Earth vs. the Flying Saucers

Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers poster The primary reason that most movie buffs get excited about Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956) is the stunningly imaginative special effects work done by the influential Ray Harryhausen. Harryhausen, a legend in the world of stop-motion animation and special effects, created the effects for such classics as Mighty Joe Young (1949), It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955), Beast Of Hollow Mountain, and Jason and the Argonauts (1963), among many others. When Harryhausen was a young boy, he saw the original 1933 version of King Kong at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood and was instantly mesmerized by the amazing stop-motion animation sequences that special effects wizard Willis O'Brien used to animate Kong and the other amazing inhabitants of Skull Island. Harryhausen put his fascination with stop-motion animation to work and quickly became known for his skill in the medium. By 1949, he was working side by side with his idol, O'Brien, to bring the Kong-inspired Mighty Joe Young to life on the big screen. Throughout most of Harryhausen's celebrated career, his talents were used to animate fantastic and grotesque creatures, as in Jason and the Argonauts and a series of exciting Sinbad features, including Sinbad and the Eye of The Tiger. In Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, though, we get to see Harryhausen work his legendary magic on inanimate objects, turning lifeless flying saucer models into a terrifying force bent on the Earth's destruction.

The screenplay for Earth vs. the Flying Saucers was penned by Curt Siodmark, the famed sci-fi and horror author responsible for writing everything from The Wolf Man (1941) to The Creature With the Atom Brain (1955). Siodmark's inspiration for the Earth vs. the Flying Saucers screenplay was a book by Donald Keyhoe, a retired Marine and a passionate believer in UFO's. So strong were Keyhoe's convictions that he wrote several celebrated books on the topic, including The Flying Saucers Are Real (1950), Flying Saucers From Outer Space (1953), The Flying Saucer Conspiracy (1955), and Flying Saucers - Top Secret (1960). Siodmark used Flying Saucers From Outer Space as the basis for his Earth vs. the Flying Saucers screenplay. By the time the movie was released in 1956, Keyhoe had assumed the leadership of the UFO-investigation organization known as the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomenon (NICAP). Keyhoe's controversial beliefs included the notion that saucers might well be either U.S. or Russian secret weapons.

In the late 1950's Keyhoe was a key participant in an event UFO conspiracy theorists still discuss today. In an appearance on a televised panel discussion devoted to UFO's in the 1950's, Keyhoe began speaking openly about some UFO incidents that the Air Force had characterized as classified. In response, Keyhoe's mike was abruptly cut off, bolstering his belief that the government was running a huge cover-up operation. By the early 1970's, Keyhoe was pushing a plan designed to persuade UFO's to visit the Earth's atmosphere. Known as Operation Lure, the plan called for building a dummy military installation in a remote desert area and stocking it with phony decoy UFO's in an attempt to attract alien visitors. Keyhoe's vision was never carried out, and he died in 1988.

The plot of Earth vs. the Flying Saucers concerns square-jawed rocket scientist Dr. Marvin Sanders (played by Hugh Marlowe from The Day the Earth Stood Still) and his efforts to collect data from outer space via a series of rockets launched from Skyhook, the military base that serves as his headquarters. Unfortunately, his efforts are thwarted by the fact that every one of the rockets has been mysteriously destroyed.
Turns out that the rockets have all been blasted out of the sky by the invading flying saucers, as the saucer creatures have mistaken them for attack weapons. Once contact with the saucer people is established, Dr. Sanders also learns the real bad news: the creatures are members of a dying breed and they've made a decision to colonize the Earth, by force if necessary. This leads to the film's exciting climax, in which the saucers launch a full-scale attack on Washington D.C. These over-the-top battle scenes are certainly some of the most exciting moments of any 1950's science fiction film. Earth vs. the Flying Saucers gives you your one and only opportunity to check out the carnage that results when flying saucers crash into the Washington Monument, the Capitol building, and a host of other well-known Washington landmarks. Fans of Chuck Norris will appreciate the fact that Norris' character watches these very scenes on television during a scene in the appropriately named 1985 martial arts flick Invasion U.S.A.

Also, make sure to listen for the voice of Paul Frees, The Man of A Thousand Voices, as the narrator. Frees' long career as a voice-over artist included roles such as Boris Badenov on The Bullwinkle Show, numerous voices in a plethora of classic MGM animated shorts, and the speaking voices of John Lennon and George Harrison in the 1965 animated TV series The Beatles. According to the second volume of Peter Guralnick's comprehensive Elvis Presley biography, Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley, Frees also did time as an undercover narcotics agent based in Hollywood during the 1960's. It seems Elvis Presley's friend, private detective John O'Grady (an ex-LAPD narcotic chief, by the way) took Elvis and his Memphis pals with him to dinner one night at the legendary Hollywood eatery Chasen's. When they ran into Frees, O'Grady introduced the actor to Presley and encouraged Frees to show Elvis the undercover badge he'd recently received from the FBI in recognition of his valuable undercover work.

Nixon and ElvisAs soon as he saw Frees' shield, Elvis was consumed by a desire to have his own Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs undercover badge. In fact, it was this obsession that led Presley to visit President Richard Nixon at the White House in quest of his own BNDD undercover badge. It was there that the notoriously too-weird-for-words photo of Presley and Nixon was taken in the Oval Office. And, yes, Elvis got his badge, thanks indirectly to Paul Frees, narrator of Earth vs. the Flying Saucers.

Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956)
Last seen on Turner Television on July 30, 2000 at 3:00 am, Rating: TV-PG-V.

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