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Watching Again: This Island Earth (1955)

“At last,” I said when I found a video of the science fiction classic This Island Earth on an obscure commercial site. Reviewers on Amazon wrote that the available DVD was a bad transfer from VHS, so I didn’t want to buy it. Watching for free seemed like a good idea. My jaw dropped with disappointment, however, when I saw the poor quality of the online video. Nevertheless, when I recollected that I wanted to see this film again because I couldn’t see even a bad version of it when I was a child, I settled back and watched the entire video.

“At last,” I said when I found a video of the science fiction classic This Island Earth on an obscure commercial site.  Reviewers on Amazon wrote that the available DVD was a bad transfer from VHS, so I didn’t want to buy it.  Watching for free seemed like a good idea.  My jaw dropped with disappointment, however, when I saw the poor quality of the online video.  Nevertheless, when I recollected that I wanted to see this film again because I couldn’t see even a bad version of it when I was a child, I settled back and watched the entire video.       

I first saw an advertisement for This Island Earth in the early sixties in the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland.  The advertisement promoted the sale of 16mm and 8mm versions of this film and other sci fi/horror films of the fifties.  Old movies were hard to find and view before the advent of home video equipment.  In the fifties and sixties, fans could at best buy a copy of a film in 8mm or 16mm format for home viewing.  The ads I saw for home-viewing versions of This Island Earth always featured a photo of a prostrate Faith Domergue carried in the arms of the Metaluna mutant.

I was in elementary school when I collected copies of Famous Monsters.  My parents thought I was too immature for films like This Island Earth, and anyway we didn’t own film projector.  By the time I was in my teens, most theater owners regarded This Island Earth as too old and silly to screen.  I didn’t see the movie until I rented a VHS version in the eighties.  

Cover of This Island Earth

Watching the film in my living room in the eighties fulfilled a childhood wish.  Unfortunately, the film made my adult mind cringe.  The special effects exploit the capabilities of Technicolor film, but look amateurish post-Star Wars.  Sets that proclaimed the genius of the art directors Alex Golitzen and Richard H. Riedel, who won Academy Awards for their work on other films, lack detail.  The plot falls apart in the second act.

The clumsiness of this dated film cast a shadow over the excellencies reviewers saw in the fifties.  Nevertheless, the film didn’t deserve the disrespect given to it in Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie.  In fact, the film looks better now than it did fifteen years ago.  The love affair between Hollywood directors and computer-generated special effects makes us look back with yearning to the days of handmade films that hinted at action off screen and suggested settings with beautiful matte paintings.

The video I watched online was a blurry mess, and at times the words the characters spoke didn’t match the movements of their mouths, reminding me of the spoof movie in Singing in the Rain.  I suspected someone may have transferred this version from 8 mm or 16 mm film.  Thus, I felt I was finally having the film experience I missed as a child, and that experience prompted me to reassess the film and write a review, which I plan to publish in a few days.

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3 Comments
  1. Posted November 4, 2012 at 7:30 am

    Nothing can beat to watching an oldie in good condition. Good share!

  2. Posted November 5, 2012 at 6:53 am

    very nice article

    http://www.triond.com/users/elee :)

  3. Posted November 23, 2012 at 2:25 am

    Thanks for sharing this

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