Friday, November 19, 2010

Earth vs the Flying Saucers (1956)

Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956) is an American black and white science fiction film, directed by Fred F. Sears and released by Columbia Pictures. The film is also known as Invasion of the Flying Saucers. It was ostensibly suggested by the non-fiction work Flying Saucers from Outer Space by Donald Keyhoe. The flying saucer effects were created by Ray Harryhausen The film is set in 1956, one year before the first satellite, Sputnik I, was launched into orbit around the Earth. "Project Skyhook," a proposed American space-exploration program to launch a dozen satellites, is visited by an alien flying saucer. A misunderstanding by the Earthlings leads to the aliens being fired upon, and they retaliate by destroying the project site, killing everyone except the two principal characters, Dr. and Mrs. Marvin (a scientist and his wife & secretary). The sequence of events quickly spirals out of control and leads to a full scale invasion. Flying saucers attack Washington, D.C., Paris, London, and Moscow. In the end, the alien saucers are defeated over the skies of Washington by a device using high-power sound coupled with an electric field that stops the saucers' propulsion systems. The movie special effects expert Ray Harryhausen animated the flying saucers in this movie. That may have been considered to be easier than the animated dolls used for the usual S.F. monsters, but Harryhausen also animated the falling stones when saucers crashed into buildings in order to make the action appear more realistic. Some figure animation was used to show the aliens emerging from the saucers. A considerable amount of stock footage was also used notably scenes during the invasion which showed batteries of U.S. 90 mm M3 guns and an early rocket launch, presumably standing in for the recently introduced Nike Ajax missile. Stock footage of the explosion of the warship HMS Barham during World War II was used to fill in for a U.S. Navy destroyer that is attacked by a flying saucer. The voice of the aliens was produced from a recording of Paul Frees reading the lines by jiggling the speed control of an analog reel-to-reel tape recorder, so that it continually wavered from a slow bass voice to one high and fast. During a question and answer period at a tribute to Harryhausen and a screening of Jason and the Argonauts held in Sydney, Australia, Harryhausen said he sought advice from noted 1950s UFO "contactee" George Adamski on the depiction of the flying saucers in the film, but he thought that Mr. Adamski grew increasingly paranoid as time went by. The iconic saucer design, a static central cabin with an outer rotating ring with slotted vanes, matches descriptions given to Donald Keyhoe of flying disk sightings.

FRED F. SEARS  (1956)
83 MIN

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