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Volume #1, Issue #3
"Stand By For Mars!"
March 2006
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Music Criticism

This Island Earth and Other Alien Invasion Films by Monstrous Movie Music
by Ryan Brennan

In three previous CD releases the creators of Monstrous Movie Music have brought us suites and individual cues from such science fiction and fantasy favorites as It Came From Outer Space, Them!, Creature From the Black Lagoon, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms and the M-G-M Tarzan movies. Fans of these previous recordings will rejoice to know that they are now joined by two more albums, Mighty Joe Young and This Island Earth.

Monstrous Movie Music website: www.mmmrecordings.com

This Island Earth (and Oother Alien Iinvasion Films) (MMM-1954) whets our appetite with the opening cue from War of the Satellites (1958) an early low-budget science fiction endeavor from Roger Corman. This energetic piece is all sound and fury but quite fun and invigorating. The real meal begins with a lengthy suite of music—in fact, all the original music, including pieces eventually cut—from This Island Earth (1955), Universal-International’s attempt at a big-budget Technicolor science-fiction epic on the scale of Paramount’s earlier War of the Worlds (1953) and M-G-M’s later Forbidden Planet (1956). The film concerns the efforts of the advanced Metalunans to enlist the aid of various Earth scientists in an effort to save their war torn planet. Bright, colorful, packed with special effects, This Island Earth (great title!) was and is a great entertainment.

Herman Stein was the composer of 65% of This Island Earth but went uncredited. David Schecter provides a fascinating mini-essay on the manner in which Universal-International gave its composers screen credit. Hans Salter and Henry Mancini were responsible for six cues, all from the latter part of the movie.

Stein’s "Main Title" sets the appropriate mood letting us know that this is the space picture we saw in the ads and trailers. This very mysterioso tone is maintained throughout the score which at times is very reminiscent of Stein‘s music for It Came From Outer Space and Creature From the Black Lagoon. The use of the Novachord and, elsewhere, a combination of instruments to create a sound similar to the Theremin give this unheralded score an unearthly flavor. While the entire score—according to Schecter, the first time a 1950s science fiction score has been re-recorded in its entirety—is worth repeated listening, a few highlights include "Robot Plane," "Conversion Tube," "Transformation," and "Amorous Mutant" (a Mancini piece). In fact, there are many fans who would have preferred a score like this in Forbidden Planet.

Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers (1956) was a low budget quickie with impressive special effects by Ray Harryhausen. His classic saucers, interspersed and combined with stock footage, gave this film a scope and excitement many other science fiction films of the time lacked. As the title indicates, Earth is invaded by an alien force bent on conquering mankind. After a great deal of destruction, including Harryhausen’s decimation of the Washington Monument and the Capitol dome, among others, Earth is saved.

The brief cue recorded here is the "Main Title" by Daniele Amfitheatrof and is also heard in a lengthier and faster version in the 20 Million Miles to Earth suite on the "Mighty Joe Young" CD. This was another film that extensively borrowed existing music and combined it with original cues written by Mischa Bakaleinikoff. Schecter’s liner notes provide a welcome listing of a great number of these other cues and composers.

Although star Howard Keel is on record as saying the script was terrible and the film awful, The Day of the Triffids (1962) has generally been a well regarded science fiction film despite its flaws and shortcomings. After a spectacular meteor shower blinds most of the Earth’s population, deadly man-eating Triffids—tall, ambulatory plants—begin to prey on the victims. Keel plays a sailor spared from the affliction and thrown by necessity into the role of hero.

Ron Goodwin’s score wraps up the proceedings in another lengthy suite. Goodwin is better known today for his action scores to movies like Where Eagles Dare, 633 Squadron, Battle of Britain, Operation Crossbow and Force Ten From Navarone but his filmography is much more varied including the science fiction film Village of the Damned (1960). His Triffids score was brutalized by filmmakers working on a troubled picture. In the post production re-workings of the film quite a bit of Goodwin’s score was eliminated or replaced by the music of Johnny Douglas. Fortunately, this Monstrous Movie Music release restores much of it for our listening pleasure. Reconstructionist and co-producer of this album, Kathleen Mayne, conducts with a sure hand.

Masatoshi Mitsumoto conducts the balance of the album and, once again, the generous 40 pages of liner notes contain important and interesting information by David Schecter.

All five of the Monstrous Movie Music albums are available, for $18.99 plus shipping and handling, from:

Monstrous Movie Music
P. O. Box 7088
Burbank, CA, 91510-7088, USA
Monstrous Movie Music's Website
www.mmmrecordings.com

COMPLETE MONSTROUS MOVIE MUSIC REVIEWS:

Monstrous Movie Music
More Monstrous Movie Music
The Creature From the Black Lagoon (and other jungle films)
Mighty Joe Young (and other Harryhausen films)
This Island Earth (and other invasion films)

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The Thunder Child Music Index

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Radiation Theater: 1950s Sci Fi Movies Discussion Boards
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