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Earth vs The Flying Saucers, 1956

From: Eva
Category: Films
Date: 06 June 2005


Impressive Sci-Fi B movie made on a tight budget by Fred F. Sears with brilliant special effects by Ray Harryhausen. Harryhausen later went on to do the effects for ‘Jason and the Argonauts’, ‘Clash of the Titans’ and other such classics. The key of the effects’ success here is they pertain to mechanical vehicles – flying saucers– so have aged particularly well, not having that plastic unreal quality that early animations of freak beasts had. The story is familiar – aliens plan to settle on Earth due to its convenient climate. Initially they try to communicate with earthlings in order to find a way to co-habit. Unwisely choosing an American military base for their initial place of contact they are miffed when the humans unsuccessfully try to bomb them to shreds. The invasion thus commences affording gratifying scenes of Washington’s destruction (Harryhausen had to animate every stone that explodes off the models of the buildings!). The sub-plot is the growing supportive relationship between the clever doctor, on whose shoulders saving planet earth falls, and his new wife.

Given this outline I assumed there would be overt references to Communism and women’s place by the hearth, but although this film is definitely of the cold war age it’s not a stereotypical political cautionary tale masquerading as sci-fi. The wife is of course always immaculately dressed but she’s not lame, she shows considerable mettle in the face of terrifying goings on and even has a proper job of her own. What’s especially interesting is how Harryhausen’s vision of flying saucers lives on- his depiction set our current cultural image. Likewise, when the brave doctor removes the dodgy metal armor from a dead alien we see the shriveled face with oversized eyes that has subsequently become the established image of an alien. My favorite bit of action was the way aliens killed people by zapping them until they start to glow and evaporate. The interior of the space craft was also classic, an uncluttered eerie space where human captives are turned into zombies after the alien have extracted all the knowledge from their brains.

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