Cult favorites get no respect, especially on MST3K. Still, it's comforting to know that 30 years from now our grandchildren will be chortling with superiority while they watch the Mystery Science Theater 6000 treatment of Kill Bill on their beet-powered 3D zygordapods.
This Island Earth combines the clunky dialogue, earnest acting and steadfast plotting that makes so many Fifties movies hard not to satirize, whether the director is Joseph Newman, as in this case, or Douglas Sirk or Samuel Fuller. Is This Island Earth so much sillier or up for satire than, say, Fuller's The Naked Kiss? Probably not, although Criterion disagrees. Please note that elements of the plot are discussed.
One thing for sure, the planet Metaluna looks like it has a bad case of small pox. Dr. Cal Meachum (Rex Reason) and Dr. Ruth Adams (Faith Domergue) are too polite to say this to Exeter (Jeff Morrow) as Exeter's flying saucer escapes asteroid attacks and manages to land on the besieged planet. The Metalunans are fighting off a vicious enemy and desperately need uranium to power their asteroid shields. That failing, they will move to Earth for a bit of ethnic cleansing before settling down to a new start. Exeter had been in charge of recruiting Earth scientists, with Dr. Adams and Dr. Meachum among them, to solve the problem of...well, I've forgotten. Exeter, however, is a good Metalunan and doesn't want to see these earthlings have their brains rearranged in a special machine. In the background are the hulking, dangerous moo-tants, as Exeter pronounces their name. They appear to be the result of Metalunan scientists' successful efforts to breed army ants with cows. Will Exeter save his new friends from the head Metalunan and the moo-tants? Will Earth be saved? Will Dr. Meachum and Dr. Adams return home in each other's arms? And what about Exeter? Will the third tube save him?
It all started when the talented, dashing Dr. Meachum received, instead of the condensers he ordered, two of the AB-619 model. He'd never heard of such things. They were followed by a mysterious metal catalogue and a set of plans to build an interociter. His interest piqued, he places an order. Before long Dr. Meachum has sorted through 2,486 parts scattered haphazardly across his lab floor and has built the thing. By inserting the accompanying intensifier disc, a forerunner of the Blu-ray DVD, into the slot in the upper right side of the interociter, he makes video contact with Exeter, who entices him to join a challenging scientific effort. It was at the luxurious hidden laboratory complex somewhere in Georgia that he is reacquainted with Dr. Adams. And then, suspicious of the setup, they try to escape, only to find themselves on their way to Metaluna in that flying saucer. (Cal and Ruth seem to be among those many holders of PhDs who prefer to use their titles, most likely to reassure each other that they did indeed pass their orals.)
This Island Earth is great fun and not much more. Because it is so earnest, it's one of those pulp science fiction movies all too easy to make fun of. I'll plead guilty, too, but any sarcasm was inadvertent. This is a movie to enjoy with a gentle smile. But what about Exeter and that third tube? See the movie, but here's a hint...
"Yes," says Exeter to Cal and Ruth as they flee in the spaceship back toward Earth, "they're concentrating all their attention on Metaluna. Those flashes of light... they're meteors... hundreds of them! Intense heat is turning Metaluna into a radioactive sun. Temperature must be... thousands of degrees by now. A lifeless planet. And yet... yet still serving a useful purpose, I hope. Yes, a sun. Warming the surface of some other world. Giving light to those who may need it. Now, into the converter tubes! Ruth, you take the first tube. Cal, you the next."
"What about you?" asks Cal.
Exeter pauses, then says, "I'll use the third tube."
The Technicolor DVD transfer looks great. There are no extras. And while there are chapter stops, there's no index of them on the menu.