So, I have to take a little break from serving up the sweet, sweet Netflix pairings to get some (important) writing done.
While I’m taking a powder, why don’t you check out the archive and go nuts with some new-old-finds?
I’ve also enabled Ask Me Anything, for a bit of a writing diversion. So, ask away.
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. Featuring Rex Reason, Faith Domergue and Jeff Morrow, this William Alland production, at the Victoria, can also boast reasonable acting and plucky, even literate, writing. It sorely needs a pair of shears, a less conventional musical score and a director of considerably more drive and less awe toward his subject than Joseph Newman.
Just where Raymond F. Jones’ novel leaves off and the scenario (Franklin Coen and Edward G. O’Callaghan) begins we can’t testify. After a dawdling introduction the camera looks in on a remote mansion in present-day Georgia, where an international assortment of top scientists has been lured by a strange-looking, smooth-talking world altruist, or so Mr. Morrow claims.
Mr. Reason and Miss Domergue, the brainiest and handsomest guests, correctly peg him as an invasion scout from the unknown. And Mr. Newman can take full credit for a dandy scene with the pair eluding a death ray in a station wagon. Absorbed by a huge, revolving disk, they are briefly deposited on a disintegrating planet and just as abruptly escape back to earth for a conventional sweet-hearts-together ending, for all the churning stratospheric commotion around them.
And most of the commotion is pretty wonderful, once the Universal art wizards take over, as the disk streaks toward its goal in a vast, brilliantly spangled, interplanetary void. One setting alone, a panoramic vista of the doomed planet “Metaluna,” should leave anyone bug-eyed.
So, if the real stars of the picture will step forward, we have; Clifford Stine, William Fritzsche, Alexander Golitzen, Richard H. Riedel, David S. Horsley, Russell A. Gausman and Julia Heron, technical artists.
The New York Times original 1955 review of the movie-within-a-movie in Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie.
H.H.T., “‘This Island Earth’ Explored From Space”, The New York Times, June 11, 1955
To recreate the feel of a low-budget 1950s sci-fi film, Skeleton had to be photographed accordingly, meaning bountiful two-shots and master shots with centered framing and little, if any, coverage. Jones was somewhat familiar with the genre’s style of cinematography, which he labeled “Mexican soap opera,” but a quick crash-viewing of a few classics enabled him to emulate the style to perfection. “I’d say, ‘Oh my god, this looks terrible,’ and be laughing about it, and Larry would say, ‘Yes, it’s perfect!’,” Jones recalls. “And it was absolutely perfect for what he wanted.”
"There is a certain art to making a film not look good, and Kevin, like the rest of us, had to fight a natural inclination to do good work," admits Blamire. "I felt we were doing good work, but we were doing good work that looks like bad work."
"People who don’t get the movie think I’m the worst cinematographer in the world," says a chuckling Jones. "To explain to somebody that you did it deliberately requires an extra step in the résumé process. I told Larry that I’m never going to get another project because of this film!"