Earth vs. the Flying Saucers
Title: Earth vs. the Flying Saucers
Year Of Release: 1956
Running Time: 83 minutes
DVD Released By: Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment
Directed By: Fred F. Sears
Writing Credits: Bernard Gordon & George Worthing Yates (screenplay), Curt Siodmak ... (screen story)
Starring: Hugh Marlowe, Joan Taylor, Donald Curtis, Morris Ankrum
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Invasion of the Flying Saucers
Review Date: 4.27.18
Shadow's Title: "Earth vs. The Flying Morons"
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Russell A. Marvin – A scientist who heads up Operation Sky Hook, which is just a fancy name for a government program where observation satellites are being launched into orbit. Too bad someone keeps shooting them down as fast as they go up…and it’s not the Russians! Despite his high IQ, he doesn’t seem to be that smart. Why? Read on.
Carol Marvin - She was Russell’s secretary at Operation Sky Hook. For how long, who knows, but as the film opens, she and Russ have gotten married, which gives all new meaning to secretary’s day. I don’t know what the poor bastard was thinking when he married her. Now he will NEVER get away from her. Work? Home? He can’t get away!
Brigadier General Hanley – The top military officer working at Operation Sky Hook. He also happens to be Carol’s father. Now this shows just how short sighted Russ is. It’s bad enough that he now can’t get away from Carol, but if he screws anything up and upsets her, he’s got a freakin’ General out to nail his ass to the wall. He was just not thinking ahead at all.
Vice Admiral Enright – One of the top brass that deals with the threat from another world. If he looks familiar it’s because actor Thomas Browne Henry was featured in numerous genre films from the 50’s, playing a military officer more than once.
General Edmunds – Another one of the top brass that deals with the alien invasion. He was the bad cop to Enright’s good cop…though to be fair, he wasn’t really much of a bad cop. It’s not like he flew off the handle and had Russ imprisoned or summarily shot for disobeying orders, though I’m sure he would have been justified in doing so.
Major Huglin – He is assigned as Dr. Marvin’s “liason” to the military when everyone is still in the “committee decision making” stage. What this really means is that he is supposed to keep an eye on Russ, follow him around and make sure he stays where he is told to stay and does not get in trouble. At that, Huglin failed miserably.
Professor Kanter – When Russ gets an idea for a weapon to use against the aliens, this is one of the guys who helps him build it. He seemed like a decent guy, but as a scientist, he let his curiosity get the best of him. Why else get out of a car and go stomping through the woods when there are murderous aliens about? Unfortunately, he got vaporized.
Cutting – This is another one of the guys who helps out Russ in building and operating the new “magnetic disturbance” weapon AKA the Wobble Gun as I call it. Like poor Professor Kanter, this guy ends up quite dead for all his hard work, blown up along with their prototype weapon when the aliens disapprove of their design.
Dr. Alberts – After Russ recovers a helmet from a dead alien, this guy is the first to get to play with it in his lab. Luckily for all involved this guy has a few brains, as he easily finds a way to turn the alien technology to our advantage. Given enough time, and I’m sure this guy would have figured out how to send a self-destruct signal to the entire alien fleet via that one helmet. What a guy!
The Motorcycle Cop – This guy gives chase when he spots Huglin and Carol furiously racing after Russ as the latter heads for an alien rendezvous on the beach. Just doing his job, he follows them all the way into the flying saucer. He gets a bit jumpy after that, shooting at one of their translation crystals with his revolver. In turn, the aliens drain his mind of all information, rendering him a zombie.
|Aliens – These morons claim to come from a “disintegrated star system.” What the hell does that mean? They have poor sight and poor hearing and must rely on their technology to help them. They also appear to be old and emaciated, hinting at them being an old species on the verge of extinction. In essence, it was like being invaded by a small army of old folks with hearing aids and thick glasses.||CLOWN – UGH. Never seen but all too often heard, this moron starts talking when the screen is still black! All he does is provide a seemingly endless barrage of exposition to accompany all the stock footage thrown at us. Just when you think you’ve heard the last of him, he returns to put you to sleep. I think he has more lines of dialog that several of the actors.|
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Aw crap. The movie has not even started yet. I mean, we haven’t even seen a studio logo or anything…just a flat black screen and ALREADY there is a CLOWN talking. For the uninitiated, I will do the copy/paste trick from an earlier review to explain exactly what a CLOWN is:
A CLOWN is a Continuously Lurking Omniscient Wearisome Narrator. You know the type…they chime in unexpectedly, more often than not at a film’s beginning, to impart some piece of obscure arcana that the film’s producers thought was vital information relevant to the movie’s story. This is usually comprised of references to some past event involving atomic bombs, twisting known scientific principles into near unrecognizable technobabble to better fit the movie’s ideas or just prattling on aimlessly about a whole lot of nothing. CLOWNs have been known to interject their often near incoherent ramblings into the film in question at all manner of junctures – the beginning, throughout the middle as well as the end. In essence, they represent the producer’s contempt for the audience, personifying their efforts to explain things for the idiots the filmmakers perceive the audience to be (and often they are quite right). Thusly, CLOWNs infest B-Movies from the 1950’s at only a marginally lower degree than white trash at your local Walmart.
Of course CLOWNs are not to be confused with another breed of annoying narrator – the type that physically shows up in the film, usually only once and at the very beginning. Most times they are located within a laboratory or library of some kind and lecture the audience on all manner of pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo, occasionally opening a book or playing with their nearby chemistry sets in order to stress a point. These narrators are known as a PAIN or Pontificating Attendant Irksome Narrator. There is of course that rare specimen that is a mixture of the two breeds, but they are so seldom seen and heard that a name has yet to be coined for them.
So with a totally black screen, this is what the CLOWN says: “Since biblical times, man has witnessed and recorded strange manifestations in the sky and speculated on the possibilities of visitors from another world.” At this point, the screen transitions into a couple shots of stars and stellar gases superimposed over one another, as if the producers could not decide exactly which one to use and said, “screw it, we’re using both!”
The stars vanish and a stock footage shot of an USAF jet appears, quickly followed by a close up of the cockpit, showing the pilot as he gazes at a stop motion flying saucer off to his left. Mr. CLOWN pipes in again. “Today from the skies of California, the fields of Kansas, the rice paddies of the orient, the air lanes of the world come persistent reports of UFOs – Unidentified Flying Objects which we have come to know as flying saucers.” As he speaks we get several shots, including a flying saucer cruising over some farmer on his tractor, an Asian actor staring blankly into the sky and some folks on a commercial passenger plane freaking out as they gaze out the window at a flying saucer.
Suddenly a plaque on a wall is presented to us. It reads Air Intelligence Command Headquarters. “In Dayton, Ohio, the Air Intelligence Command gathers and sifts data from all quarters of the globe. Ninety-seven percent of the objects prove, on investigation to be of natural origin but three percent still are listed as unknown. The Air Force is aware of the widely held belief that some of these could be flying saucers from another planet. While there is nothing conclusive in the evidence the probing and digesting of information about UFOs continues unceasingly.” During that whole segment, we panned through a room of people at desks, each taking the report of some wide-eyed person describing what they saw, some of them gesturing wildly with their hands.
Another plaque comes up. This one reads Hemispheric Defense Command Headquarters. Now we see two high ranking officers in a room. One hands off a sheet of paper to the other and then stares out the nearby window. Cars driving by a beach can be seen in the distance, despite the location given by the CLOWN. “As a result, headquarters of the Hemispheric Defense Command in Colorado Springs issued an order. All military installations are to fire on sight at any flying object not identifiable. But even as they did so, the military wondered whether their scientific know-how and their best weapons would be effective in any battle of the EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS.” With that we get a title card and opening credits.
We now focus on a lone car driving through the desert. A sign on the side of the road warns that it is entering the Operation Sky Hook restricted area. In the car are Dr. Russell Marvin (who shall be referred to as Russ in this review) and his new wife (married for all of two hours), Carol. She’s driving and he’s sitting so close, he’s about to push her out the driver’s side door. He’s holding a portable reel to reel tape recorder, which in 1956 means he has a contraption the size of a small suitcase on his lap that probably weighs more than a medium size dog. As they cruise down the road, he begins to record a progress report about Operation Sky Hook. Carol chimes in and he puts aside the recorder and snuggles up even closer to her and starts kissing on her neck. Is this fool trying to cause an accident? I realize that they are in open desert, so it’s not like she’s gonna get distracted and run over an old lady crossing the street or lose control and mow down a kindergarten class on a field trip, but she could still end rolling the car if she..and he…are not careful.
There is some playful banter between the two as he continues to rub up on her and kiss her. Then she gets deadly serious and tells him that he’s starting something that he isn’t going to be able to finish. Well, it’s a certainty that they don’t have time to pull the car over for a quickie in the backseat, but he still has his tongue right? She still has a free hand, right? They could finish each other off and still keep driving. I guess not. What’s funny, is that the rear projection used during this scene shows that they pass another car. Since this is a restricted area controlled by the defense department, anyone going the same way would logically be going to the same place. Wouldn’t they know who was in that other car or at least recognize it? “Hey, there’s Harry and George” or maybe, “We just passed that slowpoke Rogers from the propulsion division, how about the irony in that?” or maybe even, “Who the hell is that? We better warn them they are entering a restricted area before they get shot.” But, nope. No acknowledgement of the other vehicle.
So citing his hot date with a three stage rocket, Russ returns to his report and turns on the tape recorder again. He babbles on about the project he’s working on to shoot exploratory rockets into space. Carol must be a serious lead foot, as the car they passed vanishes into the distance behind them. She is really hauling ass. As Russ speaks about unmanned observation posts being launched into space via rockets, we get some stock footage of rockets launching. Then we get treated to an animation showing how these observation satellites will orbit the earth and collect data for mankind’s eventual ascension into space. Russ remarks how at this point they have launched ten satellites, but before he can continue he stops and asks Carol if she hears something.
BOOM. Out of nowhere a flying saucer descends from the sky and begins tailgating them, cruising along at just a few feet off the ground. It flies overhead and travels ahead of the car for a short spell before buzzing the vehicle and vanishing back up into the sky. The flying saucer is pretty cool looking. Not just some cheap cup, bowl or hubcap suspended from wires, but an actual stop motion model with a spinning outer section. Carol stops the car and they both watch the saucer as it zooms away. Carol has the presence of mind to switch off the recorder (CLUE!) and then they discuss what they saw and if it was really what they thought they saw. They continue on, only with Russ behind the wheel.
They arrive at the location for Operation Sky Hook, which at this point looks like your run of the mill military base that is NOT located in the desert. Indeed, the sand seen on the side of the road when they stopped earlier looks more like the sand you'd find at the beach than in the desert. Then they descend some steps to where they work, which judging from all the pipes, must be in the very heart of a water treatment system. Damn, it must smell like shit down there. Alas, they wind up in a room filled with your standard 50’s scientific gear: lots of large machines with dials and blinking lights. Carol sits at a desk, transcribing Russ’s report with a typewriter. It is now that they realize the sound of the flying saucer was captured by the recorder. A voice over a loudspeaker then announces that “rocket number 11 will be launched in 20 minutes.” Leaving the recording for now, they both leave for the bunker.
Elsewhere, a General Hanley’s car is arriving at the gate to Operation Sky Hook and he is in a big hurry. The poor guard has to tell him that no one is allowed in right now, as a rocket is about to be launched. However, that is exactly what the General is here to stop. He wants to speak to Russ, so the guard calls bunker number two, where Russ is located.
Russ gets on the phone and it is now that we learn that General Hanley is Carol’s father and that he has just returned from Panama. We also learn that they have not told the general that they are married. GULP. When the general finds out, he might have Russ shot, especially since Russ has to deny the general’s request to stop the next launch. Carol gets on the phone and tells her dad that she and Russ got married the previous night, but before we can see the general’s full reaction, she has to hang up as there are just seconds left until launch. She tells her dad to come over for dinner that night. She and Russ then watch the stock footage rocket lift off via wall monitor.
Evening rolls around and we see General Hanley at Russ and Carol’s place. Well, I suppose it was just Russ’s place until last night. Unless the two had been shacking up for some time, but given the moral attitudes of the 50’s, this is most likely not the case. It might of happened in real life, but not in reel life. Since Russ isn’t riddled with bullet holes, I can assume the general was okay with his marrying his daughter. Hanley is remarking on how Operation Sky Hook has not worked out the way the defense department has hoped. It turns out that out of 11 rockets sent up, they are only in contact with the last one. Hanley tells Russ that it because the others are no longer in orbit. It was not a meteorite he went to investigate in Panama. It was the crashed remains of satellite number 7. He informs Russ of the crash locations of several of the others, noting that the ones not found were probably lost at sea. Russ wants to know what is happening to them and the general says that they “apparently blow up in outer space.” Well, no shit, Sherlock. Russ says that they should stay up for a very long time unless…unless someone is shooting them down as fast as they send them up. Hanley says that no gun in the world can shoot that high.
Before they can speak any more on the subject, Carol calls them outside to eat. Looks like grilled burgers are on the dinner menu. Sounds good! The General makes it known that he is very pleased that Russ and Carol are now married. So it looks like Russ is in no danger of having his ass shipped off to Shanghai. They sit down to eat and Hanley asks Russ about his earlier comment regarding someone or something shooting down the satellites. Russ and Carol then tell him about the flying saucer that played chicken with them and invite him to the lab the following day to hear the recording.
Along about now, an MP pulls up in a jeep. That is NEVER a good sign. It either means you just lost a loved one, you have to go somewhere dangerous that you really don’t want to go or budget cuts require you to be fired. Alas, this guy just has a report for Russ from the officer on monitor duty at Operation Sky Hook, so I guess the news isn’t catastrophic. Russ reads the message and reports that they just lost contact with satellite number 11. I knew it! I told you it was bad news!
General Hanley now points out two strange lights in the sky, that look nothing more like dinner plates hovering over Dr. Marvin’s house. Carols calls them Foo lights and Russ says it is similar to St. Elmo’s fire (no, not that cheesy brat pack movie) and that the best they can determine, they are caused by electric particles disturbed by moving air. Carol notes that they have been so common around the project over the last few days, they are easy to overlook. Then she says that satellite number 11 ought to be visible about now on its second lap around the world. They all look up and sure enough there it is…plummeting to earth like a meteorite. What excellent timing.
Hanley is sure that Russ won’t send up rocket number 12 the next day, but Russ says that he has to, only this time he’s going to make sure the rocket is outfitted with cameras and a microphone so he can find out what the hell is going on. They all sit back down to eat their dinner.
The next day they install and test the cameras for rocket 12. Russ then shows Hanley how the lab has now been soundproofed. As Hanley leaves to watch the launch from a tower, Carol is arriving with a bag full of groceries. She and Russ are going to stay in their underground lab and take turns monitoring rocket 12, for days if they have to. Never mind the food, I just hope they have some deodorant and toilet paper in that bag as well…along with a place in that subterranean maze of corridors and pipes to take a crap. At least with the lab now soundproofed, they can engage is some wild and LOUD monkey sex and not have to worry about people investigating.
So with five minutes to go until launch, the movie rolls out more stock footage of rockets, launch pads, busy control centers and what not. Soon enough a UFO is detected and some guy named Evans in an observation tower is contacted about it. Hanley shows up in the same tower and then Evans informs him of the UFO. The phone rings and it turns out the sentry at the west gate is reporting a flying saucer. Confirmation comes in of the saucer and soon enough we see it passing over the Operation Sky Hook installation, which surprisingly looks like a big water reclamation plant more than a place where rockets are launched. Hanley tries to contact Russ and Carol down in their lab, but the line is dead.
The saucer comes in for a landing, which involves in hovering not far off the ground, its outer section still spinning and then a central column descending to ground level. A door opens and three bipedal figures emerge. There is a shimmering effect in the air that extends from the center to the outer edge of the spinning section. Hanley and Evans emerge from the observation tower and hide behind a parked jeep.
One of the alien figures emerges from the shimmering section of air, but before it can take more than a few steps, some bozos fire off a sizable gun mounted on the back of a truck. This thing would have been called a cannon in earlier times. The first shot hits the figure and it instantly falls over. Subsequent shots hit the shimmering air and do nothing. “They’ve set up an electronic screen,” Hanley remarks as the artillery shells just bounce off the shimmering energy shield protecting the saucer. More soldiers arrive and take up firing positions.
Having had enough of this extremely rude greeting, one of the alien figure raises an elbow-less arm and projects an energy beam from the end. One shot takes out the entire artillery unit, men, truck and gun. They just seem to dissolve into nothing. Another shot kills the four soldiers who just arrived, leaving nothing behind. Then the two standing aliens retrieve their fallen comrade and return to the confines of their saucer.
In the lab, Russ and Carol realize that all lines to the outside have gone silent. They watch on the monitor as rocket 12 topples over on the launch pad and explodes. Now super pissed off, one of the alien figures uses its arm weapon to blast the shit out of everything nearby. Entire buildings go kablooey from a single shot from this one small weapon. In the process, Hanley and Evans are knocked unconscious from one of the explosions. One of the aliens walks over to where they are laid out on the ground. Russ and Carol try to escape from the underground lab, but the door to the surface won’t open. They’re trapped!
The flying Saucer leaves, having reduced Operation Sky Hook into Operation Ground Rubble. Inside, General Hanley awakens to find himself in a chamber that looks larger than the outside of the saucer, having been abducted by the aliens. A strange device that looks like a glowing crystal attached to a pole descends from the ceiling. This is a translation device, a wobbly sounding voice now explains aloud in English. Two small panels open in a far wall, revealing a pair of aliens. The ET’s want to know why, after contacting Dr. Marvin, they were met with violence when they arrived at Operation Sky Hook. Well, this is Earth, you dolts, don’t you realize that for we humans, it’s instinct to lash out at anything that scares us?
Hanley explains that Marvin only heard meaningless sounds. The aliens had “hoped a sufficient adjustment for the time differential” between them and humans would have been made. Hanley refuses to say anything more other than his name and rank. The aliens probe his mind (better than his ass) with some type of beam of light, perhaps wondering if they have mistakenly captured a moron rather than one of our military leaders.
Back in the lab, Russ is dictating a report into his recorder, detailing the known facts about the destruction of rocket 12 at Operation Sky Hook. As far as he can tell, he and his new bride are the only ones left alive. The air is becoming toxic and he fears that he and Carol might not survive, so he wants whoever finds this recording to have all the facts, including the sound of the saucer from the previous day. As he finishes up and sets the recorder to playback, the battery starts to weaken. The gas generator powering the emergency lights also craps out, leaving them in the dark with only a flashlight to see.
The sound on the recorder begins to slow down as the battery dies, but now, rather than hear the saucer sound, they hear a voice saying that it is vital they meet and that they will appear at Operation Sky Hook at noon the next day. Russ realizes that the message was originally sent by the aliens at an accelerated speed and it is only now that the recorder's battery is dying, that the playback is slow enough to discern the message. If he’d only figured it out before, they might not find themselves trapped. Fade out.
Fade in. The Los Angeles Times headline reads SKYHOOK WIPED OUT! A smaller headline notes that two survivors were rescued. We must assume that these two were Russ and Carol. What I find interesting are some of the smaller bits of text that can be seen on the newspaper:
Governor Returns – Visit to Capitol Proves Success, State to Receive Federal Aid. Yeah, as long as it has nothing to do with sanctuary cities.
Court Seeks Adjournment – Vital Evidence Expected to Arrive Here Next Week. And then promptly lost, no doubt.
Gem Thieves Strike in London Fog. What are they striking for, better health benefits?
New Petitions Against Tax – Claims Business Tax is Excessive and Unjustified. Are we sure there isn’t some guy named Trump behind this one?
Two Oklahoma Convicts Shoot Guard and Escape. Anyone leaving Oklahoma is considered to have escaped.
Traffic Toll at New High – Deaths Mount for Week Despite Police Action. What, protest the rise in tolls and the cops shoot you dead? These days the “police action” usually causes more deaths than preventing them, especially if you’re a minority holding a phone and otherwise minding your own business.
Okay, so back to the movie. The Daily News headline reads Skyhook Disaster Unexplained – Hold “Mystery Force” to Blame. Is “Mystery Force” anything like “Mystery Inc?” Do they solve mysteries? Do they drive around in a van? More importantly, do they have a talking Great Dane?
The Chicago Daily Tribune headline reads Full Investigation of Skyhook Calamity Underway. Now, is that really news worthy of a giant headline? It’s a foregone conclusion that after such a tragedy, there are going to be multiple ongoing investigations. Is that really something that needs a headline, though? No, the attention grabbing headline is used for the tragedy itself. The follow-up action doesn’t require one. What’s next, a headline that reads, “Officials Pause Investigation to Take Crap?” That’s about as newsworthy.
Shit. He’s back. I really thought he was a one and done type of CLOWN, but I was wrong. As we see the headlines, he starts blabbering away. “What had snuffed out hundreds of lives and leveled an installation worth millions of dollars? An aroused public demanded an answer (insert your own juvenile joke here) and the federal government dedicated the strength of all its branches to the task of finding one. However when Dr. Marvin and his wife were rescued the answer was to be found in the experience of the only two human survivors and in the reel of tape recording they carried to Washington, DC and the Pentagon.” Throughout this speech we see government officials in big rooms, scientists playing with Geiger counters, Russ and Carol on a passenger plane plus stock footage of planes, Washington and the Pentagon.
At the Pentagon, Russ plays the alien message for a room full of politicians and military leaders, including Vice Admiral Enright and General Edmunds. He explains the aliens’ desire for a meeting and if there was not to be one, the signal the humans were supposed to have sent to signify this. Russ is getting frustrated, as he and Carol have told their story a zillion times before every commission, committee and review board in Washington. It seems the top officials are not all sold on the idea that a flying saucer destroyed Operation Sky Hook. The strange voice and set of instructions could have come from anywhere. However, some of the leaders believe his story, but any decision on how to respond must be made at the cabinet level.
Russ wants to make radio contact with the aliens and set up another meeting. The brass want to wait for the secretaries of state and defense to return from their foreign locations before undertaking any action, though they will certainly recommend that Russ be the one to contact the ETs when the time comes. The meeting is adjourned, but they want Russ to stay at his hotel, as he may be needed at any time. A Major Huglin is assigned as his liaison. That is the polite way of saying that it’s Huglin’s job to keep an eye on Russ.
As Russ leaves, Huglin explains that he doesn’t like his watchdog duty any more that Russ does, it’s just that he has a job to do. Russ apologizes and shakes Huglin’s hand, explaining that he is just tired and worried. Huglin agrees to the urgency of the situation but also believes in following the chain of command, as the scenario may be too big to allow for any mistakes.
Russ arrives back at the hotel to find Carol asleep. Then he sneaks over to the transmitter that he just happens to have in his room and using the frequency mentioned in the alien message, puts out a call to the ETs. I’d think that if the authorities did not want him to make contact yet, they would have confiscated his radio/transmitter. Someone dropped the ball big time.
The aliens answer the call. They confirm the local time and tell him where and when to meet them. He tries to tell them that he can’t make it today, but perhaps in a few days’ time they can meet, but they either ignore him or have turned off the receiver at their end. About now Carol wakes up. She wants to know where he got the radio. He says that he just got it today, under the hopes that he would be given the go ahead to use it. AHA! So he obtained it without the authorities’ knowledge. Somebody still dropped the ball, though as he should never have been allowed to get his hands on it. Carol doesn’t want him to go, after already losing her dad and with Russ being under orders to stay put, but he leaves anyway, figuring he has just enough time to make it to the rendezvous.
Carol instantly gets on the phone with Major Huglin, who advises her to call the garage and tell them to not give Russ his car. This is what happens when Russ arrives in the garage. The attendant tries to stop him, but Russ punches him, then jumps in his car and races away. Huglin arrives, jumps in his own car and with a quick stop to pick up Carol, follows him. She tries calling him on the radio, but Russ won’t answer.
By now they’ve left the city behind and are out on some secluded country roads, racing along fast enough to get the attention of a motorcycle cop, who wastes no time in giving chase. What I want to know is why didn’t Huglin call the authorities much earlier and set up any kind of roadblock to keep Russ from leaving the city? At the very least he could have gotten several more cars to join the chase. Maybe even a helicopter, too. I think if anyone has dropped the ball tonight, its Huglin.
Russ arrives at the beach. He stops, gets out and walks out onto the sand. There, not too far away is an alien saucer, parked and still. What's odd is that when we get a close up of Russ, he walks past something that casts a shadow over him, but in the wide shot, there isn't anything visible for hundreds of feet that could have done that. Huglin and Carol arrive, quickly followed by the cop. Huglin wants them all to leave, but that wobbly alien voice invites ALL of them inside. The outer part of the saucer begins to spin, preparing for lift off. After another verbal invitation, all four walk into the central column, which raises them up to the big chamber we saw earlier. A view screen shows them rapidly moving away from Earth. Carol remarks how it happened in just seconds. She's still dressed in her sleepwear. How very Arthur Dent of her.
The two aliens appear from behind their panels in the wall and tell Russ to check his watch. He does and finds that it has stopped. When told to feel his pulse, Russ finds that he has none. Neither do the others. The aliens explain that they operate within a different time reference. All this is happening between the ticks of his watch and the beats of their hearts. Russ realizes this is why they didn’t receive the message earlier. It was transmitted at too high a speed to be heard.
The aliens now state that this is why they had to defend themselves at Sky Hook. What? You call that defending yourselves? I realize that the humans opened fire first and one of the aliens took a hit and fell, but did they have to “defend” themselves by destroying the entire base and slaughtering hundreds of people? Talk about an overreaction. That’s like getting one bee sting and then wiping out the whole hive out of spite. I think Russ and the others had better realize that these aliens are extremely touchy.
Russ comes to another realization: the aliens are responsible for shooting down all eleven rockets that were launched. The aliens admit that they had not realized that they were just “primitive” observation posts and thought maybe they were weapons directed against them. Okay, that confirms it. These aliens are MORONS. You have the technology to travel interstellar space, but are afraid of some primitive rockets that you can easily outmaneuver and evade? MORONS. Your ships are protected by energy screens that prevent projectile weapons from impacting on their hulls, yet you don’t bother to observe the rockets launched from the surface, since you were never in any danger to begin with? IDIOTS. You can translate Earth languages to communicate with Humans but you cannot monitor transmissions and realize that WE DON’T EVEN KNOW YOU FUCKING EXIST?! There are not the words in any language to convey the sheer level of idiocy, the colossal short sightedness and the magnitude of self-importance that these fools possess. With qualifications like that, do you think maybe one of them might wanna make a run for President?
Russ asks who they are and where they are from. They claim to be the survivors of a “disintegrated” solar system. The remainder of their fleet is now circling the Earth. We now get shots of flying saucers travelling over major cities of the world. They are awaiting a signal that will tell them where to land. They want Russ to convince the world leaders to meet with them in Washington. Their ultimate goal is to take over. They demonstrate this by destroying a naval ship with 300 men on board. They figure that with their superiority in firepower and speed, the people of Earth will see the foolishness of resisting them and just turn over control to these fools. Boy, do they have another thing coming. We have our OWN fools in power, thank you very much! They know that Human history is replete with populations capitulating to a stronger force.
The humans want to know how they know so much about us, to which they explain that they have their means of learning. The aliens want the humans to test their knowledge and ask them any question. Huglin asks what the size of the U.S. armed forces is and a new voice gives him (for that time) a correct answer. The cop asks what team has won the most World Series. The same voice answers, “The New York Yankees” (still true to this day I might add). Eventually Carol realizes that the voice sounds familiar. When Russ asks, “who are you?” the answer comes back as “John Hanley.”
General Hanley now comes walking into the chamber, stiff and zombie-like with a blank look on his face, like he just saw Phyllis Diller naked and has been traumatized into catatonia. The aliens explain that Hanley has been subjected to a machine called an “infinitely indexed memory bank.” All knowledge in his brain has been transferred to their machine, leaving the poor General a mindless, drooling, zombie…perfect qualifications to now run for public office. The cop now pulls out his gun and fires a single shot at the glowing translation crystal, which then emits a beam and scans his brain like it did earlier with the General. Soon enough, the cop is another mindless zombie (at least we now know where many Trump supporters came from).
The aliens want Russ to set up the meeting with Earth’s leaders and give him 56 days to do so. Carol, ever the illogical, overly emotional female that 50’s cinema would have us believe that all women are like, cannot believe that Russ is going to cooperate with “these monsters” and feels that the aliens should just kill them now and be done with it. Hold on there, toots! I don’t know about you, but I’d want to live and try and fight, not give up like some pussy. Russ is still unsure the authorities will believe him, so the aliens give him the coordinates of the destroyed naval vessel to help convince them. They also say that they will return General Hanley and the police officer at a later time. Fade out.
Next we see Russ, Carol and Huglin meeting with some military top brass, including Vice Admiral Enright and General Edmunds, who evidently don't believe their wild tale of being taken for a ride in a flying saucer. As for the naval vessel, contact has been lost with one in the Atlantic, but there is no conclusive proof that it has been sunk. There is lots of talk at this point. Huglin points out that atomic weapons might work, but would only destroy their own cities. Russ claims to have an idea for a new weapon now that he has an idea of how the alien technology operates: an ultrasonic gun. Gee, where have I seen that before? Russ thinks he can build one in the time allotted before the aliens return for their meeting.
About now a messenger comes in and gives a note to Enright. Word has just come in that the destroyer Franklin Edison was sunk at the very same coordinates that Russ provided earlier. Seeing as how shit just got real, Enright tells Russ to get to work on his weapon right away while Edmunds tells him that Huglin will see to it that he gets whatever material and facilities is required. Talk about having a blank check! Maybe he can squeeze a motorcycle, a new TV and some stereo equipment in there amongst all the other scientific doodads he will be requesting.
Next we see Russ and Carol at work in a big lab somewhere with other scientists. They are focused on Russ’ new contraption, which just looks like a bulky satellite dish. Major Huglin drops by to see how things are progressing and Carol tells him that they nearly burned the place down about an hour earlier. Ready for another test, Russ aims the weapon at a big cement block several feet away. With the weapon powered up all the way, it emits an electronic sound and then reduces the block to dust, blowing out the power generator in the process.
Russ now launches into a speech about how this was the type of weapon that the aliens used to destroy Skyhook, but unfortunately, they just don’t have the means of replicating the technology for themselves. Maybe in a few years, but at this point all they have left is twenty-seven days. A Professor Kanter now speaks up and mentions a suggestion from a Dr. Patek in New Delhi. Rather than trying to duplicate the alien ultrasonic devices, they should find a way to interrupt their ships' magnetic field by projecting a highly intermittent induced electrical field. This causes Russ to jump in excitement and start planning what they’ll need. Fade out.
Fade in. SHIT. He’s back. The CLOWN returns again to bore us into near unconsciousness. “From all parts of the globe, under top priority came every facility and scientific help the governments of the world could furnish. Dr. Marvin and his staff assembled these necessary materials in a concealed laboratory where they were to translate a short experience in the craft from outer space into a formula, then plans and finally a functioning reality.” While he blathers on we see planes, trains and automobiles transferring material, then engineers drawing up blue prints, then scientists playing with their machines and tesla coils.
Returning to the lab, we see everyone gathered for another test. They use a steel ball to play the part of an alien saucer and using magnets, suspend it in midair, Then utilizing their new gizmo, they aim it at the ball and turn it on. This cancels out the magnetic pull and the steel ball yields to gravity. So in theory, this weapon will cause alien saucers to drop out of the sky like dead birds.
Remember those foo lights that Russ, Carol and her dad spied early in the film? Well, one of those can be spotted hovering around the ceiling of the lab. Huglin throws something at it, but it dodges and then buzzes over them. Next, Huglin produces his pistol and shoots it. Hitting it, it explodes and falls to the floor. They theorize that it was some type of alien surveillance drone, so knowing that they have little time, they all rush to get their new weapon to Washington.
With the gun loaded onto a truck, they prepare to head out when an alien saucer comes flying over nearby. The humans jump in their vehicles and drive down the road a short way and then stop. They look back at the lab as the saucer lands and a lone alien emerges. It then walks stiffly into the lab. Russ thinks this might be a good time to test their weapon. However, generator technician Cutting cannot get the power generator started. Another two aliens exit the saucer and head into the lab. Carol thinks it is more important that Russ and the plans for the weapon get to Washington. About now, Cutting finally gets the generator started.
Russ aims it at the saucer and the spinning section starts to wobble. Two of the aliens return to their craft. Cutting increases the power to the weapon just as the craft tries to fly away. It wobbles even more in the air before it finally gets away. However, it left behind the first alien to enter the building. It exits the lab and then walks into the woods where it encounters Professor Kanter, who for some reason decided to get out of the parked car and go traipsing through the trees. Bad idea, dude. The alien points its arms at Kanter and fires off its weapon, disintegrating the poor SOB. The only thing left behind is the cane that he dropped.
Huglin, Russ and Carol walk over to the steaming soil where Kanter just bought the farm. When they do so, the alien fires at the truck containing the weapon, destroying it along with poor Cutting. Huglin then fires a rifle several times at the lone alien, causing it to keel over dead. Russ and Huglin turn the body over, noting how it is as light as a feather. They remove the bulky helmet, revealing a withered, humanoid creature. As they watch, the body disintegrates into dust. Russ wants to get the empty suit to a lab. Never mind the people dying all around him or the aliens actively trying to reduce his ass to paste. He’s suddenly as giddy as a sailor with a hundred bucks and a box of condoms after a year at sea. You can almost see the excitement in his eyes at the prospect of examining the alien armor in a lab somewhere.
Along about now a bomber approaches, having been called in when the saucer first appeared a few moments ago. Too bad their new weapon is toast. Able to freely move around without fear of being hit by the wobble gun, the saucer destroys the plane in an extravaganza of stock footage, stop motion models and poorly matted shots. It then destroys the lab before taking several shots at Russ, Carol and Huglin as they flee through the woods. All it manages to do is start a forest fire. Boy, is Smokey gonna be pissed.
Before flying away, the saucer opens its door and two bodies are ejected to fall to the ground. It’s the zombified bodies of General Hanley and the motorcycle cop. Zombified or not, the bodies cannot survive such a fall. The aliens didn’t even land before tossing them out of the ship, just heaved them out like yesterday’s garbage. Those bastards! Needless to say, Carol is near inconsolable. Hey, at least the bodies are in one piece and didn’t go SPLAT upon hitting the ground. That will make for a much better funeral.
Sometime later, everyone gathers in a lab with a Doctor Alberts, who has been examining the alien helmet recovered by Russ. The helmet has a translation device within it, which looks like a smaller version of the big glowing crystal thingie on board the alien ships. Carol tests it by quoting some Shakespeare and hearing the gibberish that it produces. Alberts got the bright idea of reading the dictionary into it, word by word. This arduous process allowed them to hear the alien equivalent of each word. This in turn allowed them to listen to alien messages and then translate them back into English. Pretty smart!
So they now play back some of the translated messages that they have intercepted. What mysterious knowledge do they contain? What secrets of time and space will now be revealed? The means of interstellar travel? How to marry Einstein Physics with Quantum Mechanics? How to get those little ships inside of a bottle? Well, it’s nothing special, just a message about regrouping and then some notes on astrological bodies that probably refer to a time table of sort, it’s just that no one can figure it out. Needless to say, trouble is on the way.
Vice Admiral Enright notes that a new, stronger wobble gun (okay, that’s not the name they gave, it’s just what I call it after the effect it has on the alien saucers, they call it the interference machine) is under construction, but the range of the weapon is only good for about 1500 yards. Sheesh, you better hope the aliens decide to fly low enough so you can shoot them! One would think that after one or two saucers were lost to this weapon and the aliens would start flying higher, out of range…but then again, these aliens ARE colossal idiots, so you never know.
Russ now asks if anyone tried on the alien helmet. Alberts says yes, and invites him to try it on for himself. The object is extremely light, yet surprisingly tough. The theory is that it is solidified electricity and the thing seems to resist everything they’ve tried on it. Too bad the rest of the alien’s outfit wasn’t made of the same material. I seem to recall Huglin shooting one a few times and it keeling over dead, so apparently they only use the good stuff on their helmets. Must be a supply issue or something. So Russ tries on the helmet and finds that it amplifies his senses, especially sight and hearing – though to be fair, the view we get of what he sees from inside the helmet makes it look more like he’s on LSD than wearing some high tech alien device. They theorize that the alien’s poor sight and hearing denotes that they have their weaknesses. Maybe they just come from a planet with a thin atmosphere and little sun light? Have they ever thought of that? No? Shocking. Russ wants to know how long before they are ready (presumably with the new wobble guns) and General Edmunds says that they will need at least a couple of weeks.
"PEOPLE OF EARTH, ATTENTION." A loud, wobbly voice speaks.
Well, it looks like they are not going to get those two weeks. The aliens have somehow tapped into every loudspeaker on the planet and are now broadcasting a warning to all mankind in that wobbly voice they use. No, it’s not an admonition to give up the ridiculous notion that Dane Cook is actually funny, but a message about solar flares and eight days and nights of “meteorological convulsions.” After that they expect all the world leaders to meet with them in Washington DC. Noting their arrogance for announcing their plans in advance, Russ says that they are coming down to take over, just like they made clear to him earlier and that they want to frighten mankind with a display of power. He feels that the aliens expect mankind to roll over in capitulation when they land.
We now get a short montage showing people around the world as they listen to the alien message in their native language. Germany, Japan, Russia, France, Spain or Italy, and England are all shown.
Shit! He’s back again. The CLOWN returns and while he tries his best to put us to sleep, we get more shots of people around the globe listing to the alien message. “In every country of the world, in every language, every means of electronic communication was jammed with the message. The warning was dinned into the ears of the Earth’s population unceasingly for twelve hours. And after the twelfth hour, silence. Then a tremendous explosion on the surface of the sun.” After all that, we get some stock footage of a solar flare.
I suppose the aliens did something to the sun to cause the solar flare, hoping to terrify humanity with their power. If too many people looked at the sun when this happened, it’s more likely that they just blinded most of humanity. Maybe that was their intention! Blind us so that we couldn’t see to fight back. Of course, it would be tragically ironic if their calculations were wrong and rather than causing a large solar flare for dramatic effect, they created one so big that it incinerated the earth and their ships along with it. D’oh!
Now everyone is gathered again in an office somewhere (presumably at the Pentagon). Enright gets the word that the solar activity will play havoc with the earth’s weather for the next eight days. Real wrath of god type stuff: heavy storms, tidal waves, hurricanes, dogs and cats living together…mass hysteria! Such conditions are going to make final preparations a real pain. Russ is to oversee the completion of the wobble guns and plans for the evacuation of Washington DC have been formed. With nine days left until the aliens arrive, the group disperses, each to their assigned duty.
Russ’s assigned duty must be to go home and bang the wife, as we see him enter a room where Carol is dressed in a nightgown. The two embrace and kiss. Alas, it’s a good-bye kiss. He has to leave immediately for Aberdeen, Maryland, where the wobble gun is being built. She will have to leave the city along with the rest of the evacuees. He wants her to go to Palm Springs, to some place they had planned to go together, only now it will be just her. Naturally, she wants to stay, but he insists she go. Then he grabs his shit and leaves.
Guess who’s back? If you guessed “the CLOWN” then you’d be right. “First of man’s vital communications to suffer were the shipping lanes and airways. Then transport by rail and highway ground to a halt. When the telephone and telegraph systems had failed and the radio networks were forces to bear the burden alone they, too, succumbed to interference known to originate in the increasing disturbance in the sun. The world, crippled by these events waited for the first sign of an invasion from outer space.” Through all this we get lots of stock footage shots of bad weather. Ships in stormy seas, planes in stormy weather, trucks on flooded roads, you name it.
Now we get shots of crowds of people walking, buses being loaded up with civilians, crowded freeways and more mases of people walking down city streets. This is supposed to be the evacuation of Washington, but non one looks remotely terrified or in much of a hurry. It looks more like any average city’s daily commute. “Because of the atmospheric violence it was not until the ninth day that an orderly evacuation of the city of Washington could be attempted. Although the authorities and the military worked miracles, when the tenth day dawned more than sixty percent of the people of Washington were still in the metropolitan area.”
So time is now up. The aliens are gonna arrive at any moment, but who shows up first? Carol, at Vice Admiral Enright’s office. She claims the planes were grounded before she could get to Palm Springs. She asks if he has heard from Russ, but he says no. With all the lines down, there has been no word from Aberdeen, but he is expecting a courier at any moment. Just then sirens begin sounding all over the city. Not just any sirens, but those loud, long wails from an air raid siren, which denotes something remarkably bad is heading for the city, like enemy planes or Godzilla or the Spice Girls on a reunion tour.
With that we get a shitload more stock footage. Radar dishes spinning (aaah, flashbacks), men running for their duty stations, jets lifting off, artillery prepped and pointed toward the sky, guys at large plotting tables tracking the movement of alien saucers and what not. A flying saucer fires at some stock footage planes, destroying two. This was done quite cleverly. The actual footage was of two fighter jets colliding in midair, then exploding and crashing. The producers just matted in the alien weapon beam so that it appeared as if it was a responsible for the disaster. Missiles are fired at the saucers, but they just detonate harmlessly when they hit the “electronic screens” surrounding the ships. It’s funny because the same stock footage rocket zooming skyward is hauled out twice to denote multiple missile launches. Ground artillery opens fire, but nothing can stop the saucers. The shots of ground artillery shooting at a saucer above had me flashing back to the old Atari 2600 game Laser Blast from Activision. Of course, in that game the player takes the part of the saucer in sort of a reverse Space Invaders. I played the crap out of that game as a kid and actually hit the ending point of 999.999 points. Yeah, I had no life then, I have no life now. Nothing has changed.
Enright gets the word that the aliens are breaking through their defenses, so he orders all aircraft grounded. He sends Carol to a shelter, but before she can leave the phone rings (they're working again!) and Enright relays to her the news: truck convoys from Aberdeen are taking up positions all over the city. Her husband’s group is near the Pentagon. She thanks him and leaves.
Note - It is at this point that the movie enters its final segment, so if any of you really feel the need to watch this film and not know the ending ahead of time, skip the rest of this section.
Lots of shots of saucers flying over Washington ensue. There are also plenty of shots of people running in a panic, one of which I’m sure was lifted from The Day The Earth Stood Still. A group of vehicles is now seen, one truck outfitted with a big wobble gun. I guess in this case it might be better to call it a Wobble Cannon. It takes up position, aims at a nearby Saucer and activates. The Saucer wobbles through the sky and then crashes into the Potomac. Lots more shots of artillery fire, saucers zooming about and people running.
The Pentagon takes a hit, knocking Carol on her ass. She gets up and leaving her purse behind (She’s gonna regret that) runs outside. Nearby the fallen saucer floats at an angle in the Potomac. She rushes over to where Russ and his group are, but before she can explain why she is not in Palm Springs, they are called away to the White House where a saucer is buzzing around. Meanwhile, saucers continue to fly around and shoot at any structure taller than three or four stories.
A saucer arrives at the White House about the same time a truck with a Wobble Cannon shows up. Before it can target the saucer, the alien craft fires at it with its disintegrator and the truck and cannon are toast. The saucer then lands on the lawn and two aliens emerge. Soldiers nearby shoot at them, but get disintegrated. Russ and gang arrive and the saucer lifts off, destroying a poor sap in the jeep in which they were riding, but the Wobble Cannon works its magic and the ship spins out of control and crashes down a city street…seemingly landing right on top of some poor shmuck in a convertible.
Russ jumps in the now driver-less truck with Carole and they are off again. We see a saucer destroy a building and I know for a fact that the shot of the building exploding was taken from The War of the Worlds. Elsewhere a Wobble Cannon drops another saucer, which crashes into what looks like a warehouse. Russ stops near the Washington Monument and the guys on the back, manning the Wobble Cannon, take out another saucer. This one crashes right into the monument, causing it to collapse. Tons of debris flattens a group of unlucky people who were desperately trying to get away. Geez, I think these guys are killing more people with the Wobble Cannons than the aliens with their Disintegrator Beams.
Not being 100 percent morons (only 98) the aliens begin targeting the trucks carrying the Wobble Cannons and obliterate several. Russ and Carol jump and run from their truck in the nick of time before it’s disintegrated. One saucer starts shooting up government buildings but is quickly taken out by a Wobble Cannon. Word comes that a saucer has landed near the capitol building, so Russ and Carol jump in another truck and roar away. Hold on a sec. We just saw the truck they were driving get destroyed. Then a different Wobble Cannon truck destroyed the saucer that was attacking them. Now they get in this new truck and drive away. Who was driving it before? Did they get left behind?
Everyone now converges on the Capitol Building, where a saucer has landed. Aliens emerge from inside the Capitol. I guess they were surprised when they got inside that no one was there to surrender to them…not even the French! Once again proving that their suits need to be constructed from the same material as their helmets, the two aliens are gunned down with ease by a group of soldiers.
The parked saucer lifts off and tries to skedaddle, but is shot down by a Wobble Cannon. The last alien saucer is subsequently brought down and it crashes right into the dome of the Capitol Building and explodes. The sky is now clear of flying saucers. A voice comes over the radio announcing that the present danger has ended. Looks like those extraterrestrial bastards have been served their walking papers! Yeah!
Now we see Russ and Carol on a beach, enjoying the sunshine. She reads from a newspaper article that states that the President of the United States has ordered Operation Sky Hook rebuilt and the space exploration program restarted under the leadership of Russ. Additionally, the United Nations assembly has voted unanimously to award a gold medal to him. Carol asks Russ if he thinks there are any more of the aliens out there and if they will come back again. “Not on such a nice day,” he replies.
They walk towards the water. She remarks on how the world is still there. “And still ours,” he says. Then, hand in hand, they run into the surf.
The famous 1947 UFO sighting in Roswell, New Mexico began the modern age fascination with UFO’s and flying saucers in particular. Alleged sightings of these alien craft suddenly exploded and soon people were claiming to see them everywhere. Naturally, this cultural fascination was simply too good for movie producers to pass up and it wasn’t long before silver screens were alight with the images of all manner of extraterrestrials – the vast majority of them rather grumpy in demeanor – as they came to visit our Earth, mostly in an attempt at conquering the planet. Throughout the 1950’s they showed up in film after film, some looking quite human while others were decidedly not human in appearance. Despite their varying physical forms and reasons for showing up on our doorstep, they almost always arrived in the same manner of conveyance: the flying saucer. Sure there were variations in their vehicle designs, but the vast majority were definitely saucer-shaped…or hubcap shaped, as the budget for these films would allow.
Now much could be said about the deep rooted cultural fears that these strange creatures from other worlds represented. With most coming to conquer the earth and enslave humanity for one reason or another, it was easy to see the representation of foreign interests instilled in these visitors from beyond. The outside threat to our way of life was already a concern with the “Red Menace” of the communist U.S.S.R. and it’s easy to see how those fears were transferred to invading aliens, especially so when in some films the aliens were already here, disguised as humans and working covertly to undermine our way of life, our security and our defenses. People were already afraid this was transpiring with communist sympathizers of the time, so it’s easy to see invading aliens as a stand-in for such perceived dangers. The aliens in Earth vs. the Flying Saucers are more straight forward, announcing their intentions in advance, hoping that humans will see the folly in resisting them and just capitulate to them when they land. WRONG!
Up until this film, most hostile aliens showed up on Earth in small numbers (The War of the Worlds being an exception), many times a lone scout or small reconnaissance group. When eventually defeated or driven away by humans, it’s mostly understood that we won’t be seeing their kind again. This was one of the first films (aside from the aforementioned TWOTW) to showcase an alien invasion on a global scale, even if ultimately the action is centered around Washington D.C. Unfortunately, these aliens are very much like their celluloid cousins: dumb. This particular lot decides that despite their small numbers, their superior technology will assure them of victory in any event and in order to avoid a conflict that will leave Earth devastated, they wish to appeal to our common sense, hoping humans will just roll over without a fight. This is of course is incredibly short sighted and even allows our main characters to prepare for the eventual hostilities.
The bulk of the film is centered on our main characters, mostly lead Hugh Marlowe’s Doctor Russel A. Marvin as they learn of the aliens’ existence, their hostile intent and then work feverishly to create a weapon than can counter their advanced technology. There are several run-ins with the ET’s during this period before an all-out attack on Washington wraps up the film. While entertaining, I have to roll my eyes at some of it, solely based on the aliens’ attitude. They want a meeting with world leaders to discuss our surrender and are willing to wait nearly two months for Dr. Marvin to arrange it all. This gives him the time to develop a means of nullifying some of their technological advantages. Even though they are monitoring him during this period, and even show up to destroy his prototype, they are not very diligent in eradicating all traces of the weapon. They still allow time for the humans to construct new units in time for their “meeting” in Washington. While it is stated that they are arrogant and contemptuous of our defenses, it still seems extremely short sighted on their part to allow these things to transpire.
The movie gradually reveals the aliens over the first hour through a series of encounters with Dr. Marvin. While at first seeming willing to open a dialog, it soon becomes apparent that these creatures really do not care about our well being at all and demonstrate their callous attitude toward human life repeatedly. When we finally see what they look like, the audience’s anger toward them is complete and we’re ready to see the entire lot blown to hell. The final confrontation comes in a great sequence as the alien saucer fleet attacks Washington and our valiant heroes fight back with their new weapons, proving once again that American drive and now how will save the day. A little cliché for the time period, but I suppose there was an element of truth in the “manifest destiny” theme that ran through so much 50’s science fiction cinema, lending credence to the notion that America was destined to lead the world into some great new age. Yeah, so much for that idea.
The film’s characters are made up of the staples for the genre: scientist and military types. Our lead is a scientist, so he approaches everything as a problem that needs solving. Dr. Marvin displays the usual inquisitive nature common in scientists. At times he is too inquisitive, which in these types of movies, always leads to further trouble. After being exposed to the alien technology, he is the one (with some help from others) to devise a contraption that they can use against the aliens. Backing him up is his new wife, Carol, who is also his secretary. She performs the usual duties assigned to women in these old films. She worries about her husband, cries a lot and is generally overly emotional. She is a terrible caricature of a 50’s woman, displaying little of the strength seen in other female characters of the same time period. Plus, the costuming department really chose a non-flattering wardrobe for actress Joan Taylor. Her clothes and hair style do nothing to denote how attractive she was (and neither did the subsequent 20 Million Miles To Earth in which she also was featured). Don’t believe me? Then look at this and this.
One cannot talk about this film without bringing up the flying saucers themselves, brought to life by the legendary Ray Harryhausen and his stop-motion animation method. Personally, I love his work and have done so since I was a young child. The creatures he brought to life over the decades were pure movie magic in my eyes. Alas, in this film we don’t get any creature work from him, just the mechanical saucers. While the animation is top notch, it just doesn’t have the same magical quality as his famous monsters. That said, I cannot imagine any other method for bringing the saucers to life being anywhere near as successful given the requirements of the film., Having them crash into buildings and famous landmarks around the nation’s capital would have most likely looked much worse given another way of bringing such scenes to life. Sadly, a few scenes fall short when footage of a saucer is blended with stock footage. The producers get creative, but not all of these scenes look passable. There are some other visual FX shots aside from Harryhausen’s animation, but most of these involve combining actors and sets with different backgrounds. These don’t have the sleek look that later green/blue screen shots would achieve, but they don’t look as bad as other efforts from the same era.
As for the music, we get the standard 1950’s science fiction/horror film music from Mischa Bakaleinikoff, who provided music for hundreds of films from the early 30’s through the 60’s. Some of his genre films from the time include It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955), Creature with the Atom Brain (1955), The Werewolf (1956), Zombies of Mora Tau (1957), The Giant Claw (1957), 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957) and The 27th Day (1957). There are some musical cues that stand out and there are plenty that are not really noticeable, which I suppose is the sign of good score. Overall, it works for the film given the styles of the time.
Any technique utilized by the filmmakers strictly adheres to genre conventions at the time, straight forward, linear story telling being the norm. We go from A to B to C and so on, right down the line until we reach the logical conclusion. There are no twists or turns or surprise endings. My one complaint story-wise would be how the aliens are portrayed. They come off as morons more than anything and while are shown callously taking human life, I think the film could have done more to show the global scale of the threat they represented, but that’s just me.
Visually, the films looks nice and clean, but the constant use of stock footage will play havoc with this, as not all these shots lifted from a vault somewhere are of equal quality. There are a few instances of day-for-night photography and these are as unconvincing as the thousands of others that have graces movie screens over the decades. They get the job done, but are very noticeable.
In the end, the film is entertaining enough. All the pieces fit together nicely and the characters, while not experiencing any great growth from beginning to end, at least seem real enough for we the audience to identify with and root for in their actions. The alien invasion plot may unfold much less realistically than would a real life scenario, but suspension of belief is not out of reach for the narrative. The FX ranges from bad to adequate to great, given the circumstances and Ray Harryhausen’s work is a highlight of the film. While too much stock footage lends an air of cheapness to everything, the filmmakers get very creative in how they incorporate these shots into the film. Overall, a must see for lovers of classic science fiction. The film isn’t bad enough to warrant inclusion on a bad films list, but given the amount of time that has gone by since it was made and the limits the producers were faced with, and modern audiences will most likely find it quite silly. For people like me who just adore films from this decade, it is definitely amongst the better movies of the time.
Action – I almost hesitate to use this one, but there is a car chase in the film. Note I didn’t say it was a thrilling car chase. There is also a sequence involving a forest, a huge fire and people running like hell to escape. Sadly, about as exciting as an episode of Meet the Press.
Aliens – Well, you can’t have an invasion from outer space without them, right? These guys are only marginally smarter than the dipshit aliens from Invisible Invaders, but not anywhere near as competent as the Martians from The War of the Worlds, who were just short sighted.
Gunplay – If we factor in all the heavy artillery fire along with small arms fire, then this movie has enough ordnance expended to equal one…maybe two…rap concerts.
Outer Space – The aliens invite some of the main characters on board one of their ships and then take them for a spin into outer space and back. It’s about as exciting as a trip to the DMV, but without all the smelly people.
Science – The aliens explain away some of their technology in terminology that would make Montergomery Scott cringe. Not to be outdone, the human scientists start throwing around big words and ideas when it comes to devising an weapon to fight the invaders.
Spaceships – Instead of 1950’s standard issue phallic rockets, we have a fleet of flying saucers, complete with spinning hulls. I hope those spinning sections of their ships were not inhabited areas, otherwise everyone would probably be pasted against the outer edge.
Stock Footage – I’m coming to the conclusion that it was mandatory to include stock footage in any 50’s genre film. This one has it all: planes, trains, automobiles, ships, explosions, rockets, people running, people walking, people pushing buttons. You name it.
|Technology – One of the big plot points is how human ingenuity creates new technological weapons to exploit weaknesses in the aliens’ own technology. No microbes winning the day here. Nope, it’s good old fashion American-made products that achieve victory.||Violence – There is a lot of violence here. People are vaporized, buildings blown up, people are crushed under debris, naval ships destroyed, military jets shot down and a bunch of other things. Of course, this is the 1950’s, so it is not graphic at all and is mostly just implied.|
People seen disintegrated: 20
Newspaper headlines seen: 4
Buildings destroyed: 11
National Monuments destroyed: 3
Gunshots fired: 27
Artillery shells fired: 94
Times saucers fire beam weapon: 19
Most saucers seen at once: 3
Saucers brought down by wobble gun: 5
Times CLOWN speaks: 5
Number of words spoken by CLOWN: 460
Number of words spoken by Professor Kanter: 71
Percentage of movie comprised of stock footage: 7.15%
Min – Stock footage alert!
Shadow's Drinking Game: Every time there is a flying saucer on screen, take a drink.
for larger image
Russ tries to cozy up to his new wife while in the car.
kisses her neck
Shadow’s Comment: I thought that would have been HER plans for later.
Discussing plans for the immediate future of Washington DC
Edmunds: “Our plans for evacuating the city are already
yet, at least.
|Keep In Mind
Film & Me
This movie was in regular rotation on the Saturday afternoon and late night monster matinees that aired on local channels throughout the 70’s. I had a chance to see the movie only a couple of times during that time period and by 1980, it was no longer being shown that often. It would not be until the late 80’s when I was buying VHS copies of old 50’s movies that I would see the film again. Despite it being a few years since seeing it, I found it solidly entertaining. I viewed that VHS copy off and on through the years, and still have it to this day. When the film was released on DVD I made sure to upgrade. I will probably stick with that version, as I am not prone to buying movies more than once, despite Blu-ray gradually phasing DVD out.
Shadow's rating: Six Tombstones