Before the film starts, there’s a trailer for QED – The Magic Picture Show – in which Kenny Everett demonstrates the state of the art in TV special effects.
Then, This Island Earth, a classic of 1950s science fiction. Rex Reason stars as dynamic go-getting scientist Cal Meacham, a sort of proto-Tony Stark, the kind of scientist who convenes a panel of world scientists in the morning to discuss harnessing the power of Atomic Power, and who flies his own jet plane across the country to his own company.
But something strange happens on the flight when Cal loses control of his plane, and it’s surrounded by a strange green special effect. But it lands safely.
He gets a strange catalogue in the mail from an unknown supplier – the catalogue doesn’t appear to be written on paper but a type of thin metal, and it has parts for a device called an Interociter, which according to Meacham can do almost anything. So naturally they order the parts.
After some effort, they’ve completed the device, and it turns out to be some kind of communications device. A strange looking man called Exeter appears on the screen, saying he’s a scientist, and the Interociter is a kind of aptitude test.
Exeter tells Meacham that he’s assembling a team of the greatest scientists on Earth, and since he’s passed the test, a plane will be waiting for him at the local airstrip in the morning.
The plane is automated, and takes him to somewhere in Georgia. He’s met by Dr Ruth Adams (Faith Domergue) whom he recognises from a previous meeting, but who doesn’t remember him. She takes him to the place where the work is happening, and there Exeter tells him the reason for the gathering of great scientists is to end all wars.
But Cal soon learns, from Ruth and another scientist, that Exeter may not be the altruist he seems – many of the other scientists have undergone some kind of mind-altering process. Ruth had to pretend not to know Cal to avoid arousing Exeter’s curiosity. So they stage an escape, find a plane, but are picked up by Exeter in his flying saucer.
Then the film cranks up a gear into full 50s Sci Fi mode. They’re taken to Exeter’s planet, Metaluna, at war with another planet for centuries and desperately in need of more energy, hence hijacking Earth’s atomic research. This section of the film is glorious from a production point of view, with matte paintings, flaming meteors crashing into planets, and a classic mutant monster menacing them.
BBC Genome: BBC Two – 15th July 1987 – 18:00
After this, recording switches to the end of Miami Vice. Then a trailer for the World Athletics Championships.
then, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, featuring The Black Eagle (base on the novel The Blue Eagle) – a really extended opening featuring none of the pythons, and looking like a genuine old film, which eventually pans over to reveal Cleese at his desk. Still great.
BBC Genome: BBC One – 22nd August 1987 – 22:45
After this, the recording ends, and that’s it on this tape.