Monday, July 13, 2009

1978 This Island Earth article

(Click on images to view larger.)

The article this time comes from the June 1978 issue of Science Fantasy Film Classics, the cover to which you can view here. I have just posted several articles from it over on one of my other blogs, "My Star Trek Scrapbook."

Admittedly a somewhat minor classic, "Island" still rightfully deserves classic status, and occupies a place close to the heart of many kids that grew up in the 50's, and those that knew of it from "Famous Monsters" and such magazines, like me. Chock full of aliens, space ships (the saucer resembles the main hull of the later U.S.S. Enterprise, no coincidence I'm sure), bug-eyed, exposed-brain mutants, battles in space and more, it is quintessential 50's sci-fi.

One thing that always struck me as odd about the "Mu-tant" costume was... "why pants?" I mean, really... would a bipedal insectoid/crusteacean creature need trousers? Why not just design more of the crab-like armor over his loins and thighs? But what's worse is, the pants don't just come down and end with a hem at the ankle, it seems to run into his bug suit and to plainly become part of the carapace again! So, is he wearing the pants, or are they part of his own body?

If the Creature From the Black Lagoon had come out of the water wearing swimming trunks it wouldn't have been more ridiculous... unless the trunks also had scales and blended with his body, yet had a belt in it! This seems to have just been laziness or perhaps they ran out of money when building the suit. "Can't afford monster legs? Just stick him in some baggy pants, then! The kids will never notice!"

If I had one major criticism of the movie, it would be the short amount of time devoted to the actual visit to Metaluna. The film is mostly taken up with the mystery of who these high-foreheaded people are and what they are doing, but the trip to their planet, brief adventure and trip back seems rushed and inconsequential. "Well, we're here! Oops, too late, we've lost the war... let's get you back home." Devoting more of the film to their time on the alien planet, and contributing to the solution to (or winning of) the space war would have been more fulfilling... as opposed to getting there just in time to see it destroyed. The entire setting of the Earth-bound think-tank could have been jettisoned in favor of starting the trip to space at that point in the film.

But, all in all, the movie is fun and full of effects, and certainly not bad enough to be chosen to spoof in "Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie." Although I admit I was amused by the passing resemblence and mannerisms of the main alien Exeter (Jeff Morrow) to Robin Williams, and I was half-way expecting him to break out with "Nanu-nanu!" any time.


  1. As a lifelong fan of '50s sci-fi films, This Island Earth is one of my least favorites. The reason I think is because it has (to me) the typically lifeless, soulless feel of Universal assembly-line filmmaking. Oh, there are some good moments here and there, but I never felt that anyone gave a damn making these films at Universal. It was a factory and nothing more.

    Still, it doesn't deserve the MST3K treatment. NO film deserves that. In fact, if I could travel back in time, I'd make it my mission to stop MST3K from happening in the first place. --CMX

  2. I have to disagree with you on this one Frederick. "This Island Earth" does belong in the "classics" column, but not because it was so good. It was just good enough and captured the style of the 50s. But really, a movie where the "hero" does nothing, the goal of the mission fails, and the real hero dies in the end?

    As for Anonymous, MST3K was the most original and intelligent efforts in entertainment that the late 20th century produced.

  3. Thank you for bringing back some artifacts from my past when I was designing these pages and others from Science Fantasy Film Classics and Incredible Aliens & Other Monsters. I tried to make the topic more graphically exciting in an era when the personel graphics computer was still pretty much a dream. It is nice to know that some older dreams remain alive!

  4. artscb,
    Wow, actually hearing from one of the magazine's designers, how unusual! I appreciate both the comment and your work on it, I was devouring items like this at the time and remember them fondly now. Your work was appreciated!!!