Do you know how to build an interocitor?
For that matter, do you even know what an interocitor is?
If the answer to both of those questions is yes, Exter would like to speak to you!
Played by Jeff Morrow, Exeter is at the center of the 1955 sci-fi/horror hybrid, This Island Earth. Exeter may look like a middle-aged Earthling, albeit one with a surprisingly high forehead, a deep tan, and a rather formal way of speaking. But actually, Exeter comes from the planet Metaluna. Metaluna is engaged in a war with the Zagons. So far, the only thing that’s keeping the Zagons from destroying Metaluna is an energy field that surrounds the planet. The energy field is powered by uranium but, after years of nonstop bombardment from Zagon asteroids, the Metalunans are running low on uranium. The Metalunans have decided that the only way to revive the energy field is to turn lead into uranium and they’re going to need some top Earth scientists — the type of scientists who can figure out how to build an interocitor — to figure out how to do that!
Hold on. Writing that paragraph and trying to get straight the schemes of Metaluna has given me a headache. I’ll be back in a minute….
Okay, I’m back! Where was I? Right, Exter and the scientists! When Doctors Carl Meacham (Rex Reason), Ruth Adams (Faith Domergue), and Steve Carlson (Russell Johnson) all prove themselves capable of building an interocitor, they’re invited to come out to Exeter’s estate. That’s where they discover that Exeter not only expects them to figure out how to turn lead into uranium but that he will do anything to keep them from escaping!
The highlight of This Island Earth is a trip to Metaluna, where it’s revealed that Exeter’s sinister boss, The Monitor, has plans of his own in store for Earth. (Exeter may hold the Earthlings prisoner but he still has a moral code. The Monitor, on the other hand, does not.) The planet, which is in the process of being ravaged by non-stop Zagon bombings, is colorfully and imaginatively realized. For once, an extra-terrestrial civilization actually looks like something that would be developed by extra-terrestrials, as opposed to Hollywood art directors. The highlight of the trip is appearance of one of the mutants that the Metalunans use to guard their city. With his oversized head, his brain on the outside of his skull, and his clawed hands, he’s a classic 50s sci-fi monster.
This Island Earth has gotten an unfair reputation for being campy, largely because it was the film that was watched by the Satellite of Love crew in Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie. While it’s true that it does take the story a while to get going, Rex Reason is a bit of a stiff hero, and the Metalunan plan never makes that much sense, it’s still an effective and entertaining film. Jeff Morrow brings a lot of dignity to the role of Exeter and the Metalunan planet is a visual delight. Plus, there’s that mutant. If you’re looking for a dash of old-fashioned sci-fi to add to your horror season, This Island Earth is a good one to go with.
And with that, welcome to October! For this month, I’m going to try to post daily here on Horror Critic. It’ll be a bit of a Horrorthon. Keep checking for more reviews and have a great horror season!