Saturday, October 10, 2009

Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956)

Earth vs. the Flying Saucers
Director: Fred F. Sears
USA 1956
83 min
Starring: Hugh Marlowe, Joan Taylor, Donald Curtis and Morris Ankrum, among others.

"Since biblical times man has witnessed and recorded strange manifestations in the sky, and speculated on the possibilities of... visitors... from another world."

Now I've finally seen one of the most iconic alien invader films - and of course, it was amazing. Perhaps not Academy Award winning actors, but they were not bad. Perhaps the film is not legendary for it's magnificent cinematography, and it re-uses a lot of stock footage from other similar films, but there are some really cool camera angles and the special effects (by the legend Ray Harryhausen) are truly fascinating. I will include screenshots, so you know what I'm talking about.

This film does not wait for the action - in the first scene we see the main characters Dr. Russell A. Marvin (Hugh Marlowe, who we recognize from All About Eve) and his wife Carol (the beautiful Joan Taylor) they witness a flying saucer flying over their car. Within 20 minutes the action has started big time, with invasions, explosions and extraterrestrials.

It is Dr. Marvin that gets the first conversation with the extraterrestrials. He finds out that they want to take over Earth and enslave its inhabitants, since their own planet has been destroyed. A fun thing to find out while being in their space ship miles and miles from Earth. Luckily enough, they want Dr. Marvin to transfer that message to Washington D C, to try to find a peaceful solution to the whole matter.

As General Edmunds say:
"When an armed and threatening power lands uninvited in our capitol, we don't meet him with tea and cookies!"
Therefore they try to find something to fight off the enemy with, since they painfully have realized that ordinary weapons have no effect on the flying saucers. The rest is epic battle - Earth vs. the flying saucers, as the title implies.

What I really appreciated with this film was the science talk (to put it professionally). Everything that is said is unusually credible. Instead of inventing super-duper-mega-weapons like they do in all modern science fiction films, they build their weapons according to real things like magnetic fields and sound frequencies. Even though their final weapon probably can't be created (or at least would work in real life like it does in the film), we buy it. And since we understand what they are talking about, the planning scenes become very interesting. Even the aliens and their advanced technologies are credible - that's impressing.

Another thing I was gladly surprised by was the leading actress, Joan Taylor. I had expected the usual scream queen, annoying and unnecessary. Instead she was calm, sensible and was an active part of planning and preparing for the invasion. Of course only to a proper extent, it's still the 1950's and a woman can't take up too much space.

The main reason to why I chose to watch Earth vs. the Flying Saucers before anything else in this genre was however Ray Harryhausen.

A friend of mine is an absolute Harryhausen fanatic, and managed to make me interested his work. He could be called the master of stop motion, having been inspired to work with special effects after having watched King Kong (1933). This is the third film I've seen with his special effects, and I'm starting to get slightly obsessed by him. There is something magical about his creatures, and knowing what extreme effort and time there lies beyond it... I have no words. I'm just fascinated.

The two other Harryhausen films I've seen this far is The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), an absolutely amazing adventure film with cheesy actors, and Clash of the Titans (1981), a pretty lame film but with awesome fantasy creatures by the Harryhausen hand. And do not say anything bad abuot the R2D2 owl!

Earth vs. the Flying Saucers was however, according to his own biography, his least favorite work. And as for being that, I must concider him a God.

Now - a happy ending! (Or... is it??)

Notice Hugh Marlowe's hairy back.


Mykal said...

Lolita: I see you are dipping into that wonderful set of classic sci-fi films that you have! That is so great! I look forward to these reviews from you, as these films are very close to my heart.

You've started out with a real gem, and I agree with all your observations. Joan Allen is very typical of a certain female type in these atomic age films. I think that as you go through your collection of movies, you will often find women cast in the "lab assistant" or scientist role. Of course, these characters are often the sexiest and most beautiful scientists that ever lived!

I loved Harryhausen work in this, particularly the shots of the alien ship's interiors. He makes it all look so vast and . . . well, alien.

Also, I loved the phallic symbolism of the alien saucer crashing (and chopping off) the Washington Monument! Talk about striking the ultimate blow against America! Yipes!

Great review! Keep the sci-fi coming! -- Mykal

Lolita said...

Wow, thanks! I look forward to your comments on the upcoming posts too ;)
I never thought of it as a phallic symbol! And I am usually very alert on noticing things like that! But your right, of course - the ultimate goal to crash the United States!

Mykal said...

Lolita: I can't wait for your take on Tarantula. Mara Corday is my absolutely favorite female scientist of all time. In fact, Tarantula is one of my favorite atomic age sci-fi movies. It’s directed by the great Jack Arnold! -- Mykal

Lolita said...

Oh, Tarantula is in my box set... You just made me long to see it! And review it, of course ;)

Christopher said...

a Flying Saucer picture!...oh Miss Lolita,I must protest!..this is most un-Ladylike! forgot about the "Brain scan"..let me have a look at your brain..that way I know if i'll love you or not!"..pretty good filum...expensive as hell on dvd here for some reason!?..Hugh Marlow,the poor mans Richard Carlson..and thats not sayin' much ;o)..dosen't he say at the end after the gal says "will they be back?",.."not on such a beautiful day"?..those 50s scientist guys liked to look to the skys and say stuff like that..

Lolita said...

Haven't you noticed yet that I am most un-ladylike? :)
I think I will have to purchase one of those brain scan machines, could be amusing. You got one for sale?
Why not order the DVD for EUR 6.49 here? Great site!
Oh, he just wanted to make sure to put her in a romantic mood before any more alien invasions ;)

Anonymous said...

Ray Harryhausen it was a great artist.
The film ia an original sci -fi classic. And when I say original i mean it.
Second choice "I married a monster fron outer space". Cheap dvd and a really good movie.

Lolita said...

Don Michael Corleone:
Thanks for that tip! Looks really fun, haha! I'm in a 1950's sci-fi mood for the moment, we'll see if there will be many of these kind of reviews... And Harryhausen! I have to see Jason and the Argonauts soon!

Christopher said...

Jason and the Argo NUTS is my favorite Harryhausen..Its quite good history too for a matinee action filum..Nigel Green is my favorite movie Hercules.His scenes with john cairney as Hylas are part of what take the movie out of the norm..You'll like this one..