EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS
Reviewed by: JimmyO
Fred E. Sears
What's it about
After sending up several rockets to investigate outer space, a group of martians seem a little ticked off and come down here to discuss their issues. But both sides seem to be a little pig-headed, so instead of talk, people get disintegrated and blown up, as do a few martians.
Is it good movie?
A couple driving down a long stretch of road. There is a sound coming from the sky… and then, a flying saucer is right above them. Terrifying? Maybe if this were the Fifties and we hadn’t seen anything since. But it is still pretty entertaining. Ray Harryhausen was the man behind many of the effects that inspired today’s greats. And Earth vs. the Flying Saucer, along with It Came from Beneath the Sea and 20 Million Miles from Earth are all enjoying a re-release on DVD with the opportunity to watch them either in their original black and white or in the recently colorized version. And thanks to ChromaChoice, you can switch off between the two. As for me, I prefer the black and white, even though colorization looks better than it did, it still looks strange to me. But this is the version that Mr. Harryhausen himself supervised, and it looks better than it ever has before.
This is a typical alien invasion type of b-movie that was popular in at that time. Obviously, with the Cold War and the threat of Communism, an alien race taking over was frightening to the general public. Funny how popular horror films become during time of unrest. That’s the way it was then and that is the way it is now. But this one in particular represents the whole shoot first and ask questions later. When Dr. Russell Marvin (Hugh Marlowe) and his government task force, Operation Skyhook keep losing rockets that are sent in the universe to collect data, questions are raised. But the problem is, these poor aliens are getting a little uncomfortable with the rockets, thinking they are sent to destroy them. So they come down here to find out what’s going on. Well, once they come, the earthlings try and kill them. Of course they are going to get a little ticked off and now, it is up to us to destroy them before they destroy us.
This is a fun sci-fi flick with flying saucers and lazar guns. But much of it is pretty ludicrous. Remember Team America: World Police and how they “save” Paris? Well here, the good Dr. Marvin creates a gun that can bring the UFO’s crashing down. But for some reason, whenever they use this gun, they always bring the spaceships down on some national landmark. I’m thinking, couldn’t you guys try and maybe bring them down away from buildings and people? But this isn’t meant to be deep, just a cheesy science fiction flick created to scare good folks during the Red Scare (if you don’t know what that means, Google in). But whether you prefer color or black and white, it’s a fun trip down genre memory lane. And it’s a great example of the work Mr. Harryhausen has done. Keep in mind, there was no CG back in the Fifties, so it really is quite impressive.
Video / Audio
Video: Please take time and care to do this with more old films. Never has this movie looked any better than it does here in its 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen presentation. This looks amazing.
Audio: And speaking of amazing, check out the 5.1 Dolby Digital. This is a pristine version on all levels which makes for a very worthy purchase.
This two-disc set is quite impressive and loaded with interviews. My main problem with many of the interviews though, is the fact that they last a bit too long and it is a simple talking head. Just one person talking for a half an hour, with little to know visual stimuli. But still, it is better than a film history class.
On Disc 1 we get Commentary with Ray Harryhausen, Visual Effects Artists Jeffrey Okun and Ken Ralston, and Arnold Kunert. I had an okay time with this because there is a wealth of information given. But it is also a somewhat labored one and for some reason felt a little lacking in the energy department. Yet it is a nice treat to listen to Harryhausen talk about his effects.
Also on this disc, you can watch the movie in Black and White or the new Colorized version. You can even switch between the two if you’d like.
Disc 2 is packed with interviews, including Remembering Earth vs. Flying Saucers (21:08) which is by far the best of the interview segments because it is interspersed with scenes from the film and other interviews besides one person. Mostly, it is Mr. Harryhausen talking about creating the effects with a few other people like Frank Darabont, Stan Winston and Terry Gilliam talking about how they were inspired by the man.
Next up is The Hollywood Blacklist with Bernard Gordon (29:22) and this is one of those interviews I was talking about. Del Reisman speaks as a representative of the Writers Guild and he discusses how Mr. Gordon finally got credit on the film after being labeled as a Communist back in the Red Scare. This was a frightening time in movie history where if you knew someone that may have been at a Communist meeting, you may lose your career. It was the ultimate witch hunt and a terrible time for many artists. Many had to leave the country to work. But truthfully, Del is kind of dull and I would have loved to see a more in-depth documentary about the subject.
We also get to see the Original Screenplay Credit (3:03) where Mr. Gordon was credited as “Raymond T. Marcus”. Imagine working so hard on a film and then having your name removed because of being blacklisted.
You wanna see pictures? Well, this also comes with three Galleries including “Ad Art Photo Gallery”, “Production Photo Gallery” and “Ray Harryhausen’s Artwork Photo Gallery”. I am happy to report, you don’t have to point the remote and click, just watch and listen to the cool score.
Now this is fun. It’s a Digital Sneak Peek of Flying Saucers vs. The Earth Comic Book. I really dig the artwork, it looks really impressive. I’m curious to see how this turns out.
Kyle Anderson at New York University also has a treat for us, he is going to give us A Present Day Look at Stop-Motion. I like this guy and had fun with him giving us a glimpse at the art form today. This is fun and informative.
Here comes another one of those interviews. This Interview with Joan Taylor (17:18) is informative and she is a bit more colorful than the WGA rep. But still, this is a long interview with either a medium or close-up of Joan talking with the occasional clip or photograph. Of interest, but again, this felt a tad too long.
Thank you Tim Burton. He brings this disc to life with another highlight as Tim Burton Sits Down with Ray Harryhausen (26:57). This is a fun interview, and it is refreshing to see how much of a film geek Mr. Burton really is, and I mean that in the best way possible. I like the energy and the way the scenes from the various films were shown throughout the interview. Good stuff.
Producer Arnold Kunert (17:46) offers up a little show and tell with some of the original advertising for the Harryhausen films of that time. While the artwork is a blast to look at, especially the It Came from the Sea, this just lasts too long for what it is.
With David Schecter on Film Music’s Unsung Hero (22:20) we get a glimpse of Mischa Bakaleinikoff and the monster music he created for these films. It is fascinating how often music was borrowed back then, and pretty liberally so. But this suffers from a bit too much talk also.
The Colorization Process(10:56) by Legend Films is explored here. As Harry works on colorizing his sci-fi classic, he seems very happy with the changes that have been made in this technology. It does look better than it did back when they first started, but I tend to prefer a black and white film as a black and white film. But with that said, it’s nice to have a choice as this particular disc has.
If you like science fiction, I do recommend that you immediately go and pick up Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. It’s a fun movie that has been colorized for the first time, although the choice to watch it in black and white is still yours. But what really sets this disc apart is the huge selection of special features. Yes, some are a little talky and dull, but they have so much history that it is worth checking out. And come on, for being made back then, these flying saucers look pretty cool. A very worthy purchase if you’d like to see what inspired many of the great directors of our time.