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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka "Les Survivants de l'infini")

 

directed by Joseph Newman and Jack Arnold
USA 1955

Let us start with a plot that rarely gets more appealing for a young adventure-seeking lad of any era: Dr. Cal Meacham (played by tall, dark and absurdly deep-voiced actor Rex Reason) is a handsome scientist, able to dabble in nuclear energy and expertly pilot jet planes. Cal and his Jimmy Olson-like sidekick Joe, played by Robert Nichols, have received a strange metal-paged instruction manual on how to build an "interocitor".  This reviewer looks skyward rubbing his jaw as an eerie sequence of single organ notes plays in the background "hmmmm... interocitor you say".

 

Cal and Joe curiously begin their IKEA-like project with the parts for the interocitor arriving as mysteriously as its instruction manual. This electronic contraption proves to be a communication device, among other vague attributes, and through a triangular shaped TV screen introduces us to Exeter (played by Jeff Morrow, who would follow up "This Island Earth" with a couple of Douglas Sirk pictures the following year!). Keeping up the high level of secrecy, Exeter requests Cal's presence for an undisclosed scientific project. As well as flippant, yet still brilliant, our hero Cal also exhibits enough curiosity to fearlessly board a pilot-less, window-less plane to an unknown destination.

***

For reasons that defy logic, the excellent This Island Earth was held up for ridicule as an allegedly bad movie in the film version of TV's Mystery Science Theater. If not the best science-fiction film of the 1950s, Earth is certainly one of the most intelligent and elaborate. The story begins when the image of Exeter (Jeff Morrow), a huge-domed scientific genius from the planet Metaluna, appears on an experimental 3D television screen. Exeter invites several noted scientists from around the world to work on a top-secret project at Exeter's earthly mansion. Among those accepting the invitation are Cal Meacham (Rex Reason) and his ex-fiancée Ruth Adams (Faith Domergue). Soon, Cal and Ruth learn Exeter's true motives; to use the Earth's atomic knowhow in building a defense shield to protect Metaluna against the enemy planet Zahgon. Eventually, Exeter boards his high-tech flying saucer and whisks Cal and Ruth off to his dying planet, where, among other perils, they are menaced by a hideous mutant. Based on a novel by Raymond F. Jones, This Island Earth is one of those rare 1950s speculative films that holds up as well today as it did when first released, despite the comparative quaintness of the special effects and high-tech paraphernalia. Incidentally, the climactic Metalunan scenes were directed by Universal's resident sci-fi specialist, Jack Arnold.

Posters

Theatrical Release: June 1st, 1955

Reviews                                                                             More Reviews                                                                  DVD Reviews

 

Comparison: 

Image Entertainment (OOP) - Region 1- NTSC vs. Universal Studios - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Universal - Region  2,4,5 - PAL vs. Ostalgica (Alive AG) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray vs. Elephant Films - Region FREE - Blu-ray

1) Image Entertainment - Region 1- NTSC LEFT

2) Universal Studios - Region 1 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Universal - Region 2,4,5 - PAL - THIRD

4) Ostalgica (Alive AG) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - FOURTH

5) Elephant Films - Region FREE - Blu-ray - RIGHT

 

Box Covers

 

Another, simultaneously released, German Blu-ray version:

    

Distribution

Image Entertainment

Region 1 - NTSC

Universal Studios

Region 1 - NTSC

Universal Studios

Region 2,4,5 - PAL

Ostalgica (Alive AG) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray Elephant Films - Region FREE - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:25:54 1:25:51 1:22:24 (4% PAL Speedup) 1:26:01.030 1:25:57.986

Video

1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.79 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.63 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1.85:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.31 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1.85:1 Disc Size: 19,708,006,019 bytes

Feature Size: 13,436,203,008 bytes

Total Bitrate: 12.99 Mbps

Single-layered Blu-ray MPEG4 - AVC / 1080P

1.85:1 Disc Size: 20,266,190,221 bytes

Feature Size: 16,586,422,272 bytes

Total Bitrate: 19.99 Mbps

Single-layered Blu-ray MPEG4 - AVC / 1080P

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate : Image Entertainment

Bitrate: Universal Studios

Bitrate: Universal Studios PAL

Bitrate: Alive AG Blu-ray

Bitrate: Elephant Films Blu-ray

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0) English (Dolby Digital 2.0) English (Dolby Digital 2.0) DTS-HD Master Audio English 2589 kbps 2.1 / 48 kHz / 2589 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit) *
DUBs: DTS-HD Master Audio German 1564 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1564 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio German 2040 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2040 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio English 2014 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2014 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio French 2077 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2077 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Subtitles None English, Spanish, French, None English, None German, None French, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Image Entertainment

Aspect Ratio:
Open Matte - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• none

DVD Release Date: April 8th, 1998
Keep case

Chapters 16

Release Information:
Studio: Universal Studios
 

Aspect Ratio:
Open Matte - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Trailer (2:20)

 

DVD Release Date: August 22nd, 2006
Keep case

Chapters 18

Release Information:
Studio: Universal Studios
 

Aspect Ratio:
Original - 1.85:1

Edition Details:
• none

 

DVD Release Date: February 4th, 2008
Keep case

Chapters 15

Release Information:
Studio:
Ostalgica (Alive AG)

 

1.85:1 Disc Size: 19,708,006,019 bytes

Feature Size: 13,436,203,008 bytes

Total Bitrate: 12.99 Mbps

Single-layered Blu-ray MPEG4 - AVC / 1080P

 

Edition Details:

Super 8 trailer (2:04)

• Super 8 version (Silent) (7:57)

• Super 8 Excerpts (15:51)

Joe Dante - Trailers From Hell Commentary (2:48)

Original Trailer (2:20)

• Gallery (4:00)

• 1.33:1 version (German only audio)

Alive Trailers

Leaflet with photos and German text
 

Blu-ray Release Date: October 30th, 2015
Standard 
Blu-ray case

Chapters: 10

Release Information:
Studio:
Elephant Films

 

1.85:1 Disc Size: 19,708,006,019 bytes

Feature Size: 13,436,203,008 bytes

Total Bitrate: 12.99 Mbps

Single-layered Blu-ray MPEG4 - AVC / 1080P

 

Edition Details:

Christopher Lemaire discusses the film (22:54 in French - no subtitles)

• Gallery Photos (0:46)

• Six Trailers including This Island Earth (2:30) - imposed French subtitles

• Credits

PAL DVD of the film
 

Blu-ray Release Date: October 30th, 2015
Standard 
Blu-ray case inside carboard slipcase

Chapters:

 

 

 

 

Comments

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Elephant Films - Region FREE - Blu-ray August 16': Short story - it looks like the same print - 'the' European one - but is transferred at a higher bitrate (50% higher) than the German BD and, hence, looks better in-motion. Still, probably not at the level of a Universal Blu-ray - but that may be many years away - or never come at all. Unlike the German - you can watch without it reverting to a DUB every chapter stop. I've watched it twice so far - it was enjoyable - as always.

Audio is a DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel at 2014 kbps (24-bit) and offers original English as well as a French DUB. Like The Land Unknown the score is credited as a collaboration of Henry Mancini, Hans J. Salter, and Herman Stein and it sounds definitely in advance of the SDs - bold with rich depth. The French subtitles are totally optional and the Blu-ray disc is, pleasantly, region FREE!

There are supplements - Christopher Lemaire discusses the film for about 23-minute in French - no subtitles, there are some nice gallery photos and six trailers including one for This Island Earth (with non-removable French subtitles) The package includes a PAL DVD of the film and no liner notes.

It's the best effort to date for this quintessential 50's science-fiction gem. Still not what it could be but it's a film we always seem to be waiting for a definitive home theatre presentation. I'm glad I own this Blu-ray even in it's less stellar presentation. Classic.

***

ADDITION: Ostalgica (Alive AG) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray November 15': I have some definite issues with this new German Blu-ray (I'm lead to believe it is the exact same transfer in the simultaneously released Ostalgica (Alive AG) BD.) I'd love some input from any who may have, or have not, noticed what I did.  * Every chapter stop it reverted to the German audio?!? I also had trouble navigating the menu - very clunky - it is possible that it is limited to my copy... but I doubt it. I suspect it is an authoring problem.

As far as the transfer goes - again underwhelming. It is single-layered with a puny bitrate. I suspect the 1.85:1 - which is pictureboxed on this 1080P  - was possibly 1.75:1 (or less - it shows a shade less information on the sides) and may be stretched to fill the 1.85:1. It's also very blue-teal-leaning (which may be accurate.) On the positive it does look crisper and is improved in-motion over the DVDs.

 There are optional German subtitles on the region 'B'-locked disc. I will restate my complaint that every chapter stop it reverted to the German audio on my region FREE Oppo but played without that issue on my computer.

Extras include some unwatchable Super 8 footage (trailer, 8-minute silent treatise, and 16-minutes of excerpts) that are no more than a curiosity. Joe Dante via a Trailers From Hell 3-minute piece does a commentary on the trailer. And we get an original trailer, a cool gallery (lobby cards etc.) and they include the 1.33:1 version but only with German audio !?! - filling 4,242,905,088 bytes/ MPEG-4 AVC Video / 1080P but only a 5.9 Mbps bitrate. Lastly, are some Ostalgica BD trailers and the package has a leaflet with photos and German text.

Yes, I am disappointed, hoping it would get a more robust technical treatment and, obviously, not have the audio issue (hopefully it is exclusive to my copy.) I would have loved more - full commentary, discussion etc. but I guess it wasn't in the cards. I'm keeping my DVD and holding out for a superior Blu-ray.  

***

NOTE: Big thanks to more than one Beaver-ite who informed us about this new PAL release!

ADDITION: Universal PAL WIDESCREEN EDITION - April 08': Although also single-layered this UK DVD resonates pure pleasure at having this classic finally shown in 'original' widescreen. 

As stated on DVDSavant HERE "The years 1953 through 1955 saw an exhibition transition brought on by CinemaScope. Flat films originally shown 1:37 were matted to 1:66 and finally as wide as 1:85 and called "widescreen." The Universal handouts for 'It Came from Outer Space' say that it is in 'widescreen', which indicates at least 1:66.

In practice, all of these films were exhibited at different ARs depending on whether or not individual theater screens had been updated. There's a wide discrepancy between: 1) The Aspect Ratio intended by the director of photography (which could be superseded by the studio), 2) The studio's records, 3) Projection instructions accompanying the prints themselves and 4) The information handed out in suspect publicity announcements. Often negating all the above, the exhibitors showed the films in whatever way they felt like showing them, anyway! "

So it was shown in widescreen - perhaps as little as 1.5:1 but evidence suggest some degree of scope ratio was utilized in virtually all theatres it was originally shown. The new PAL DVD shows more information on the sides and less on top (removing some of the gaping spaces above character's heads). So composition adheres to widescreen as well.

As for the rest - colors on the Universals' seem to support each other. Light speckles are duplicated. The anamorphicity should make the PAL appear sharper (dependant on the system you watch it on) and there are no extras. They have included some optional English subtitles. It is coded for region's 2, 4 and 5 in the PAL standard. One note: I've seen the film so many times that the PAL speedup (4%) is noticeable in the dialogue - it brings Rex Reason's baritone voice up to an almost believable pitch. :)

I've owned this film in many formats (VHS and LaserDisc as well as these three DVDs) and this is the first time I am seeing it as it was shown theatrically. This UK DVD is not perfect but it's the best of this lot and we encourage fans of the film to indulge - seeing it in original widescreen is like watching the film fresh - and the price is sure right. Recommended!

***

ON THE NTSC EDITIONS: Short story - for the most part the new Universal image is improved, although slightly cropped. It is brighter (where it should be brighter) and colors are much more consistent. It is less grainy, with less artifacts (see Faith Domergue's face image below). It is far from perfect as they are light speckles throughout. I detected no extreme advancement in the audio department. Extras are disappointingly barren with only a trailer on the new Universal release, but this appears to be in keeping with their standard of limited packages offered at reasonable price tags. Frankly, I wasn't expecting too much more - perhaps a more vibrant image and my fingers were crossed for widescreen (original).

 

I have championed this film for years, realizing that it is the butt of Mystery Theater 3000 sarcasm-fests. Something about this production hits me right in my childhood-sci-fi fantasy-breadbasket. I have returned to it often and at least now have no need to worry about my way out-of-print Image release getting digital rot. If you like this genre of film - then this is the best ever made - in my opinion.     

Gary W. Tooze

 



DVD Menus

(Image Entertainment - Region 1- NTSC LEFT vs. Universal Studios - Region 1 - NTSC RIGHT)

 

 

 

Universal - Region 2,4,5 - PAL

 

Ostalgica (Alive AG) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 

 

Elephant Films - Region FREE - Blu-ray

 

 


Screen Captures

 

NOTE: Only the. Universal Studios editions offer English subtitles

 

 

1) Universal Studios - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Universal - Region 2,4,5 - PAL - SECOND

3) Ostalgica (Alive AG) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - THIRD

4) Elephant Films - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Image Entertainment - Region 1- NTSC TOP

2) Universal Studios - Region 1 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Universal - Region 2,4,5 - PAL - THIRD

4) Ostalgica (Alive AG) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - FOURTH

5) Elephant Films - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Image Entertainment - Region 1- NTSC TOP

2) Universal Studios - Region 1 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Universal - Region 2,4,5 - PAL - THIRD

4) Ostalgica (Alive AG) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - FOURTH

5) Elephant Films - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


1) Image Entertainment - Region 1- NTSC TOP

2) Universal Studios - Region 1 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Universal - Region 2,4,5 - PAL - THIRD

4) Ostalgica (Alive AG) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - FOURTH

5) Elephant Films - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Image Entertainment - Region 1- NTSC TOP

2) Universal Studios - Region 1 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Universal - Region 2,4,5 - PAL - THIRD

4) Ostalgica (Alive AG) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - FOURTH

5) Elephant Films - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Image Entertainment - Region 1- NTSC TOP

2) Universal Studios - Region 1 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Universal - Region 2,4,5 - PAL - THIRD

4) Ostalgica (Alive AG) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - FOURTH

5) Elephant Films - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Image Entertainment - Region 1- NTSC TOP

2) Universal Studios - Region 1 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Universal - Region 2,4,5 - PAL - THIRD

4) Ostalgica (Alive AG) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - FOURTH

5) Elephant Films - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Image Entertainment - Region 1- NTSC TOP

2) Universal Studios - Region 1 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Universal - Region 2,4,5 - PAL - THIRD

4) Ostalgica (Alive AG) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - FOURTH

5) Elephant Films - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Image Entertainment - Region 1- NTSC TOP

2) Universal Studios - Region 1 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Universal - Region 2,4,5 - PAL - THIRD

4) Ostalgica (Alive AG) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - FOURTH

5) Elephant Films - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 
Box Covers

 

Another, simultaneously released, German Blu-ray version:

    

Distribution

Image Entertainment

Region 1 - NTSC

Universal Studios

Region 1 - NTSC

Universal Studios

Region 2,4,5 - PAL

Ostalgica (Alive AG) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray Elephant Films - Region FREE - Blu-ray

 



 

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Gary Tooze

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