By the middle of the 1950’s Universal was playing out its long string of monster movies that started over 20 years earlier with Dracula and Frankenstein. In the next year their last iconic monster would take its last bow in The Creature Walks Among Us. This Island Earth was a bit of a crossover film. Like many of the alien invasion films of the 1950’s the film capitalized on the growing belief that we were not alone. Contrary to the DVD’s misleading box art, these aliens were here to find answers to their own survi…al. The famous Mutants were shown all too briefly and were not the driving force of the story. The Metalutan Mutant was, perhaps, the last of the Universal creature designs. The large tan heads of Exeter and his alien cronies is a hoot compared to today’s images. The film was state of the art for its day and one of the first color science fiction films. Faith Domergue has almost become a stereotype today, but it was a meaty and progressive role for the time. A pleasant addition of Gilligan’s professor, Russell Johnson, adds to a strong cast that includes Rex Reason and Jeff Morow.
I wish I could say this was an improvement over the previous release, but I can not. The full frame presentation is a disappointment from top to bottom. The aspect ratio, again contrary to Universal’s claims, IS NOT the film’s original format. The print is scratchy almost to the point of being unwatchable. The only marked improvement can be found in the colors. There is a good reproduction of the original colors which are particularly impressive in the detail paint job of the mutants. Unfortunately, the transfer condition makes this a much smaller prize. A problem appears in the title sequence, making the titles difficult to read as the star field overcomes the graphics.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track is pretty average. Dialogue is fair. The music tends to warble some, which could simply be a product of the original film. Again, while the sound is adequate, there is no upgrade here. I’m certainly not looking for aggressive 5.1 sound here, but there is no power at all to the presentation. I had to crank up my system far beyond what would normally be a comfortable listening range to hear clearly.
A poor trailer only adds insult to injury as the only extra we get.
It amazes me that Universal hasn’t tread more carefully with their monster/science fiction library. Even the theme parks are remarkably devoid of any connection to the genre that saved the studio many times in its fledgling years. Sure, there’s the Monster Café, but really this is a tradition that deserves more respect. While the trademarks are aggressively enforced, you have to wonder what they’re saving them for. Each new re-release just gives us a different box to line our media shelves, but nothing new inside. This Island Earth signaled the end of a Universal era. Perhaps we could look forward to the beginning of one where the past is embraced. “Nothing new perhaps, but then, what is?”
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