Tue 15 Nov 2016
EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS. Columbia Pictures, 1956. Hugh Marlowe, Joan Taylor, Donald Curtis, Morris Ankrum. Screen story by Curt Siodmak, based on the book Flying Saucers from Outer Space, by Major Donald E. Keyhoe. Director: Fred F. Sears.
What would humanity do if UFOs waged war on Earth? Would a scientist invent a means of stopping those rascally aliens and then allow the U.S. military to utilize that technology? If you think that’s the most likely scenario, then Earth vs. the Flying Saucers will offer few surprises.
The plot follows rocket scientist Dr. Russell A. Marvin (Hugh Marlowe) and his new bride Carol (Joan Taylor) as they contend with an imminent alien invasion. Complicating matters is the fact that Carol’s father, Brig. Gen. John Hanley (Morris Ankrum), has been kidnapped by the interstellar humanoids and turned into a zombie! This leads Dr. Marvin to take the lead in discovering a way of repelling the forthcoming alien invasion. Upon learning how the UFOs operate, Marvin creates a sonic weapon that proves useful to the U.S. Army as they wage war on alien vessels attempting to conquer Washington.
If you think the plot sounds mildly intriguing – and I admit writing it made me realize how much potential the film had – you should realize that this particular science fiction movie is rather flat, both in terms of style and substance.
Indeed, if Earth vs. the Flying Saucers has an auteur, it is most certainly special effects guru Ray Harryhausen. Responsible for the film’s stellar stop-motion animation, Harryhausen’s skill in unleashing movie magic is evident throughout what is otherwise a rather dull, plodding 1950s science fiction feature.
Neither the direction nor the acting, save the welcome presence of character actor Morris Ankrum, is particularly memorable; in fact, much of it is truly forgettable. All of which serves to make Harryhausen’s contribution to the movie even more valuable, for without it, there’d honestly be no compelling reason to seek out this one out.