Archive for April 19, 2019

Metalunatic Fringe

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on April 19, 2019 by dcairns

How long since I watched THIS ISLAND EARTH? Last time was the MST3K movie which doesn’t count. First time was on TV as a kid, and it maybe didn’t quite enter my pantheon with THE TIME MACHINE and FORBIDDEN PLANET because it screened outwith the BBC2 sci-fi seasons? A weird prejudice to have. Weird kid.

(On the other hand, it’s genuinely not quite as fun or smart as those two.)

Amusingly, brain guy here is able to look around the room and his eyeline always matches who he’s looking at, though in reality he’s looking at an image on a small screen… it makes pictorial sense without making any literal sense at all.

It stands up OK — especially the early, boring stuff, which ain’t boring when you’re an adult. It’s really intriguing and a nice interlocking set of mysterioso scenes. True, there’s something cheesy about leading man Rex Reason, even though he’s an OK actor I think. His baritone delivery is very B-movie and he’s stupid casting as a scientist. It’s a shame when we lose his schlubby friend.

Faith Domergue as a scientist, oddly, I can accept. Maybe because Rex Reason has softened me up first.

At least one of those bumps in the road is Howard Hughes.

Things go off a little when we get to the Big Head Institute — the Metalunans do look rather silly, especially Brack. Fiona was amused by Exeter’s name. All the Metalunans should be named after medium-sized British towns. Basingstoke. Ipswich. Scunthorpe. But Jeff Morrow strikes me as a pretty good actor, underplaying the gloopiness and coming across real sympathetic. Maybe he also got them to give him a better hairline than the other guys. A Metalunatic fringe, if you will. His forehead is almost acceptable. If they’d whittled an inch off his dome, and a few inches off the other guys, they’d have had an acceptable look (with better wigs). I hadn’t noticed this before (maybe I saw it on our old b&w TV?) but the Metalunans are also in subtle brownface.

If I were making a 50s SF movie I’d cast mixed-race actors in whiteface and the mainstream audience would get really uncomfortable without knowing why.

The whole last half plays like someone hit fast-forward. I guess because (a) the picture couldn’t be three hours long and (b) this is the really expensive special effects bit so they can’t afford to linger and (c) sure, things are supposed to accelerate when you reach the climax.

The journey to Metaluna takes a while, and we get to watch cool stuff like the tubes (top) and we see a lady brain guy — I want a whole movie about this butch personage in her fashionable see-thru hat — and then suddenly we’re in a terrible rush.

When we get to Metaluna and there’s some lovely practical miniature effects, a big rubber mu-tant, some icky Technicolor manipulation (anybody know what precisely they did? Leave out the Magenta dye? was it deliberate or was somebody at Technicolor just careless?), which is all great and partly masks the fact that they get abducted to an alien world and then IMMEDIATELY go home. And poor Exeter basically announces he’s going to commit suicide and Reason and Domergue are just, like, “Okay, bye!”

Metaluna is HORRIBLE. I want at least an hour of screen time dedicated to the decontamination procedures.

Whoever did the matte paintings wasn’t real good at perspective. Which might be the most important skill for a matte painter to have.

Am I blue?

“That was once a recreation center.” Oh no, they got the bingo hall? Big-ass matte line here, like everybody’s about to be “beamed up” or something. An odd glitch in such a pricey movie, like the very faint opening credits, superimposed at too weak an intensity. Some of this may be the effects of time rather than bad special effects per se.

As is the way with fifties sf, God gets a mention in Act III, and the whole thing is weirdly conservative. The “happy ending” — Reason & Domergue clinch on terra firma, Morrow fatally splashdowns — begs the question, since the Zagons just destroyed Metaluna, and the Metalunans had the tech to visit Earth, are we now going to get bombarded by the Zagons too?

“She gave me water…” Not nearly enough mutant character development for my taste.

We never see a Zagon, only their tiny, far-away spaceships, but they don’t come off as an intriguing mystery, they’re just a bit of the story nobody was interested in exploring. The whole thing would make more sense or be more meaningful, to me, if the Metalunans had started this war or something.

Orangey the cat is in this too, as Neutrino the cat. His house gets blown up with him in it. Nobody mourns.

THIS ISLAND EARTH stars Dr. Leslie Gaiskell; Prof. Leslie Joyce; Dr. Thomas Morgan; Professor Roy Hinkley; Dr. Brunner; Dr. Karl Fresenburg; & Cat.

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