Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956) – Friday Night At The Home Drive-In

Poster for Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956)Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956) by #FredFSears
#HughMarlowe #JoanTaylor

After destroying recently launched satellites, aliens contact an earth scientist and demand a meeting.
“The Battle of Your Lifetime!”
“When an armed and threatening power lands uninvited in our capitol, we don’t meet him with tea and cookies!”

#Horror #SciFi

A lot of big names were involved in Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956). The executive producer was Sam Katzman. The screen story was by Curt Siodmak, who was probably best known for writing The Wolfman (1941). And perhaps most significantly, the special effects were done by Ray Harryhausen. It’s probably no surprise that Earth vs. the Flying Saucers would turn out to be a cut above the average 1950s science fiction horror B-movie.

Earth vs. the Flying Saucers opens with an aerial shot of a vehicle driving on a road approaching a restricted area. Inside the car is a man and a woman. The man, whose name is Dr. Russell A. Marvin (played by Huge Marlowe), begins dictating into a recording device, describing the current state of the space project he is working on. Basically, his team is sending a bunch of satellites up into space in preparation for actual space travel.

Suddenly, a flying saucer appears through their rearview mirror as if it’s tailing them.

They stop the car and get out, but the flying saucer disappears upward in the sky. The woman, who is Russell’s wife Carol (played by Joan Taylor), is convinced that they have seen a flying saucer (and we, as viewers know that she is right).  Russell, however, pulls the old “We saw something that appeared to be a flying saucer….” routine. He’s a scientist, after all.

When they arrive at work – and we learn that Carol is also Russell’s secretary – they find out that Russell accidentally recorded the sound of the flying saucer on his tape recorder.

Major General John Hanley (played by Morris Ankrum) phones Russell and tells him not to launch the next satellite until he talks to them. Russell says there’s no time for that. He then hands the phone to Carol, who turns out to be his daughter. She tells him that she and Russell got married last night.

In spite of all this strange excitement, Russell and his fellow scientists go ahead and launch satellite number 11 on schedule.

The Plot Thickens…

Later that night, over dinner, General Hanley tells them that the previous 10 satellites have all been destroyed. And while they are talking, they witness the freshly launched satellite number 11 falling from the sky.

You might think that this would inspire Russell to put the brakes on launching the remaining satellites into space, but no. He is determined to go ahead and launch rocket number 12 the next day. He plans to include some sort of video camera so they can find out what’s happening up there.

The next day, before they can proceed, a flying saucer lands on the base where General Hanley happens to be. Several small men – perhaps green? – emerge from the saucer. One of them steps forward, as if to try to greet someone. But instead of asking him his name, or what he wants, the US military opens fire and kills him.

The other aliens stay inside what appears to be an electric force field of some sort. The soldiers do their best to kill them, but their artillery is unable to penetrate the force field. Finally, the aliens get tired of this nonsense and shoot back, destroying the soldiers and their equipment.

Yeah, this is all too typical – and it’s going about as well as can be expected. Why do the earthlings always shoot first and ask questions later? Seems like they might just be causing their own problems, doesn’t it?

So what do these aliens want?

The general wakes up inside the flying saucer, and the aliens speak to him through a translating device. They tell himl that they spoke to his son-in-law, and wonder why their words were not heeded? The general tells them that all Russell heard on his tape recording was noise.

Meanwhile, back at the lab, Russell and Carol accidentally play the tape back at the wrong speed and hear the aliens voice speaking to them. It says that they must talk they must meet, and that they will show up tomorrow. So this is all some kind of misunderstanding.

So Earth vs. the Flying Saucers is like an episode of Three’s Company?

Not exactly. It turns out that the aliens want to take over the Earth for their own purposes. Their world is a pile of ashes somewhere, so they need a new planet. We’ve certainly heard this story before on this blog, but this version of it is significantly better done.

But as I said before, whenever I watch these movies, I can’t help but think about the fact that the earthlings seem to bring on all the trouble themselves. They shoot at aliens without asking questions and then proceed to have their butts kicked. In this case, the aliens are, in fact, intending to take over the earth. So perhaps shooting at them was not a totally ridiculous idea. But the earthlings didn’t know that when they started shooting. So you have to wonder, what the heck is our problem?

But getting back to the movie itself…

Earth vs. the Flying Saucers features special effects by Ray Harryhausen, and they are wonderful as always. If I had seen this movie on TV as a kid, I would’ve been wowed by all of the flying saucer action, the destruction of buildings, rockets, etc. This is probably a bigger budget movie than some of the others I saw back then. As such, it’s almost too good. But it still fits into the genre, and it has enough camp value to satisfy even the most jaded home drive-in patron.

So what’s the verdict for Earth vs. the Flying Saucers?

Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956) is #NotQuiteClassicCinema that is perhaps also certifiably classic cinema. It was originally released on a double bill with The Werewolf (1956), which I have written about before. So that alone makes it appropriate fodder for a late night, sci-fi horror film festival – and you could certainly do worse than include this on your next #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.


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