EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS

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Earth vs. the Flying Saucers
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EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS - 1956
Clover Productions, Columbia Pictures
Rated: USA: N/A

My money's on the Earthlings. I know they don't look like much but they've been on a lucky streak like you would not believe.

EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS was directed by Fred F. Sears (THE GIANT CLAW) and written by George Worthing Yates (THEM, EARTH VS. THE SPIDER, WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST, ATTACK OF THE PUPPET PEOPLE) and Bernard Gordon (THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS, ZOMBIES FROM MORATAU), based on a screen story by Curt Siodmak (THE WOLF MAN, DONOVAN'S BRAIN, THE MAGNETIC MONSTER, CREATURE WITH THE ATOM BRAIN) which in turn was based on the novel "Flying Saucers from Outer Space" by Donald E. Keyhoe.

EvsFS poster large
WARNING! TAKE COVER!
FLYING SAUCERS INVADE OUR PLANET!
WASHINGTON, LONDON, PARIS, MOSCOW, FIGHT BACK!

Opening narration tells us that since biblical times man has wondered about the lights in the sky and visitors from other worlds (I think that's in the Old Testament). The narrator goes on to describe how UFO's have been sighted around the world and that the Hemisphere Defense Command has ordered our forces to open fire on any and all flying saucers.

This policy might sound belligerent but keep in mind the way any nation would react to foreign aircraft that entered their airspace without permission. It's not an unusual policy at all, especially during the cold war.

Finally the narration ends and we meet Dr Russell Marvin (Hugh Marlowe: THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL) and his wife Carol (Joan Taylor: 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH) as they drive through the desert to the rocket base where Dr. Marvin heads Project Scoop. He uses a tape recorder to dictate notes on an upcoming satellite launch but is distracted by his beautiful new bride. Then they're both distracted by a huge flying saucer that buzzes their car.

They arrive at the base and the cautious Dr. Marvin decides not to mention the saucer to anyone just yet. Instead he proceeds to launch satellite number 11, in spite of the fact that they lost contact with satellites 1 through 10 shortly after they reached orbit.

General John Hanley (Morris Ankrum: THE MAN WITH THE X-RAY EYES, FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON) arrives and tries to stop the launch but he's too late. He was trying to stop it because he's learned that all 10 missing satellites have crashed to Earth. What's happening up there?

Wearing the helmet
HA! HEY EVERYBODY! HEH! CHECK IT OUT! NOW I'M A GENOCIDAL SPACE ALIEN!
HA! HA! HA! ... UM... PRETTY QUIET OUT THERE. TOO SOON?

The Marvins confide in the General (who happens to be Carol's father) about the flying saucer but he doesn't really believe them. That all changes the next day when everyone returns to the rocket base for another launch and a saucer lands in the parking lot! The saucer opens and odd, robotic spacemen shuffle out. Following orders, the General opens fire and kills one alien, but the saucer takes off and proceeds to level the base with its death ray. The General is captured and everyone else is killed except for Russell and Carol, who happened to be in a deep bunker.

Death rays? Sounds like its time for a

!!!SCIENCE MOMENT!!!:
This movie has lots of scientific sounding jargon and most of it is used incorrectly like you'd expect. For example the aliens tell their human captive that their ships use a powerful magnetic field to overcome Earth's gravity. That's not as impressive as it sounds. Consider that if I use a refrigerator magnet to pick up a needle then the magnet is overcoming the gravity of the entire mass of the Earth, which is pulling the needle the other way. Magnetism is a much stronger force than gravity.

Most of the science mistakes are minor quibbles like that. The only big one is how the aliens "stop time" on board their ships so your watch stops ticking AND your heart stops beating. But you keep breathing and talking and moving around with a stopped heart. That's quite a trick.*

Earth vs the Flying Saucers
OH YEAH? WELL I THINK YOU'RE AN ASS MONSTER!
WHADDYA THINK OF THAT?

Clearly the incident at the rocket base means war, but are the aliens invaders or was this all just a misunderstanding? That question can only be answered by getting the movie your own damn self. But I will tell you that the special effects here are done by stop motion master Ray Harryhausen (20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH, MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS, FIRST MEN IN THE MOON, THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD, CLASH OF THE TITANS). The saucers and their death rays are impressive and the "final battle" over Washington D.C. is awesome considering this is a very low budget B movie from the 50's.

TAAA-DAAAAHH!!!

If you rent the DVD you'll find some nice extras, including two short featurettes (Joe Dante' interviews Ray Harryhausen and a promo for Harryhausen's "Dynamation" special effects method) as well as an hour-long documentary about the career of Ray Harryhausen (narrated by Leonard Nimoy). These extras contain many fascinating tidbits of trivia. For example:

The scene in EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS that shows a saucer shoot two planes down is actual footage of an air show crash. The death ray effect masks the fact that the planes actually crash into each other.

Harryhausen and legendary writer Ray Bradbury have been buddies since they met as teenage members of the same science fiction club.

Harryhausen's interest in stop motion photography began as a boy when he saw the movie King Kong at Grauman's Chinese theatre in L.A.

The saucer sound effects were made from the sound of sewage being pumped through the pipes of the sewage plant that was used as the setting for the "rocket base" scenes.

The effects are impressive, but aside from that EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS is one of the better films of this genre. The action keeps coming and the story has some odd twists and interesting ideas. I give it three shriek girls.

Shriek GirlsShriek GirlsShriek Girls
This review copyright 2004 E.C.McMullen Jr.

LIKE IT? LOOK FOR
DtESS 20 Million Miles to Earth Mars Attacks! District 9
THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951)
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This Science mistake was also seen in THIS ISLAND EARTH.

 

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