A classic science fiction movie from 1954. "Classic?" I hear you protest, "But they put it on the MST3K movie!" Yes, they did, and Mike and the Bots made a very rare misstep by claiming that this flick was somehow cosmically bad, 'cause it just ain't so. Far from perfect? You bet. Way, way far from perfect? You bet. Cosmically bad? No way.

First, a few details. It was directed by Joseph M. Newman and Jack Arnold (though only Newman was credited). The screenplay was written by Franklin Coen and Edward G. O'Callaghan, based on a story called "The Alien Machine" by Raymond F. Jones. It starred Rex Reason as Dr. Carl Meacham, Faith Domergue as Dr. Ruth Adams, Jeff Morrow as Exeter, Lance Fuller as Brack, Russell Johnson (The Professor!) as Steve Carlson, Douglas Spencer as the Monitor, and Eddie Parker and Regis Parton as Mutants.

Basic plot: Meacham and Adams are selected to help save the dying planet of Metaluna (where everyone seems to have white hair and bulging foreheads), but they discover that the Metalunans are secretly plotting to invade the Earth! They are taken by flying saucer to Metaluna but escape with the help of Exeter, a moderately friendly Metalunan. All of them are menaced by the big-brained BEMs known as the Mutants, but in the end, Metaluna is destroyed, and Meacham and Adams escape to Earth.

First of all: Yeah, in a lot of ways, it bites. The makeup on Exeter and the other Metalunans is distractingly poor, and the acting is generally sub-par. The story is less than enthralling, with several significant plot holes, and the attitudes toward women are sexist even beyond the normal standards of sci-fi movies from the '50s.

But cosmically bad? Definitely not. The planet of Metaluna is richly and entertainingly depicted, and the special effects still hold up fairly well. The makeup for the Mutant is still considered one of the decade's best designs for a monster. The themes of government secrecy, hidden invasions, and global destruction are classic themes held by much of the best science fiction, both in the 1950s and today.

Would I recommend you watch it? Maybe. It's good for some light entertainment, especially if you have a taste for cinematic cheese. It's not "Invaders from Mars", it's not "Forbidden Planet", it's not "Them!", it's not "The Day the Earth Stood Still", but it's not "Robot Monster" either.

Some research from the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com)

Why Best Brains didn't pick a serious Grade-A stinker like "Plan 9 from Outer Space" for their film debut, I'll never know...

Update: Quizro and trainman point out to me that "This Island Earth" was selected for the MST3K movie because it was in color, not all that bad, and owned by Universal Studios, which released the MST movie--hence, it would be less expensive for the studio than buying the rights to another movie...

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