This Island Earth

For the novel by Raymond F. Jones, see This Island Earth (novel).
This Island Earth

Theatrical release poster
by Reynold Brown
Directed by
Produced by William Alland
Written by
  • Franklin Coen
  • Edward G. O'Callaghan
Based on This Island Earth
1952 novel
by Raymond F. Jones
Music by
Cinematography Clifford Stine
Edited by Virgil Vogel
Universal International
Distributed by Universal International
Release dates
  • June 1, 1955 (1955-06-01) (United States)
  • June 10, 1955 (1955-06-10) (New York City)
Running time
87 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $800,000 (est)[1]
Box office $1.7 million[2]

This Island Earth is a 1955 American science fiction film directed by Joseph M. Newman and Jack Arnold. It is based on the novel of the same name by Raymond F. Jones which was originally published in the magazine Thrilling Wonder Stories as three related novelettes: "The Alien Machine" in the June 1949 issue, "The Shroud of Secrecy" in December 1949, and "The Greater Conflict" in February 1950. The film stars Jeff Morrow, Faith Domergue, and Rex Reason. The film was theatrically released in 1955 with Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy on a double-bill.

In 1996, it was edited down and lampooned in the film Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie. However, upon initial release, the film was praised by critics, who cited the special effects, well-written script, and eye-popping color (prints by Technicolor) as being its major assets.[3][4]


Dr. Cal Meacham (Rex Reason), a noted scientist and jet pilot, is sent an unusual substitute for electronic condensers that he ordered (after nearly crashing a Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star during a cross-country flight, prior to being saved by a mysterious green glow). Instead, he receives instructions and parts to build a complex communication device called an interocitor. Although neither Meacham nor his assistant Joe Wilson (Robert Nichols) have heard of such a device, they immediately begin construction. When they finish, a mysterious man named Exeter (Jeff Morrow) appears on the device's screen and tells Meacham he has passed the test. His ability to build the interocitor demonstrates that he is gifted enough to be part of Exeter's special research project.

Intrigued, Meacham is picked up at the airport by an unmanned, computer-controlled Douglas DC-3 aircraft with no windows. Landing in a remote area of Georgia, he finds an international group of top-flight scientists already present, including an old flame, Dr. Ruth Adams (Faith Domergue). Cal is confused by Ruth's failure to recognize him and suspicious of Brack (Lance Fuller) and other odd-looking men leading the project.

Cal and Ruth flee with a third scientist, Steve Carlson (Russell Johnson), but their car is attacked and Carlson is killed. When they take off in a Stinson 108 light aircraft, Cal and Ruth watch as the facility and all its inhabitants are incinerated. Then their aircraft is drawn up by a bright beam into a flying saucer. They learn that Exeter and his men are from the planet Metaluna, having come to Earth seeking uranium deposits as well as scientists to help defend their planet in a war against the Zagons. Exeter takes the Earthlings back to his world, sealing them in protective tubes to offset pressure differences between planets.

They land safely, but the Metalunans are under attack by Zagon starships guiding meteors as weapons against them. The planet is under bombardment and falling quickly to the enemy. Metaluna's leader, the Monitor (Douglas Spencer), reveals that the Metalunans intend to relocate to Earth, then insists that Meacham and Adams be subjected to a Thought Transference Chamber in order to subjugate their free will. Exeter believes this is immoral and misguided. Before the couple can be sent into the brain-reprogramming device, Exeter decides to help them escape.

Exeter is badly injured by a Mutant while he, Cal and Ruth flee from Metaluna in the saucer, with the planet's protective "ionization layer" becoming totally ineffective. Under the Zagon bombardment, Metaluna heats up and turns into a lifeless "radioactive sun." The Mutant has also boarded the saucer and attacks Ruth, but dies as a result of pressure differences on the journey back to Earth.

As they enter Earth's atmosphere, Exeter sends Cal and Ruth on their way in their aircraft, declining an invitation to join them. Exeter is dying and the ship's energy is nearly depleted. The saucer flies out over the ocean and rapidly accelerates until it is enclosed in a fireball, crashes into the water and explodes.


  • Karl L. Lindt as Dr. Adolph Engelborg
  • Robert Williams* as Webb
  • Coleman Francis* as Express delivery man
  • Charlotte Lander* as Metaluna woman at decompression chamber
  • Marc Hamilton* as Metaluna inhabitant
  • Regis Parton* as the Mutant
  • Orangey* as Neutron, the cat

* Not credited on-screen.


Principal photography for This Island Earth took place from January 30 to March 22, 1954. Location work took place at Mt. Wilson, California.[5] Most of the Metaluna sequence was directed by Jack Arnold; the front office was apparently dissatisfied with the footage Newman shot and had it redone by Arnold, who unlike Newman had several sci-fi films already under his belt.

Most of the sound effects, the ship, the interociter, etc. are simply recordings of radio teletype transmissions picked up on a short wave radio played at various speeds. In a magazine article the special effects department admitted that the "mutant" costume originally had legs that matched the upper body but they had so much trouble making the legs look and work properly they were forced by studio deadline to simply have the mutant wear a pair of trousers. Posters of the movie show the mutant as it was supposed to appear.[6]


Box office

This Island Earth was released in June 1955,[7] and by the end of that year, had accrued US$1,700,000 in distributors' domestic (U.S. and Canada) rentals, making it the year's 74th biggest earner.[8] [N 1]

Critical response

The New York Times review opined, "The technical effects of This Island Earth, Universal's first science-fiction excursion in color, are so superlatively bizarre and beautiful that some serious shortcomings can be excused, if not overlooked."[3] "Whit" in Variety wrote "Special effects of the most realistic type rival the story and characterizations in capturing the interest in this exciting science-fiction chiller, one of the most imaginative, fantastic and cleverly-conceived entries to date in the outer-space film field. "[4]

Since its original release, the critical response to the film has continued to be mostly positive. Bill Warren has written that the film was "the best and most significant science fiction movie of 1955…[it] remains a decent, competent example of any era's science fiction output.."[7] In Phil Hardy's The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction, the film was described as "a full-blooded space opera complete with interplanetary warfare and bug-eyed monsters ... the film's space operatics are given a dreamlike quality and a moral dimension that makes the dramatic situation far more interesting."[9] Danny Peary felt the film was "colorful, imaginative, gadget-laden sci-fi."[10] On the review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a score of 71%, based upon 14 reviews.[11] Greater Milwaukee Today described it as "An appalling film ..."[12]

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie

This Island Earth is the film-within-the-film in Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie (or MST3K: The Movie). As in the television series, the fictional crew of the spaceship Satellite of Love are forced to watch the film as part of an "experiment"; while watching the film, the crew can be seen in silhouette at the bottom of the screen, mocking the action. The film also includes "host segments" (skits with the crew and Mad Scientists), including two scenes with the characters using an Interocitor.

In order to maintain a 73-minute running time and to accommodate several "host segments", This Island Earth was edited down by about 20 minutes, removing numerous scenes, some important (like a sequence of the Zagon fleet attacking Metaluna). Consequently, this makes MST3K: The Movie shorter than the original This Island Earth, or even the average, 90-minute "MST3K" episode.

See also



  1. "Rentals" refers to the distributor/studio's share of the box office gross, which, according to Gebert, is roughly half of the money generated by ticket sales.


  1. Internet Movie Database Box office/Business for
  2. "The Top Box-Office Hits of 1955". Variety Weekly, January 25, 1956.
  3. 1 2 Thompson, Howard H. "This Island Earth (1955) 'This Island Earth' Explored From Space." The New York Times, June 11, 1955.
  4. 1 2 Willis 1985, p. 107.
  5. "Original print Information: This Island Earth (1955)." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: October 30, 2014.
  6. Internet Movie Database Trivia
  7. 1 2 Warren 1982, pp. 228–234; 444.
  8. Geber 1996.
  9. Hardy 1995.
  10. Peary 1986, p. 433.
  11. "This Island Earth (1955)." Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved: October 30, 2014.
  12. Snyder, Steven. "This Island Earth Reviews." Greater Milwaukee Today, December 12, 2002. Retrieved: October 30, 2014.
  13. Nylons - This Island Earth. 2 January 2012 via YouTube.
  14. Millikin, Eric. "Eric Millikin's totally sweet Halloween candy monster portraits." Detroit Free Press, December 9, 2013. Retrieved: October 30, 2014.


  • Gebert, Michael. The Encyclopedia of Movie Awards. New York: St. Martin's Paperbacks, 1996. ISBN 0-668-05308-9.
  • Hardy, Phil (editor). The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction. London: Aurum Press, 1984. Reprinted as The Overlook Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction, Overlook Press, 1995, ISBN 0-87951-626-7.
  • Peary, Danny. Guide for the Film Fanatic. New York: Fireside Books, 1986. ISBN 0-671-61081-3.
  • Warren, Bill. Keep Watching The Skies, Vol. I: 1950–1957. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 1982. ISBN 0-89950-032-3.
  • Willis, Don. Variety's Complete Science Fiction Reviews. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1985. ISBN 0-8240-6263-9.
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