“This Island Earth” may be the first American SF film to be firmly grounded in the not-so-scientific concept of hubris. If there is a central theme to the film, it is that the scientific mind might be regarded as superhuman by those in the scientific community (we mere mortals may refer to it as “egoism”) and that a scientist’s capacity for reason and caution are entirely secondary to the pursuit of reckless experimental projects which seem to have no benefit to Mankind except to create laboratory fires and explosions of vivid neon colors happily compatible with the use of saturating Technicolor. The blatant concession to the concept of the scientist as unquestioned authoritative figure is boldly expressed in the opening scene in which chief smartypants Cal Meacham (square jawed and stalwart Rex Reason, not to be confused with square jawed and stalwart Rhodes Reason) appropriates the personal use of an Air Force jet with the smiling, fawning approval of the press corps, shamelessly panting for the tiniest morsel of news concerning his scientific conference, as if such meetings didn’t occur dozens of times a week within the Washington D.C. city limits. Nor does the Fourth Estate even pretend to comprehend what Meacham is talking about, devaluing the reason for their unexplained excitement, but making it very clear that this exhibition of groveling is only a device used for the benefit of the audience to immediately establish Meacham’s status (if not credentials). This genuflection toward the scientist above all others is a fundamental trope of the 1950’s American Sf film, though this is usually expressed after the emergence of a catastrophic situation- whether alien or of terrestrial origin -in which they appear as the sole savior (usually ably assisted by a female assistant- happily disguised in the form of a buxom starlet -to run important errands like making coffee or making out with the hero of the film) to develop a solution to the imminent crisis. This, however, goes hand in hand with another familiar, though less pronounced, theme of 50’s SF in that science is usually blamed for the crisis in the first place.
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