets through Ruth a Dr. Steve Carlson and a cat named Neutron: Ruth says, “We call him that because he’s so positive.” Ruth and Steve confide in Cal once they’re sure he isn’t a lobotomized plant by the Exeter, who they decide is suspiciously hasty about developing “new sources of atomic energy.”

The cat squawking signals that Exeter and his assistant Brack are spying on them. Later, Exeter instructs Cal not to hobnob with the others any further, insisting that the project involves “communication,” not destruction. Their powers saved Cal’s life through the green light on the plane — yeah, after endangering him by taking over the controls, notes Cal.

As the Cal-pals piece together more info, Exeter’s leader, called The Monitor, watns that the home planet’s ionization layer is failing and that soon they’ll need transportation. When the Cal-pals try to escape in a car to the airport, they are zapped at out of the sky, until Cal and Ruth exit the car and Steve is killed. An onlooker is also zapped dead. Cal and Ruth run to an airplane and steal it. They see a spaceship rising as the laboratory blows up. The spaceship pulls in their plane.

Exeter still claims to “mean no harm” but Cal considers what has happened “mass murder.” Exeter appeals for sympathy as we leave earth far behind. “We’re going through the thermal barrier. I’m afraid you’ll find the temperature unpleasant.” They approach Exeter’s home planet, Metaluna, blasting meteors. It’s “the beginning of the end for our world.” They need uranium for protection and are being blasted. “Our educational complexes, now rubble.” Under this attack, the remaining Metalunans are planning a relocation to Earth where they will assume dominance.

Cal and Ruth avoid entering the lobotomizing sunlamp room despite a threatening mutant supposedly similar to earth insects of some sort but 6 feet tall and bipedal. Exeter claims he has already defied The Monitor and helps them escape as Metaluna turns into a radioactive sun, useful if it serves as such to other worlds. A mutant enters the spaceship at the last minute and threatens to kill Ruth but drops dead from its wounds in the building pressure.

Nearing Earth, Exeter intends to travel on: “Our universe is vast…. I’ll explore.” But Cal realizes nearly all the power of the craft is gone. Cal and Ruth get back into their plane and are expelled from the spaceship which crashes into the ocean.

Commentary: Cal is the standard American jackass with a smarmy bass voice. Ruth looks like Lois Lane. Exeter (named after an Anglo-Saxon manuscript?) and his kind look like adult oompa-loompas with their Gumby-shaped heads. But the chairs on the spaceship are cool — one leans more than sits. It strikes me as probably very comfortable and psychologically beneficial.

Why this superior race needs humans is a question one suspects will never be answered; but The Monitor explains that Metaluna’s scientists have mostly been killed. I still question their decision to tap Earth when they could just zip over to Ceti Alpha 5 and rope Kahn into their scheme.