This Island Earth – Blu-ray Review
Film Title: This Island Earth
Release Date: 1955
Rating: NOT RATED
Runtime: 86 minutes
Region Coding: Region A
Distributor: Scream Factory (Shout! Factory)
Audio Formats: DTS- HD MA 2.0 Mono / 3.0 Perspecta Stereophonic
Aspect Ratio(s): 1.85:1 or 1.33:1
Formats Available: Blu-ray
Version Reviewed: Blu-ray Disc
Blu-ray Release Date: 07/09/19
Director: Joseph M. Newman
Cast: Jeff Morrow, Faith Domergue, Rex Reason, Lance Fuller, Russell Johnson, Douglas Spencer, Robert Nichols
Jump to Sections: Movie | Video | Audio | Bonus | Closing | Screenshots
Full Blu-ray Tech Specs can be found at the very bottom.
“This Island Earth” was a 1955 Universal-International Sci-Fi (Science Fiction) film directed by Joesph M. Newman, also credited sometimes as Joesph Newman. Newman was best known for also directing the films “711 Ocean Drive” (1950), “Red Skies of Montana” (1952), “Fort Massacre” (1958), and “The Gunfight at Dodge City” (1959). He also directed ten episodes of the show “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour” (1963-1965) and directed four episodes of the show “The Twilight Zone” (1963-1964). The screenplay to the film, based on the story “The Alien Machine” by Raymond F. Jones, was co-written by Franklin Coen and George Callahan (credited as Edward G. O’Callaghan).
The story focuses on an atomic scientist/pilot by the name of “Dr. Cal Meacham” (Rex Reason). As we first are introduced to Dr. Meacham he’s just about to take off in a jet and being interviewed by a group of reporters, asking about his scientific work. Later in his flight Cal has something very strange occur that his friend and co-worker “Joe Wilson” (Robert Nichols) witnesses. His jet turns this weird bright green color and stayed that color until he landed on the runway, yet the two decide to keep this strange event to themselves and just go back to their work.
Later we see Cal and Joe at work in a lab when they get a mysterious delivery from someone they don’t even know. Without any hesitation of questioning where or what they have, they proceed to read the instructions and put together a device that is called an “interocitor.” This communication device they’ve built allows them to contact a strange looking man by the name of “Exeter” (Jeff Morrow) who requests that they help him even further, as he’s impressed by what they have done. Needless to say, Joe is against the idea but Cal is all for it. Joe takes Cal to an airport where they meet an airplane that lands with only one passenger seat and two empty pilot seats. The plane then begins to take off and he lands at a strange location: Georgia.
Once Cal arrives in Georgia he is greeted on the runway by a “Dr. Ruth Adams” (Faith Domergue), a woman he can swear he once knew very well. Ruth acts very strangely when Cal brings up having previously met, even giving us a hint they were romantically involved but she just goes on about things, taking him back to Exeter’s home. It’s at the home of Exeter where he meets some other scientists from other nation’s, including another American scientist by the name of “Dr. Steve Carlson” (Russell Johnson). The scientists are pretty aware that they are working for perhaps aliens, and it becomes a little bit obvious near the end of the film. Let’s just say we get to see a pretty interesting colorized version of another planet with some pretty impressive matte painting backdrops and special effects for the time.
This film [“This Island Earth”] was even ‘riffed on‘ in “Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie” (1996) as a campy 50s sci-fi. It is admittedly (to me) a somewhat cheesy movie by today’s standards, for sure, but for back in 1955 it was enough to pull in a crowd for a color Sci-Fi and this was actually one of the more memorable of those for that time. It also did have a bit of work put into it and went on to be followed a year later by another Sci-Fi film that also defined the era: “Forbidden Planet” (1956). This film is something that most people will know for the monster that we only see for a very short bit near the end of the film or for being made fun of in the “MST3K” movie, however, it was a pretty decent science fiction film for its era. Admittedly though, this film really lacks a lot in terms of story and overall plot.
Movie Rating: 2.75 (out of 5)
“This Island Earth” on its Blu-ray Disc debut is presented in your choice of either the widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio or the 4×3 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Do note, that if you choose the 1.33:1 aspect you will be limited to only the standard DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono audio track. More on that a bit below, but first let’s focus on the visual side of things here. First off, this has received a new 4K scan of the original film elements.
This movie was shot on 35mm film using the Technicolor form of color. The film was actually (despite being in 1.33:1 here) originally shown its original 1.37:1 aspect ratio during its theatrical run. Also, according to IMDb, it was actually originally intended for a 2.00:1 wider aspect and there’s where we get the widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio version of the film. In regards to the aspect ratio: you can choose the alternative (1.33:1) aspect ratio from the bonus section of the menu.
There’s a good amount of film grain left here in the widescreen (1.85:1) presentation especially. There also seem to be a tiny bit of visual imperfections left in like scratches or specks of dirt or such. This all really looks great to me and doesn’t seem too overly polished or cleaned up, appropriate for a 1955 film. There’s actually an impressive amount of detail to be found here almost throughout the film, especially in some close-ups. It’s pretty obvious that this widescreen presentation uses the original film print and crops a slight amount of the top and bottom out of the frame if you look at the shots in comparison.
Aspect Ratio Comparisons:
Now, let’s take one further stage of comparison here and look back on the original 2013 Blu-ray Disc release of “Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie“ which featured (portions of) the 1.85:1 aspect ratio presentation of the film. As you’ll notice here in these comparisons, the film has been cleaned up a substantial amount and the color has been corrected resulting in a solid black level. It’s often been said by folks that they [MST3K] made the film almost visually look bad on purpose for that film, even cutting a majority of the scenes, but you’ll see for yourself. You decide. I just can tell you that it looks very impressive now to look at the two in comparison.
“MST3K: The Movie” Blu-ray Screenshot Comparisons:
Sure, the widescreen aspect ratio itself crops a lot of the original material, but the key fact that we (the consumer) get the option to choose which aspect ratio is why that’s not even at all an issue. Because if we want to, we can see the 1.33:1 aspect ratio with its extra bits. That said, I do honestly prefer that [1.33:1] aspect ratio of the film but I gave it entire viewings in both for review purposes.
Overall, the color looks really good for a 1955 film, with pretty close to accurate flesh tones, and this has a solid black level on both aspect ratios. It’s an above solid just full-on impressive in terms of video quality with the new 4K scan taken into consideration. This is by far the best This Island Earth has ever looked on home video. I’ll go as far as to give this a 4.5 (out of 5) for video quality, and it earns every bit of it. It’s really very cool for an older film to get this type of treatment.
Video Quality Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
Audio here is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (for both aspect ratio versions of the film) as well as DTS-HD Master Audio 3.0 Perspecta Stereophonic Restored sound. The 1.85:1 (widescreen) aspect ratio version of the film has both DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono and DTS-HD Master Audio 3.0 original Perspecta Stereophonic sound.
That 3.0 Pespecta Stereophonic sound mix was restored by 3-D Film Archive. This 3.0 mix uses the center channel speaker along with the two front left and right speakers. It creates a front wall of sound of sorts. That mix is somewhat unique as it uses the front speakers to deliver dialogue from say the left if a person in the scene is on that side of the room. It’s pretty cool and you should really read more into that sound format in the bonus featurette that discusses it. I’ve really described the majority of what you can expect from it though here, as that was pretty much its difference from that of a basic stereo presentation.
It is a bit of a bummer of sorts that you can’t watch the film in the near original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (actually 1.37:1) with that original 3.0 lossless audio mix. That takes away from the whole retro experience for me in ways to not be able to have the two paired together. That said, now I’ll focus on the original Mono lossless mix, as it’s present on both versions (aspect ratios) of the film.
The music here, some even composed by Henry Mancini, comes across pretty nicely all throughout and proves to be memorable. Dialogue, in the mono mix, comes across distinctly and sound effects prove to be pretty solid. The whole mix just really sounds good here for the Mono and then the 3.0 Stereo mix is impressive in its own right. That all being said, this proves to do the film certain justice in terms of sound.
Audio Quality Rating: 4.25 (out of 5)
Bonus materials on this release are presented in HD (high definition) video with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound – unless otherwise noted below. They include the following:
- NEW Audio Commentary with Author and Visual Effects Artist Robert Skotak
- NEW Audio Commentary with Film Historian David Schecter
- NEW Alien Ideas: Luigi Cozzi on This Island Earth (21:11 – HD) is an interview that has the Italian director of Starcrash (1978) discussing this film, how it was an impressive Sci-Fi for a 1955 film, makes a strange but cool comparison to Dracula, and ultimately about how it inspired him – especially with his film. He then also goes on to discuss other science fiction (Sci-Fi) films as a genre that came out after This Island Earth. This interview is very much worth watching. Cozzi with his take on this film and the Sc-Fi genre proves to be very interesting. I really suggest giving this a watch after the film.
- NEW Two and Half Years in the Making: The Extended Documentary – The Making of This Island Earth (47:55 – HD) was originally included (in a shorter form) as a bonus material on the Blu-ray release of the “Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie” (1996), which ‘riffed’ on this film [This Island Earth]. This time around though the documentary itself has been extended and it is also presented in High Def (HD) video quality. The documentary itself mostly includes your typical sit down type video interviews but it also has some audio interviews or even dramatic recreation interviews from the following people: Tom Weaver (author/film historian), C. Courtney Joyner (screenwriter/film historian), Robert Skotak (visual effects artist/film historian), Joe Dante (director/film historian), David Schecter (film music historian), Ted Newsom (documentarian/film historian), Jeff Morrow (actor/Exeter), Rex Reason (actor/Dr. Cal Meacham), Bob Burns (archivist/film historian), Faith Domergue (actress/Dr. Ruth Adams), and Kenneth Arnold (aviator/businessman). This new 2019 version of the documentary was produced, directed, and edited by Daniel Griffith of Ballyhoo Motion Pictures.
- Trailers from Hell – This Island Earth Audio Commentary by Filmmaker Joe Dante (2:45 – HD) is great to have included. This has the director and film historian Joe Dante discussing this film which he enjoyed during his childhood. This is a must-see for any fan of the film.
- “War of the Planets 8mm and 16mm Films” (11:05 – HD) were these condensed versions of films that were released to consumers (aimed mostly at kids) back in 1958. The sale point here was that you could have your very own projector and short films in either 8mm (without sound) or 16mm formats. That’s why you have two different versions here. These are both presented back-to-back with title cards before and the film prints are provided by 3-D Film Archive. One major thing you’ll notice here is that these were only in Black & White and not color like the Theatrical version of the film. Plus, the 8mm version lacks any sound whereas the 16mm version has sound.
- NEW Facts About Perspecta Stereophonic Sound by Bob Furmanek (9:39 – HD) consists of lots of text-based information you can read about this unique sound format. This is really cool to learn about and to see that Scream Factory went as far to not only include the mix but to also include all of this marvelous info.
- Theatrical Trailer (2:20 – HD) is presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio.
- Behind-the-Scenes Gallery (2:31 – HD) plays like a slideshow.
- Poster and Lobby Card Gallery (6:53 – HD) plays like a slideshow.
- Publicity Stills Gallery (4:24 – HD) plays like a slideshow.
Overall the bonus materials here are very solid and do the film justice. You get roughly an hour and a half of extras, as well as the two new audio commentary tracks that prove to both be very informing. This is a set of supplemental material that is going to leave the fans happy with what all they get.
Bonus Materials Rating: 4 (out of 5)
“This Island Earth” was a very unique film, at times slightly impressive for its time in the genre of Sci-Fi but is admittedly campy by today’s standards of films. Still, it proves to be a film that defines the 1950s age of Sci-Fi cinema.
Here on this new Blu-ray from Scream Factory, the movie comes to us in both 1.33:1 (4×3) and 1.85:1 (widescreen) aspect ratios that have both received a new 4K scan. The result is visually impressive for a 1955 film of this budget. In terms of sound, you get a very solid lossless Mono mix and the original 3.0 “Perspecta Stereophonic” mix, in a lossless format as well. This has two impressive lossless audio mixes to choose from but you’ll be limited to only the Mono if you want to see the 1.33:1 aspect ratio. That’s my one and only real complaint there.
Finally, this comes with a solid set of bonus materials totaling up to well over an hour with lots of new content, including two new audio commentary tracks.
In terms of Blu-ray release, this gets:
4.5 (out of 5) for video quality
4.25 (out of 5) for audio quality
4 (out of 5) for bonus materials