Earth Vs The Flying Saucers (1956)

Earth Vs The Flying Saucers (1956)

Before You Scoff at Flying Saucers – See the Greatest SHOCK Film of All Time !

Operation Sky Hook is a project which is tasked with sending rockets into space to prepare for future space travel. However numerous rockets have been vanishing without explanation and it turns out that there is a fleet of flying saucers from a dying world ready to take over the planet. The aliens want a peaceful settlement but mankind responds the only way it can with gunfire and soon an intergalactic war is triggered. Traditional weapons have no effect on the seemingly indestructible flying saucers and so a team of scientists must find another way to stop them before the Earth is destroyed in 60 days.

 

It sounds a lot like another version of War of the Worlds and plays out almost the same way – indestructible aliens laying waste to everything in their path and a team of scientists desperately trying to find a solution before we become extinct. I’m always a sucker for this type of film no matter when they’re made. Countries around the world are too obsessed with building nukes and finding new ways to destroy each other and as a race we’ve always been excellent at destroying each other. We put so much trust and faith in our military to keep us safe from foreign threats. But just suppose that aliens do arrive on Earth one day with hostile intentions and our weapons become useless. What then? They’re clearly more advanced than us because they’re the ones who’ve come to our planet, not the other way around. We become helpless and vulnerable. Throughout mankind’s existence, we’ve always been too obsessed with fighting over small pieces of this planet and never looked to the bigger picture of the universe. These 50s films tap into that fear of society that we may be dominant with each other but what happens when we become the dominated? Anyway that was a bit of a rant and doesn’t have a lot to do with this review!

Earth Vs The Flying Saucers is a b-movie at heart and thus the budget is obviously struggling to match the ambitious project. Special effects are costly and time consuming and this film packs most of its pay-off into the finale which leaves little excitement for the rest of the film. These 50s sci-fi films are remembered for their iconic monsters or infamous screen shots but we forget just how dull and tiresome the rest of the films can be. Earth Vs The Flying Saucers is probably a bigger culprit than many. It’s filled with scientific jargon in an attempt to make everything credible and delivered by the actors as if their lives depended on it. It’s got the ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ military who always end up getting their asses kicked and thus uses the ability to recycle plenty of military stock footage. It’s got a really pointless love story at the heart of it too – come on we’re dealing with the end of the world, not marriage problems. There’s a narrator who explains what’s going on as the film skips over the course of a few days in the lead-up to the eventual invasion.

The bottom line is that humanity will see itself through at the end of the day (although more specifically America in this film). Good old fashioned American ingenuity and guile saves the day! I can see the positive messages being echoed throughout the film in clear attempts to gee the audience back then into rallying behind the country during the early days of the Cold War. The context may be extremely dated now but the overall story has been done so many times since (Mars Attacks! and Independence Day probably the two most high profile).

It was only early in his career but Ray Harryhausen was already making a name for himself with his special effects and people went to see these films for them, not for the actors or story. Tim Burton once famously quipped when he held one of the flying saucers, “you get more personality out of this than some of the actors” and he is true. Harryhausen pulls out all of the stops once again with some great stop motion animation and the rousing finale with the flying saucers unleashing hell on America is amazing. Stock footage, stop motion, location shooting and miniatures are all mixed together to create the wonderful illusion that these aliens are really taking apart America. Amongst the many famous landmarks that Harryhausen destroys are the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. We’re so used to seeing famous landmarks being destroyed in film nowadays that one can’t help but wonder just what the reaction to these scenes of destruction were like back in 1956. The saucers themselves are marvellous pieces of animation – spinning and rotating slowly enough to allow us a good look at them and brought to life with eerie sound effects.

 

It’s not a classic as in the same vein a sWar of the Worlds but some quality special effects keep the last third of Earth Vs The Flying Saucers quite intense and exciting. B-movie pulp at its 50s best.

 

 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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