Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956)

Directed by Fred F. Sears

Cinematography by

Fred Jackman Jr.

Plot

Scientist Dr. Russell Marvin (Hugh Marlowe) and his new bride Carol (Joan Taylor) are driving to work when a flying saucer appears overhead. Without proof of the encounter, other than a tape recording of the ship’s sound, Dr. Marvin is hesitant to notify his superiors. He is in charge of Project Skyhook, an American space program that has already launched 10 research satellites into orbit. General Hanley (Morris Ankrum), Carol’s father, informs Marvin that many of the satellites have since fallen back to Earth. Marvin admits that he has lost contact with all of them and privately suspects alien involvement. The Marvins then witness the 11th falling from the sky shortly after launch.

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When a saucer lands at Skyhook the next day, soldiers open fire, killing one exposed alien, while others and the saucer itself are being protected by a force field. The aliens then kill everyone at the facility but the Marvins; General Hanley is captured and taken away in the saucer. Now too late, Russell discovers and decodes a message on his tape recording from the aliens: they wanted to meet with Dr. Marvin and had landed in peace at Skyhook for that purpose. Now impatient to conduct that meeting because everything has gone sideways, Marvin contacts the aliens and steals away to meet them, followed closely by Carol and Major Huglin (Donald Curtis).

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They and a pursuing motorcycle cop are taken aboard a saucer, where they learn that the aliens have extracted knowledge directly from the General’s brain; he is now under their control. They claim to be the last of their species and have destroyed all the launched satellites, fearing them as weapons. As proof of their power, the aliens then give Dr. Marvin the coordinates of a naval destroyer that opened fire on them, and which they have since destroyed; the Marvins are then released with the message that the aliens want to meet the world’s leaders in 56 days in Washington, D.C., to negotiate an alien occupation.

Dr. Marvin’s later observations uncover the fact that the aliens’ protective suits are made of solidified electricity, and grant them advanced auditory perception. From other observations, Marvin develops a counter-weapon against their flying saucers, which he then later successfully tests against a single saucer. As they escape, the aliens jettison Gen. Hanley and the motor cycle cop; both fall to their deaths. Groups of alien saucers then attack Washington, Paris, London, and Moscow, but are destroyed by Dr. Marvin’s sonic weapon. The defenders also discover that the aliens can be easily killed by simple small arms gunfire once they are outside the force fields of their saucers.

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With the alien threat eliminated, Dr. Marvin and Carol quietly celebrate the victory by going back to their favorite beach, resuming their lives as newlyweds.

Quintessential Fifties Sci-Fi

28 October 2002 | by popgun9 (San Diego, California) – See all my reviews

There are no dull frames in this remarkable saucer invasion film set directly in the center of the fifties. Harryhausen met the challenge of animating flying machines. Sure enough, they whiz, spin, even wobble when need be. Saucers even have a protruding ray-gun device. The action begins during the credits and never lets up. Admittedly, it’s fifties. But it was impressive enough to heavily influence Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks. You can’t miss the references. Film is packed with clever and creative touches such as the tape recording including aliens speaking at a speed natural for them, but not for us on Earth. If you are not terribly put off by 50’s, black and white, and (god forbid) stop motion, you can’t go wrong with this quintessential sci-fi extravaganza.

evfs

Better-than-average ’50’s saucer flick

6/10
Author: WilliamTelevision from United States
24 February 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Ray Harryhausen should have received top billing in this film, since his superb stop-action animation is the real star here. None of this nonsense about wise and benevolent aliens a la “The Day the Earth Stood Still”! Here, the aliens are nasty and mean business. The mass saucer attack on Washington is a classic scene; swiped by everything from “Independence Day” to a TV commercial for a nationwide chain of fast-food restaurants. Although the saucer’s “magnetic propulsion” is scientific balderdash (Earth’s magnetic field is just about strong enough to swing a compass needle.); still it’s thrilling to see the military and the scientists racing around D.C. in 1-and-a-half ton trucks with diesel generators and “magnetic disruptor’s” mounted on the truck beds. (They look a bit like an out-sized Maxim machine gun.) When these are fired at an alien ship, it starts to wobble wildly until it falls and crashes. At one point, a saucer lands on the White House lawn in an attempt to kill or capture the President (Eisenhower) (gasp!) The aliens step out clad in silver spacesuits that act as powered exoskeletons that enable them to walk while under Earth’s gravity. Fortunately, these are magnetically powered like their ships and Hugh Marlowe (who played Patricia Neal’s lunkhead boyfriend in “The Day the Earth Stood Still”) arrives on the scene with one of those disruptor’s and drives them off.

There is an interesting scene earlier in the film where an alien is subdued and the helmet wrenched off of his suit. Before crumbling to dust in our atmosphere, you can see out-sized black eyes, no nose, and a slit-like mouth set in a light-bulb shaped head. I didn’t think this idea of an alien occurred to anybody until the 1970’s.

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Despite perfunctory acting and scientific howlers, this movie is still endearing, not only for the fine special effects (CGI is a bit too slick for me.), but also for an innocence that would soon be lost. For the following year after this film was made, the Soviet Union would shock America by launching the first artificial satellite (Sputnik I) into Earth orbit using the first ICBM. This meant that the Soviets could launch a nuclear warhead at the United States. From then until the Cuban Missile Crisis persuaded both sides to back down from hair-trigger postures, fears of nuclear war would put possible interplanetary war very much in the shade.

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