Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956)

My six year old nephew saw the trailer for this film and immediately knew that he had to see it.

And, what’s more, he pestered me half to death for days because we ran out of time the night we started it and only got to see the first half hour or so.

The end result, when we finally caught up with the last hour?  He thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it – particularly those iconic Ray Harryhausen flying saucers and all the destruction they caused.

And I can entirely understand why.  This is one of my all time favorites of Ray’s films, because the saucers – which are simple but beautifully realized – have so much life to them.  The sounds they make, their apparent mass, the extra parts that unfold, the way they move and even the rotating sections, are all absolutely perfect.

Of course, I’ll also admit I’m a sucker for any movie which used Paul Frees for the voice of the alien menace.

Hugh Marlowe was one of the best “B” SF actors out there, and he does yet another solid and convincing scientist here.  He’s helped by the fact that the science bits don’t sound obviously wrongheaded, unlike many SF films of the era.  I particularly like the scene in which a flying saucer tries to contact Hugh while he is driving:  I suspect that sequence might have influenced an equally famous one in Close Encounters.

While Ray Harryhausen’s fans tend to obsess over his later color fantasy films, I’ve always tended to prefer his early black and white work.  I think it may be because he was already doing stellar work on the special effects, but the earlier, more SF films, like 20 Million Miles to Earth, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms and It Came from Beneath the Sea, generally seem to have better movies wrapped around those effects.

Ironically, this one is harder to find than many of the other classic SF films of the Fifties.  But that’s no excuse for missing it.  It’s definitely worth whatever effort it takes to get your hands on a copy and watch it with your friends and family.

Trust me, they’ll love it.

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