A flawed but enjoyable space opera is my next port of call in the Sci-Fi Chronicles book, and is notable also because it was one of the first color science fiction films to be made, and This Island Earth does like to show off its Technicolor look, and boasts some pretty solid effects considering the time it was made.
The story follows Dr. Cal Meacham (Rex Reason), a hot-shot scientist who is working on developing nuclear energy. When his jet is brought down safely thanks to alien intervention, Cal’s interest in life on other planets is piqued, but not enough to do anything about it. In fact, he seems to take it all in stride.
Things become more interesting for him though when he receives a mass of unrecognizable parts, with an instruction booklet filled with an unfamiliar language. Happily Cal can decipher a diagram, and puts the device together. It proves itself to be a test, and upon completion, the device, called an interociter activates, and allows Cal to interact with someone calling himself Exeter (Jeff Morrow). There’s a nice makeup job on Morrow, subtle touches and prosthetics to enlarge his head every so slightly.
Exeter informs Cal of the test he’s completed and offers an invitation to join him and other scientists, to work towards positive goals, and pursue pure science. He signs up, and soon finds himself in Georgia, alongside a doctor, Ruth Adams (Faith Domergue) whom he insists he knows, and Gilligan’s very own professor, Russell Johnson as Steve Carlson.
They begin to suspect there is more going on at the Georgian estate than they’ve been led to believe, and the trio decide to make a break for it. We learn very quickly that Exeter and his people aren’t afraid to kill to keep their secrets, and Ruth and Cal very shortly find themselves unwilling passengers on a flying saucer. Exeter’s an alien!! Gasp!!
They are on their way to the planet Metaluna, where, Exeter tells them, his people are in need of help. They have been in conflict with the Zagons who are launching meteor after meteor at Metaluna, each one pummeling the surface and causing devastation and destruction.
The Metalunans are hoping that Meacham and Adams can come up with a way to help them, or could perhaps find a way to share the Earth with them, with the Metalunans ruling over the humans.
Learning the extent of the plans, Exeter would rather his people die than have humanity suffer under the subjugation, so avoiding the monstrous Mutant, who is little more than a drone to carry out work for the Metalunans, our heroes escape the dying planet, and return to their own home, secure in the knowledge that are little island is not alone in the oceans of space.
This is a B-movie of the first order, with the cast playing their roles as straight as can be, and with as much gravitas as they can manage, and damn if it isn’t a lot of fun!