Universal International’s 1955 science-fiction flick This Island Earth is one of the most notable entries in the genre. That is because up until that point, no movie within the genre had to that point, taken viewers into the cosmos. Every movie within the genre had instead seen beings from other worlds come to Earth. That and the movie’s overall story makes the movie interesting in its own right. Now thanks to Shout! Factory, viewers will get to enjoy that collective content for themselves in a new Blu-ray re-issue of the timeless sci-fi classic. That noted element will be discussed shortly. The bonus content featured in the movie’s recent re-issue strengthens its presentation even more and will be addressed a little later. Considering the breadth and depth of the movie’s bonus content and the engagement and entertainment offered through the movie’s main story, its average price point proves to be money well-spent. It will be discussed later, too. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of this movie’s re-issue. All things considered, This Island Earth proves to be one more of this year’s top new DVD/BD re-issues.
Shout! Factory’s recent re-issue of Universal International’s This Island Earth is one more of this year’s top new BD/DVD re-issues. That is due in part to the movie’s central story. As already noted, the movie was — in its debut — the only sci-fi flick of its kind. It was the only one that took its characters into outer space instead of bringing the aliens solely to Earth. It would not be until a year later when Forbidden Planet made its debut that another science fiction flick would take viewers into the cosmos. This is just one important aspect of the story. The fact that it stays largely true to its literary source material (which is noted in the movie’s bonus content) adds even more enjoyment to the story. Given, there are variances, but the fact that its so commonplace today for moviemakers and script writers to change so much from the printed page to the big screen makes that loyalty even more deserving of respect. That is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg that is the importance of the movie’s story. Whether it was intentional or not, the story presents itself as an anti-war allegory. That allegory is presented as Dr. Meacham and Dr. Adams are swept away to a war-ravaged planet that is on the verge of being destroyed because of the war. The interstellar voyage happens after the duo is made to help Exeter and a group of other scientists develop a death ray of sorts. The group has no clue that they are making the ray for the purpose of the Metalunans’ war on their home planet. There is also the whole discussion on nuclear power and its dangers, especially with warfare. Again, these discussions may not have been intentional statements about the dangers of warfare, but they are most definitely there. The thing is that even if the message is intentional, it doesn’t come across in the preachy fashion of so many other message movies of its time and even those that have come along since. To that end, it makes the story all the more enjoyable. For all of the enjoyment that the movie’s story brings viewers, the story is not the movie’s only source of entertainment. The bonus content featured with the movie’s recent re-issue provides its own engagement and entertainment for audiences.
The bonus content that accompanies This Island Earth’s recent re-issue adds its own engagement and entertainment because of the background that it develops for the movie. Author/ visual effects specialist Robert Skotak’s feature-length audio commentary is the most notable of the movie’s bonuses. Skotak delves into a variety of topics throughout the course of the movie’s 86-minute run time, such as the story’s noted loyalty to its source material, the principal photography and the use of the infamous Metalunan mutant. Skotak notes in his discussion that while much of the movie does stay loyal to the original book from it was adapted, it does reach a point late in its nearly 90-minute run where some variances start to appear, though the majority of the movie stays largely true to the original literary work. The note of the principal photography is interesting in its own right because of what Skotak reveals here. He notes that the scenes that were supposed to be shot in Washington, D.C. were in fact filmed in California. He notes that much work had to be done in order to hide the hills in the distance in said scenes so as to maintain suspension of disbelief. That makes for a certain level of appreciation for that work. In terms of the mutant, Skotak reveals that while it has become a fan favorite in the decades since the movie’s debut, it almost did not make the final cut. The reasoning for it remaining in the movie will put a smile on any viewer’s face, considering the statements made by so many in the bonus content about how old they were when the movie debuted. That is the most of the clue that will be given to that item. Everything noted here is just a preview of everything that Skotak discusses throughout the movie in his commentary. He also addresses Russell johnson’s performance (Johnson is best known as the Professor from Gilligan’s Island), the matter of the “thermal barrier” and even the use of the “starfield” as a backdrop in the movie’s opening credits. Between those discussions, the talks more directly addressed here and more, Skotak’s commentary adds quite a bit of insight and enjoyment to the movie.
Skotak’s commentary is just one of the movie’s notable extras. The bonus “making of” featurette adds its own share of insight and entertainment to the movie. This featurette includes actual audio of the movie’s cast talking about the work that went into its creation. Audiences get to hear Faith Domergue (Dr. Adams) talk about how cold the water was in the pond where she and costar Rex Reason shot the car chase scene. Viewers also hear from Reason about the movie’s production. As if this is not enough, viewers also learn an interesting tidbit about the “car” in which Reason and Domergue rode in the Metaluna set. It is revealed here that the car in question was used in the much more lighthearted movie Abbott & Costello Go To Mars. Considering the heavy nature of This Island Earth and the much lighter feel of Abbott & Costello Go To Mars, that contrast makes for a good laugh for any viewer. All of this is just a small sampling of what the “making of” featurette reveals to viewers. There are more revelations about Domergue’s place in Hollywood when she signed on to star in This Island Earth, the marketing for the movie and even the Metalunan Brack.
The revelations made in the “making of” featuette are still not the end of the interest generated by the movie’s bonus content. Film historian David Schecter’s audio commentary, which is not feature length, focuses primarily on the movie’s soundtrack. It is clear throughout his discussions that he is reading direct from a script, as none of his discussions line up with the movie. Keeping this in mind, it would have made much more sense to have just given Schecter his own featurette instead of his own audio commentary. That aside, the things that he reveals in his discussions make for their own interest. Viewers learn through his commentary, that as with so many of Universal’s classic science fiction flicks, Henry Mancini played a role in this movie’s soundtrack, but never got a credit for his work. The same applied for the soundtrack’s lead composer Herman Stein. According to Schecter, Stein never received the credit that he deserved, either. On another note (no pun intended), Schecter reveals that the movie featured 31 minutes of original soundtrack music, which is far less than the movie’s 86-minute run time. That means there was a lot of recycled music. Despite that, the discussions on the original compositions makes for more appreciation for that original music. Between all of these noted discussions, those on the making of This Island Earth and the back story of the movie, the bonus content in whole makes this latest re-issue of This Island Earth that much more enjoyable for classic movie buffs and sci-fi fans across the board. When it is considered along with the movie’s deep story, the whole of that primary and secondary content makes the movie’s average price point a cost that every one of those noted viewers will be okay with paying.
The average price point of Shout! Factory’s re-issue of This Island Earth is $23.69. That price is obtained by averaging prices listed at Shout! Factory’s store, that of Amazon, Barnes & Noble Booksellers and Walmart. It was not listed at Target, Best Buy and Books-A-Million at the time of this review’s posting. Walmart’s listing of $21.96 is the least expensive of the movie’s listings, while Shout! Factory’s is barely more expensive, by only cents at $21.99. Barnes & Noble Booksellers’ price listing of $26.99 and Amazon’s listing of $23.80 both exceed the noted average price. Considering that the difference in price between Walmart and Shout! Factory is only pocket change, viewers will not lose out much regardless of which retailer they choose. What’s more, the amount of content – both in the primary and secondary content – and the type of content that viewers get in this re-issue, that price of roughly $22-$23 with s&h, is a price worth paying. That is something to which most viewers will agree. Keeping all of this in mind, the collective average price point of This Island Earth, the movie’s primary content and its secondary content make this re-issue a welcome addition to the library of any classic movie buff and science fiction fan and one of the year’s top new DVD/BD re-issues. More information on this and other titles available from Shout! Factory is available online now at:
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