Monday, March 16, 2015

This Island Earth

This Island Earth: It's got everything you come to schlocky 50's sci-fi movies for!
It may look goofy now but, in its time, This Island Earth was some high-end shit. It got good reviews, especially for the visuals and the script. The cast is headed up by Howard Hughes piece Faith Domergue (He picked her up when she was 15; at 17, she rammed Hughes' car while he was out with Ava Gardner.)
The rest of the cast is your standard bunch of B-movie yahoos. Our hero is the hilariously (but actually) named Rex Reason, who looks kind of like Paul Newman's ugly, slow younger brother. We've got some aliens with big foreheads and an assortment of scientist types. And, of course, the large-brained-yet-stupid alien in MC Hammer pants.
Ah, Universal International Pictures, the mark of quality. Of course, anything that is universal is also international, one would assume... So, anyway, Ugly Newman is supposedly a scientist-pilot-genius and babbles about science but i am distracted by his oddly small hands. He flies his plane, he loses control, it turns green and hums.
All the dialogue is like this -- random assemblages of early STEM jargon... Science science compounds science. Atoms science science science electricity. Science? Science. Plutonium. Science science.
Then, the bookcase he ordered from Ikea arrives, but instead the box contains parts for something else and instructions that are even more vague than what he expected to come with the Borgsjo.
Once assembled, it seems to make a really awesome television -- sorry, an interocitor. An interocitor is an alien television that can see you, talk to you and shoot lasers at you if so inclined. The TV is a gift from a spaceman named Exeter, who wants Tinyhands Newman to join his super-scientist super-squad.
And so he gets on a plane with no seatbelts and no pilot -- kind of like Spirit, but with more leg room. He falls asleep on the flight and wakes up to Faith Domergue driving a station wagon and wearing an oil slick of lipstick.
She takes him back to "the club," where he meets the other scientists recruited by the aliens. And Exeter explains why he has been summoned here and what it is the aliens want...
Holy shit, someone tell Tom Cotton he needs to write another letter!

But Jargonbarker Newman is suspicious. Although i don't see why he should be: A group of alien beings tricked him into building a magic television and then flew him in a magic pilot-less plane to a magic science camp where scientists from all over the world are living in an isolated mansion, working on a mysterious project. None of these developments bothered him until now...

Not to mention that Exeter and his buddy Brak (no, really) seem to have ways of convincing scientists to play along, aside from beautifully landscaped grounds and a generous meal plan. And is it just me, or do Exeter and Brak seem to be some kind of varietal of Oompa Loompa? Could it be that they need all of that nuclear power to protect themselves from the Vermicious Knids?
The aliens decide to return to their home planet, but first they have to blow up the mansion and all of the scientists in it... wait, isn't that what happens in The Rocky Horror Picture Show? So they're kind of Oompa Loompas and kind of Transsexual Transylvanians?
The three scientists who managed to dodge the sunlamp lobotomy attempt to escape by car, by foot and by plane, but only  Faith Domergue and Newman make it to getting sucked up by the high-pitched humming of a hubcap...
The aliens have decided to keep the pair, since they seemed pretty close to perpetrating whatever science was supposed to be perpetrated, although i'm still not sure why it is the superior alien race needs humans to solve their engineering problems...
And finally the film picks up and heads off to space! One thing i will say for This Island Earth is, while the scenes of the spaceships and planets are by no means convincing, they do look wonderful. Nice use of color, good drawings, slick aesthetics....
This is the aliens' home planet of Metaluna, which is under attack by the Zagons (which is apparently how you say "Vermicious Knid" in Oompa Loompese) who somehow can remote-control meteors and ceaselessly bombard the surface of the planet with them.
And here comes the monster! Well, actually, a mutant. Now, this isn't a Zagon, but some kind of lower life form that serves the Oompa Loompas. Anyway, planet under attack, Earthling scientists, genius aliens, powerful-but-dumb mutants, meteors exploding everywhere... can't help but end well, really.
Like The Angry Red Planet, This Island Earth earns punk rock points for being name-checked by the Misfits. And then of course there's the comic books, action figures, greeting cards, tattoos and T-shirts. It's also gotten the MST3K treatment -- it actually ranks as one of the less goofy films in the series. Sure, it's cheesy, but it's no The Viking Women and the Sea Serpent or Amazing Colossal Man and certainly no Brain That Wouldn't DieThis Island Earth is not that level of bad. Of course, how much you (or i) consider that good remains up for discussion...

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