Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

‘THIS ISLAND EARTH’ AND THE FICKLENESS OF FAME

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I just watched “This Island Earth,” a 1955 Science fiction movie. I never saw it before, or if I did, it was in my youth and I completely forgot it. Nothing in it twigged the “Wait, I’ve seen this before” reaction. It’s free to watch on Youtube, spoilers ahead in case one wants to watch the movie first.

The movie was interesting on multiple layers. It was about a studly handsome scientist (he can fly a jet plane!) who is abducted by aliens to participate in a research project the aliens are running in a last ditch attempt to save their homeworld from evil aliens. Lots of adventure, the aliens do bad things to humans in their project, the scientist and his cute co-scientist love interest visit the alien world, but it’s too late to help, and they are able to escape back to Earth.

A thinking movie for its day, and some of the questions it explores are still unresolved. How much collateral damage is acceptable if one’s cause is just? Would it be OK to sacrifice one person to save the life of everyone on Earth? Most of us would say yes I am guessing. How about if one could sacrifice everyone on Earth to save one’s own life? Is that OK? Most of us would say no I suspect.  Where is the boundary between the two extremes? Beats me, I hope I never have to decide.

The special effects were cutting edge for the time. Which means means hoakier than 1960s Star Trek, but still impressive for 1955. I tried to imagine I was watching it in a movie theatre from a 1950s perspective, and it was pretty cool. One could see how a lot of the special effects were harbingers of effects to come. And this was when one was still expected to use one’s imagination to fill in the details. It was a play put to film so to speak, hyper realism not required.

The movie was lily white of course, as was all of America in the 1950s. Snort. At least the racism was invisible, black people didn’t exist in this world, see, no racism ma! Casual sexism and misogyny, yes, that was there. Just peppered throughout the movie, a sign of the times. And yes, the men all wore suits and the women dresses.

The star of the movie was one Rex Reason (1928-2015), this was the peak of his career and what he is most remembered for today. Rex Reason was his real name, and it took him awhile to be able to use it in Hollywood, since it sounded like a screen name. His earlier movies were made under the screen name Bart Roberts. The whole screen name thing is weird. Heard about a guy who had a great sounding real name, but he couldn’t use it as his screen name, because someone else had already used it. OK then.

His co-star, Faith Domergue, was an early “scream queen” in 1950s and 1960s horror/scifi films. This movie for her too was pretty much peak career, afterwards reduced to B-movies and guest appearances on TV. She was discovered at age sixteen by Howard Hughs, and while her career peaked in 1955, she did have a long and varied Hollywood career. She guest starred on Bonanza, I mean, is that cool or what? She passed in 1999, aged 73-74, sources vary.

The other actors in the film were all similar, none are household names, all had modest acting careers, none ever achieved big name status. Such is Hollywood, many play, only a few achieve greatness. As far as I can tell none of the other people involved in the film achieved greatness either. The director had a few other 1950s scifi hits, but that’s about it. A good movie for its time, still remembered by those who appreciate the history of movies, but nothing to write home about.

Still, there is one aspect of this movie that has flown under the radar. One of the minor actors in this movie went on to have a wildly successful Hollywood career, winning Oscar level awards twice. An actor who achieved great success despite a reputation for biting co-stars. None of the other actors in this movie would ever have guessed it, but the goddamn cat in the movie went on to fame and two PATSY awards, the Oscar of Hollywood animal awards. Boy, that must have rankled the cast. Did they get together in bars in later years to badmouth Orangey, for that was the cat’s name. He went on to star with Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” while they were reduced to B-movies and guest star appearances on 60s TV shows. Fate and fame are such fickle things.

Hope everyone is rounding out a good holiday weekend. Three days of ‘diet, schmiet’ and now I’m back on starvation rations. Six pounds from my goal, four weeks from Christmas feasting. The race is on.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: A mutant alien servant from This Island Earth. Credit: Universal Pictures. I’m assuming that since it’s free to watch on youtube that it’s Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

December 1, 2019 at 11:34 am

Posted in Cats, Entertainment, Movies

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