Creature Features revisited – Flying Saucers Attack
A look back at the golden age of sci-fi, the 1950‘s. Our subject today… Flying Saucers Attack!
Earth vs. The Flying Saucers (1956)
In this film, Ray Harryhausen applies his stop motion animation to a non-living thing for the first time, Flying Saucers! The film has an almost documentary feel to the b&w scenes of Giant Saucers attacking Washington DC which adds to the appreciation of Harryhausen’s work. Military stock footage of firing weapons and a battleship encounter was used to maximize authenticity. Aliens shoot down several satellites for which scientist, Russell Marvin (Hugh Marlowe) is investigating with his wife, Carol (Joan Taylor). A saucer lands at a science lab and is immediately fired upon by the military, escalating an inevitable battle. Flying Saucers appear in the skies over London, Paris, Moscow, and DC. In a coordinated attack the begin firing at the cities and people. However, Dr. Marvin has devised a weapon to penetrate their force-fields and fight against the invaders. The amazing scenes of saucers destroying the Capitol building, and crashing into the Washington Monument are classic 50’s Sci-fi images and were most likely frightening to folks at the time it was released. Ray does quite a bit of explaining about how he captured those scenes in the special features on the dvd and blu-ray. On a side note: Joan Taylor also starred in 20 Million Miles to Earth.
War of The Worlds (1953)
Technically, these are not saucers but shaped more like manta-rays. This is often called George Pal’s adaptation of the H.G Wells classic for which he was the producer, but it was directed by Byron Haskin. Bryon Haskin had worked on special effects for The Outer Limits, so he was no slouch. It’s fair to say that it was the combination of both men that brought WOW to life. It was granted a big budget, enabling them to film in color during a time when most Sci-fi films were only b&w. It starred Gene Barry and Ann Robinson as Dr. Forrester and Sylvia van Buren. Everyone knows the story, a meteorite shower drops a bunch of space stones all over the damn planet. In LA, where this film version is set, a guy pokes a meteor with a stick. It hatches a flying saucer thingamajig. The saucers spend some time in the valley gearing up for a war as the earthling scientists study them. Then they attack, destroying everything in their path. This is a wonderful version of the story and a great example of the Golden Age of Sci-Fi. However, with today’s Hi-def, digital dvd/blu-ray, super-clear technology, you can see the wires holding up the alien craft. I never saw any wires when I saw it as a kid – though I probably would have ignored it if I did. But, just to make sure, I asked some older individuals about it and they say, No, the wires were not visible when they saw the film in theaters nor when it was on TV in the early years. So, if you do see the film today with its ‘better than 20/20 vision’ resolution processes, just be aware that you will see the wires.
1) Gene Barry and Ann Robinson made a cameo at the end of the Spielberg version (2005) as the grandparents in Massachusetts.
2) In the 1953 version, when the first meteorite/war-crafts fall form the sky an image of Woody Woodpecker can be seen hiding in a tree, center screen. This is an homage to George Pal’s good friend, Walter Lantz, creator of Woody Woodpecker.
Battle in Outer Space (1959)
This is an Ishiro Honda film that portrays the UFO invasion with the type of destruction that only Toho Studios would be capable. The alien race has an anti-gravity weapon that is demonstrated by a train wreck caused by train tracks lifting off the ground, an ocean liner lifting out of the panama canal, and a flood in Italy. When the Japanese Space Station is destroyed, the ‘world community’ works together to battle the invaders. The battle escalates on the Moon and soon spills onto earth. Saucers come down to destroy buildings and launch meteor torpedoes at New York and San Francisco. The American rockets equipped with Japan’s ‘heat ray’ weapon launch to defend earth. A dogfight ensues in space that is something to see, considering the year it was made. It reminds me of Star Wars as UFOs and rockets battle. Laser beams and death rays crisscross the screen in some high action sequences. Though the film doesn’t share the same intimacy or character involvement that the other films in this post have, it is worth a look-see for fans of 1950’s sci-fi and Toho Films. This film was a loosely based sequel to The Mysterians, although they never mention a previous UFO attack in this film.
Earth vs. The Flying Saucers Gallery:
War of The Worlds (1953) Gallery:
Battle in Outer Space Gallery: