Scientist, playboy and pilot Dr Cal Meacham (Rex Reason) returns to the Ryberg Lab in California from Washington DC to find a manual for an unassembled piece of space-age electronic hardware, with no instructions for its construction.
Cal and his trusty sidekick Joe Wilson (Robert Nichols) build the strange piece of machinery, which when complete proves to be an “interocitor” (a communication device) sent as a test by a man called Exeter (Jeff Morrow) a confident chap with white hair and an unnaturally high forehead.
Exeter invites Cal to join his top-secret research project and sends an unmanned DC-3 to spirit him off to a mysterious research facility in Georgia.
On the way, Cal meets up with fellow invitee Dr Ruth Adams (Faith Domergue), with whom he had a ‘summer fling’ a while back. Mysteriously, Adams does not recall their love affair in the past.
Although Exeter seems pleasant enough, Meacham is suspicious about the project’s aims and together with Adams attempts to escape. But their private plane is intercepted by a spaceship, which transports them to an alien planet called Metaluna.
It turns out that the cream of Earth’s scientists are being summoned to join the mysterious project, only to discover that they are being kidnapped by the Metalunians who want to use their brilliant minds to help their deteriorating, war-torn planet.
On arrival, Meacham and Adams discover that the Metalunians desperately need uranium to power their defence shields against a meteor bombardment from their planetary neighbour, Zahgon. Metaluna’s supreme ruler, The Monitor (Douglas Spencer), then reveals his plans to invade the Earth.
This intelligent slice of 1950s sci-fi (two and a half years in the making proclaimed the poster proudly) ranks among the best and most cleverly conceived of the genre.
Really it’s a film of two parts: First is a talky earthbound section which finds the brainy boffins being shanghaied, by the marvellously otherworldly Jeff Morrow to save his distant homeland from destruction by interplanetary warfare.
That’s followed by a full-blooded space opera featuring astounding surrealistic landscapes on the planet Metaluna and fearsome insect-like mutations with huge bulbous craniums.
Exeter ultimately has a change of heart and helps the scientists from Earth to escape, but not before he’s savagely clawed by one of the planet’s grotesque mutants.
From the safety of outer space, Meacham, Adams and Exeter watch as the warring Zahgons destroy Metaluna’s ionization layer transforming the planet into a radioactive sun. But the return journey to Earth is fraught with danger, including an attack by another mutant, and a split-second escape before the spaceship crashes into the sea and explodes.
It’s hokey at times, but its message is clear: the more advanced the technology, the greater the scope for destruction.
The film opened in Britain as a supporting feature to a romantic drama called Female on the Beach and was released through GFD (General Film Distributors) on the Gaumont and Granada cinema circuits. Sadly, the film wasn’t very successful at the American box office, and denigrating it to ‘supporting programme’ status in parts of Europe didn’t help matters either. Based on the poor response, Universal abandoned any future plans to film similar projects in colour.
Dr Cal Meacham
Dr Ruth Adams
Karl Ludwig Lindt
Joseph M Newman