Saturday, April 1, 2017
A Quick Look: EARTH VS THE FLYING SAUCERS (1956)
EARTH VS THE FLYING SAUCERS was, although a B picture, one of the major achievements of the whole flying saucer scene. In the film, invaders contact scientist Hugh Marlowe to arrange a meeting. Unfortunately, he doesn't decode the message until after the saucers land and lay waste to a military project base. When he does make contact, he discovers the invaders are planning to subjugate our planet. As armadas of death-ray-spewing flying saucers descend upon our major cities, the military must fight back with the usual experimental equipment developed by our heroes at the last minute. What a grand show! Morris Ankrum is on hand to play another of his military leaders faced with an impossible situation, and Paul Frees provides the voice of the invaders. Harryhausen, meanwhile, cuts loose with a crescendo of stop motion destruction as the saucers invade Washington. Our most iconic reflections of spinning 50's-type saucers are seen here. The film was produced during the height of flying saucer mania, which about this time fell to a ploy by authorities to erase a lot of the sensationalism connected to the craze. Officially, what the public had been calling "flying saucers" were re-termed U.F.O.'s. U.F.O. is a pilot's term referring to any Unidentified Flying Object, but the public in later decades would embrace the term as a catch-all to describe spacecraft supposedly of extraterrestrial origin. I kinda prefer the more descriptive Flying Saucer designation, myself, since it refers specifically to other-world craft and a U.F.O. could be anything in the skies. Anyway, the film was a hit for Columbia Pictures, and much of the destruction footage would be recycled for the next year's THE GIANT CLAW. The saucers themselves, meanwhile, were given homage in the woefully misfired MARS ATTACKS! in the late 90's. A decade earlier, footage from EARTH VS THE FLYING SAUCERS was heavily featured in both IT CAME FROM HOLLYWOOD and INVASION EARTH! THE ALIENS ARE HERE!. I recall seeing a commercial as a kid in which footage from the film was used -replacing the saucers with flying hamburgers! The spacesuits of the Martians were seen briefly in the prolog to THE CREATION OF THE HUMANOIDS. Ray would follow EARTH VS THE FLYING SAUCERS with what is considered his best black and white solo effort, 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH, his last film not to be shot in color.