The Movie (Within The Movie)
This Island Earth is a 1955 Sci-Fi movie that is the pinnacle of what a 1950’s Sci-Fi movie could be. When someone thinks of a 50’s Sci-Fi movie, images of this movie is what you’d think of. It’s so charmingly cheesy, and wonderfully goofy, that it’s almost OK to think of this as a legitimately good movie… cause it kind of is. It’s good because it’s bad, but that still counts.
Dr. Cal Meacham is a handsome, brilliant, and handsome scientist. He’s also a jet pilot! Engineer! Futurist! He’s like Iron Man without the money! There’s basically nothing that he can’t do! One day, he receives a mysterious package, a book made of metal, that has the blueprints to build an machine, from complete strangers, that needs to be ordered and assembled. Now any rational person would return this possible bomb to sender, but Cal orders and assembles it, because why not. This turns out to be a test, which connects Cal to a man named Exeter, who’s certainly not an alien, who invites Cal to meet him in a secret spot among many other scientists.
In this location, Cal runs into Dr. Ruth Adams, an old flame, who doesn’t seem to remember him, but they still get along like she does. These strange looking non-aliens brought together these scientists to do one thing, put an end to war. I don’t know why a scientist with Cal’s background in science could put an end to war, but ok, I guess he can nuclear engineer his way into world peace. Ruth and he begin to realize that all the scientists on the island are in nuclear science. Cal and Ruth try to leave, but not before the non-aliens try to kill them, and end up abducting them, because twist, the non-aliens are TOTALLY ALIENS!
What follows is sci-fi at its most 50’s, but also kind of clever. It seems as though the film makers did a bit of research, because a lot of attention was paid to the fact that earthlings would have a bad time adjusting to life in another planet, so they convert their molecular make up to do so, although I don’t know if having something magnitized with the aliens has a different meaning than the one on earth, because bare hands aren’t metal… that’s a weird nitpick, let’s move on. It turns out these aliens are at war with another planet, and have needed uranium to save their planet, hence getting the nuclear scientists to help them… before killing everyone but Ruth and Cal.
Now that the nuclear option is a bust, the aliens now have a plan to relocate, and take over Earth, a plan Cal, Exeter, and Ruth foil by… letting them die. It’s simple, but you know, whatever. The imagery on this planet is wonderful, with the purple room, the bug mutant, the Dr. Seuss like backgrounds, etc. This is a quick moving movie, and a surprising amount of fun. It’s not a great movie, but it’s super watchable, and if you are into weird 50’s sci-fi, I would actually recommend it for a standalone watch.
This being the movie of the popular series, you would expect the riffing to be at it’s highest point, and while I wouldn’t even put this as of the best episodes, it’s still a great way to enter the series in of itself.
A lot of jokes are made in the expense of Cal, the handsome scientist, with a deep, soothing voice, and the fact that nothing about him screams of being a scientist. His geeky sidekick, Joe, who is only in a quarter of the movie, and has his own backstory, about how his wife hates him, and he makes up the fact that he has kids to make him feel special. The Metaluna aliens who try to pass off as aliens, and would have gotten away with it to, if it wasn’t for their silly foreheads. There’s also a lot of dated jokes, like the quality of the Cubs baseball team, the bankruptcy of the Orion film studio, the dude who played The Professor from Gilligan’s Island is in this movie, and the Sci-Fi channel. The thing is, beyond a couple times where they use the word “Shit” and “Bitch” (mostly Servo actually), there isn’t really a reason for this to be a movie. It’s actually shorter than any of the episode of the show, and it doesn’t do much other than riff a prettier movie than most. I’d say it’s a waste of an opportunity, but I don’t think it would be right if they just used the F-word in every opportunity, it’s just not them. It’s just a short, and digestible episode of the show, and that’s fine as well.
Here are some of my favorite riffs.
Servo: (As Captain Kirk) Space… The FINAL frontier…. These ARE the VOYages of Babylon 5…
Mike: (Looking at the Universal International logo) Doesn’t the fact that it’s Universal, make it international?
Crow: Boy, the universe is really cruisin’!
Servo: Hey, there’s Taurus the bull!
Mike: And over there’s the Constellation Feces.
Crow: Oh, look. Orion is bankrupt.
Servo: When in California, be sure to visit beautiful… (The words Washington D.C. appear)… oh.
Meacham: What do you think of Mr. Mozart, Exeter?
Exeter: I’m afraid I don’t know the gent—
Servo [as Exeter]: I’m not an alien!
Exeter: My mind must have been wandering. Your composer, of course.
Meacham: Our composer? He belongs to the world.
Exeter: Yes, indeed.
Mike [as Exeter]: I’m not an alien.
. . .
Exeter: We won’t start cracking the whip on Meacham until tomorrow.
Servo [as Exeter]: Then I ram my ovipositor down your throat and lay my eggs in your chest — but I’m not an alien!
Mike: (After a car explodes with “The Professor” in it,) And his casket will be made entirely of coconuts. Thank you.
Exeter: That’s enough. Normal view.
Mike, Servo, and Crow: [singing in time with the dramatic music] Nor-mal view. Nor-mal view! Nor-mal view! NOR-MAL VIEWWWWWW!
They even make fun of their own credits at the end, and that has a few gems as well!
Crow: [talking about the Puppet Wrangler credit for Mystery Science Theater 3000] “Puppet Wrangler”? There weren’t any puppets in this movie!
[The name “Rando Schmook” appears in the credits]
Mike: Hey, it’s the Amazing Rando!
Servo: Watch Rando the Great construct sets with his very mind!
Crow [as Rando]: Now, we’ve never met before, have we?
Servo: Eastman: He came out of the east to do battle with the Amazing Rando!
The host segments is where the “Movie” portion of this film really stands out. It looks better than any of the episodes, in the fact that the camera moves sometimes. The sets are better, but still look charmingly cheap. And there’s a couple set pieces… kind of!
The first bit is Dr. Clayton Forrester, doing an evil “I’m going to take over the World” monologue, and it’s magical! I watched this bit so many times, that I’ve almost committed it to memory, it’s so great! It’s classic Mad Scientist speak, and it’s so fun!
Afterwards, we meet Mike Nelson, a disgustingly mild mannered dope whose managed to survive everything Clay has subjected him to (sorry, was quoting a monologue there.) Mike is running in a wheel, very 2001: A Space Odyssey style, followed by a sip from a hamster drinking thing, which reveals he’s just a giant hamster. He and Gypsy meet up with Servo, who tells them that Crow’s trying to tunnel through space, to get to earth. After stopping him, Crow tells them “Well believe me, I calculated the odds of this succeeding versus the odds I was doing something incredibly stupid. And I… went ahead anyway.” Which is a line I just love.
In the next host segment, Mike tells the bots that he’s definitely a better pilot than Cal from the movie. After being peer pressured by the bots, Mike puts his money where his mouth is, and promptly crashes the Satellite of Love into the Hubble telescope. With the Manipulator arm (or the Manos Hands, with a mighty reference there), he’s able to (almost) gently let the Hubble free, before it crashes into earth. It’s a really funny bit and is as wonderfully childish as it should be
While in the theater, Servo says that he has a way nicer Interociter than the one that’s in the movie. They think that they can use that Interociter to contact someone to go home, but instead they get a hold of Benkitnorf the Metalunan, while in the shower. He tries to help them, but all he manages to do is shoot Servo in the head with lasers before Forester forces them back to the theater.
The last bit is the heroes overcoming the villain… by surviving the movie! Mike and the bots are having a Metalunan styled party, and Dr. Forster accidently banishes himself to live with Benkitnorf. That’s all there really is to say about this.
Overall, this is a good taste on how great this show is. It’s not the best by any means, but it completely works. And for an hour an ten minutes, it uses its time well!