Director: Fred F. Sears
Writers: Bernard Gordon and George Worthing Yates
Cast: Hugh Marlowe, Joan Taylor, Donald Curtis, Morris Ankrum, John Zaremba, Tom Browne Henry, Grandon Rhodes, and Larry Blake
Composer: Mischa Bakaleinikoff
Release Date: 7/1/1956
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
While in charge of the American space program entitled Project Skyhook, Dr. Russell A. Marvin (Hugh Marlowe) and his wife Carol (Joan Taylor) encounter a flying saucer and accidentally capture an alien message on their tape recorder. Discovering that visitors from another planet intend to occupy Earth in fifty-six days from the present date, Dr. Marvin creates a device for neutralizing the flying saucers.
Though extremely dated, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers is an enjoyable and well-made effort from Fred F. Sears (known to creature feature enthusiasts for directing The Giant Claw and The Werewolf). Notably, this production should be commended for its likable characters, compelling action scenes, and heavy influence upon the alien invasion subgenre of science fiction.
Benefiting from then state-of-the-art special effects, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers includes a riveting showdown between various human armies and their extraterrestrial opponents—in contrast to the similarly themed The War of the Worlds, which, though arguably a superior film overall, occasionally fails to present its alien/human conflict in a manner with which the average American viewer could relate. Specifically, the flying saucer people (standing in for the Soviets) attack and destroy many of Washington D.C.’s most iconic monuments during the climactic scene, prompting audiences—at least those with a patriotic spirit—to root for and draw inspiration from the success of any countermeasures employed by Dr. Marvin and the United States Army.
Earth vs. the Flying Saucers features a preponderance of stock footage during the invasion sequences, thereby cheapening the meticulous craftsmanship of stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen (recognized for his contributions to The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, It Came from Beneath the Sea, and many other classics within the sci-fi/horror crossover genre).
Embodying the attitudes of fear, antagonism, and paranoia felt by most Americans during the Cold War, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers is an allegory of a hypothetical engagement involving the United States and Soviet Union. Early in the film, for example, the infantry guards stationed at Skyhook preemptively open fire upon a defenseless alien visitor, resulting in a terrible war over one slight misunderstanding—a harrowing depiction of how easily the tensions between both world superpowers could have escalated in real life. Also worth noting are the ruthless and detached, if not cartoonishly evil, qualities of the alien invaders, who seem to exemplify every negative stereotype assigned to the Russians by the majority of American citizens.
Earth vs. the Flying Saucers contains a simple but entertaining conflict between the human race and visitors from a distant world. Therefore, this offering should be required viewing for Harryhausen fans, alien invasion buffs, and those who enjoy classic science fiction films produced during the 1950s.
Overall Quality: 7/10
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