Written by George Worthing Yates and Raymond T. Marcus
Directed by Fred F. Sears
Starring Hugh Marlowe, Joan Taylor, Donald Curtis, Paul Frees
- Featurette: “The Making of Earth vs. the Flying Saucers”
- Featurette: “This Is Dynamation”
- “The Harryhausen Chronicles” narrated by Leonard Nimoy
- Photo Gallery
- Theatrical Trailer
Released by: Columbia TriStar.
Anamorphic: Yes, Earthling.
My Advice: Fans should consider it.
[ad#longpost]Dr. Russ Martin (Marlowe) should be happy with his new bride Carol (Taylor). However, the project he’s in charge of–putting satellites in orbit–is failing miserably. They soon find out that it’s not a mechanical fault or confusing feet for meters, it’s flying saucers. They’ve got blaster cannons, impenetrable force fields, and they want a chat with Dr. Martin. The aliens want Dr. Martin, as one of the smartest men on the planet, to deliver a message. They want humanity to surrender to them or they are going to open a double XL size can of intergalactic whoopass on Earth. Dr. Martin feverishly works to build a weapon to stop the invasion forces, knowing that the fighting will be fierce when it’s Earth vs. the Flying Saucers.
This is some good old-fashioned Cold War paranoia sci-fi. You’ve got the square-jawed Science Hero with his bride-assistant whose father just happens to be important in the military. You’ve got the plucky humans doing battle against the overwhelming extraterrestrial horde. You’ve got the same aliens ruthlessly attacking the Capital of Democracy. All the 50s sci-fi clichÃ©s are here. The influence of this movie can be seen in V, Independence Day, and even Mars Attacks!
There’s even some actual science hidden among the blaster rays and fleeing humans. Yes, the dialogue is simplistic and the actors barely register on the screen, but like today, movies like this are seen for the special effects and watching things get blow’d up. Unlike movies today, it’s done without the post-modern irony or all-encompassing commercialism they have now. And even though you can tell when the movie uses stock footage of planes and ships, the flying saucers themselves seem very capable of taking on the Earth. If the sight of the aliens taking out the White House in ID4 gave you a shiver, imagine what audiences in 1956 felt when they saw a flying saucer crash into the Capitol building. And they created it without spending millions and millions of dollars. Something to remember.
The saucers and how they were made to fly are talked about in the “behind the scenes” featurette. The man himself, Ray Harryhausen, talks about he wanted to have the saucers to have personalities of their own, not simply be inanimate objects. By having the body spin and various wires placed on the model, they could have the spacecraft simulate various aeronautical maneuvers. He also relates how the many techniques of how to produce the effects desired on a shoestring budget, from using stock footage to painting out the wires by hand.
More about Harryhausen’s vision and career are given in “The Harryhausen Chronicles.” This documentary, narrated by Leonard Nimoy, follows the special effects wizard from his first exposure to King Kong to his first work in stop motion animation with short films on the tales of Mother Goose to working on major motion pictures. He created indelible images for the screen: flying saucers, sword wielding skeletons and rampaging monsters from the dawn of time. His techniques are still used today in movies like James and the Giant Peach and The Nightmare Before Christmas. There is also a short commercial praising Harryhasuen’s techniques, called “This is Dynamation.” The disc also contains the customary photo gallery and trailers. Earth vs. The Flying Saucers gives us a glimpse of where we were in both in special effects and as a nation and is worth the rental.