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Movie Review: The Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers.

A transcripted episode of the 1950s Science Fiction Podcast.

By Edward GermanPublished 4 months ago 13 min read
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Welcome back to another episode of my podcast on 50s sci-fi. Today, I will be reviewing the classic movie, "The Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers". The film stars Hugh Marlowe and Joan Taylor and was produced by Charles H. Schneer, with a screenplay by Curt Siodmak, and directed by Fred F. Sears. The movie was released in Los Angeles on June 13, 1956, and has a runtime of 84 minutes.

The plot revolves around a rocket scientist who repels an invasion of aliens who are ready to invade Earth. The movie uses stop-motion effects, under the supervision of Ray Harryhausen, to depict flying saucers throughout the movie. The visual effects are impressive and add to the overall feel of the movie.

The producers of the movie took inspiration from the non-fiction book Flying Saucers from Outer Space, authored by Maj. Donald Keyhole, who was a former aviator in the U.S. Marine Corps. Maj. Keyhole was a renowned advocate of UFO research and later went on to establish the National Investigations Committee On Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) - a non-profit organization that approached UFO investigations in a highly professional manner.

Project Skyhook.

At the beginning of the movie, we are introduced to Carol Marvin and Dr. Russell Marvin, who are driving a car. Carol is driving the car while Russell is seated on the passenger side. They have been working together for some time, and their relationship has blossomed into romance. They got married the night before and are now on their way back to work. Russell is the project director of Project Skyhook, which is a government-funded rocket testing program that has been experimenting with high-altitude rockets and satellite payloads. The program has been successful in achieving orbit with the satellites, but they have been crashing for reasons unknown. It's interesting to note that in this movie, the US space program was able to put payloads into low earth orbit a year before the Soviet Union launched Sputnik.

While on their way to the military base that hosts Project Skyhook, the Martins' automobile is buzzed by a Flying Saucer. The mysterious craft hovers over them and emits a high-pitched sound. The Martins are frightened by the experience and are unsure what to make of it. They continue their journey towards the military base and decide not to report the incident, as there is no hard evidence to prove the sighting. However, Dr. Marvin's tape recorder, which he used to dictate his notes, recorded the high-pitched sound. This recording would later reveal an important clue.

After returning to the military base, the Marvins inform Brig. Gen. John Hanley, played by Morris Ankrum, that Carol and Dr. Marvin are now married. General Hanley, who is Carol's father, is pleased with the news but expresses concerns about Project Skyhook. At dinner, he mentions wreckage found throughout the globe that can be traced back to the project and urges Dr. Martin to cancel the next test. However, Dr. Martin refuses to comply with the request.

The Saucer lands.

The following day, the next rocket test goes as planned. Everything is ready, and the Martians are watching the test from an underground control center. At about the same time, a Flying Saucer buzzes the base where Project Skyhook is hosted. They are first seen at the front gate and witnessed by the soldiers assigned there. Even the base commander sees it this time. A saucer lands near the project control room and three occupants disembark the craft. They are wearing some type of rubber suit with boots and a dome-shaped helmet. Once seen, the military reacts by firing on the craft with rifles and anti-aircraft guns. They hit one of the occupants it falls to the ground, the other two use a heat ray to disintegrate both soldiers and weapons. Then they drag their fellow occupant back into the saucer, which is protected by an invisible force shield. It was when the occupant stepped out of the range of the shield it became unprotected.

After boarding the saucer, the occupants used their onboard heat ray to destroy the base. As the saucer flew overhead, it started shooting at everything in sight. Unfortunately, the Martians were unaware of the contact with the saucer and couldn't communicate outside the control center due to the phone lines being cut. They watched in horror as the rocket exploded on the launch pad. Some of them tried to leave the control center after others had already evacuated, but debris blocked the doorway. They took shelter in the bunker while Dr. Marvein listened to the dictation from his tape recorder. However, the machine was running low on power and slowed down. Suddenly, Dr. Marvin heard a voice from an alien being, asking him to meet at Project Skyhook on a specified day and time. Unfortunately, the time was just as the rocket test was going on, and Marvin received the message too late due to the high-pitched nature of the message, which simply sounded like gibberish to him and others while playing at normal speed.

The base is destroyed.

After being rescued from the bunker, the Marvins were faced with the devastation of the entire military base. As a result, Project Skyhook was put on hold and the Marvins were summoned to a conference in Washington DC hosted by top-ranking US military officers.

During the conference, Dr. Marvin pleaded with the committee to make another attempt to contact the aliens. According to him, the aliens had left instructions on how to contact them again and he believed it was necessary since he missed the first message. However, the committee rejected Dr. Marvin's proposal citing their uncertainty about the intentions of the aliens and several other factors. To make matters worse, the committee even put Dr. Marvin under the supervision of a military escort as they did not entirely trust him.

After their meeting in Washington, the Marvins return to their hotel room. Once they are alone, Dr. Marvin uses a two-way radio to contact the aliens. He sends a few messages and the aliens respond, asking him to meet them at a specific location and time. Dr. Marvin agrees and leaves the hotel room without the knowledge of his military escort. However, Mrs. Marvin suspects something and informs the military escort of her husband's intentions. They follow Dr. Marvin, and during the chase, a police officer pursues them for speeding. When Dr. Marvin stops his car, they find themselves face-to-face with a flying saucer.

On Board.

As the flying saucer landed, an eerie voice instructed Dr. Marvin, and the other two persons accompanying him, to board it. They found themselves in a large room with a TV monitor on one side. Suddenly, a portion of the wall disappeared and revealed two aliens. The aliens communicated with Dr. Marvin and explained that they were on a spaceship millions of miles away from Earth, and their planet was dying. They wanted to invade Earth for its resources and believed that Dr. Marvin was the person who could negotiate Earth's surrender. However, Dr. Marvin protested their demands and stated that it was the world leaders who would decide Earth's fate. He explained that it would take time to make arrangements for a meeting of world leaders.

In this scene, Major Huglin, played by Donald Curtis, questions the aliens about their vast knowledge of Earth and its inhabitants. The aliens respond using the voice of Gen. Hanley, answering various questions about topics such as baseball, history, and the strength of the US armed forces. Suddenly, the body of Gen. Hanley appears, and it is revealed that he was captured by the aliens during the attack on Project Skyhook and subjected to a mind-reading treatment. To prove their power, the aliens sink a US Naval ship and provide the coordinates. A police officer attempts to shoot the mind control device attached to the ceiling of the ship but is also subjected to the mind control process, which is visually depicted as a hemisphere of the human brain in a cutaway view. Finally, the aliens allow the Marvians to leave with Major Huglin.

Back to Washington.

After leaving the saucer, the Marvians and the Major head back to Washington. The next day, they attend an emergency meeting with the same US military general as before. However, the generals are not convinced that the aliens pose a major threat. It's only after they receive confirmation of the sinking of a US Naval ship that they decide to take action. The aliens had set a 56-day time limit for the world governments to prepare for their occupation of Earth. During this time, Dr. Marvian proposes that he can find their weakness and create a weapon to use against them.

Some time has passed and Dr. Marvain is hard at work in a secure laboratory with the assistance from another scientist. He creates a weapon that uses sound waves that would penetrate the force shield and disable the flying saucers. While working a the secret lab, a flying saucer is seen overhead and Dr. Marvin's team decides to evacuate the lab. Upon doing so they are forced to stop when they see a saucer land and one of the aliens emerge, Major Hulin shoots the alien with a rife and it falls to the ground. The body is examined when the headgear is removed to reveal a human-like being who an ancient appearance. Once the helmet is removed, the remains of his body turn into dust. Also to their horror is the remains of one a scientist who was working in the lab with Dr. Marvin. At that point, the saucer takes off and uses its weapons to destroy the secret lab and start a forest fire in the surrounding area. Before the saucer leaves, two bodies are dropped to the ground. They were the bodies of Gen. Hanly and the motorcycle patrolman; at this point who are both dead.

Continuing the fight.

After his lab was destroyed, Dr. Marvian relocated to continue his research on the weapon. He also had other experts analyze the helmet worn by the alien. Upon wearing it himself, Dr. Marvian discovered that his sense of hearing and vision had greatly improved. He could hear and see a conversation taking place between two men walking down the street who were deciding on what to have for lunch. There is also a language translator in the helmet for its user.

While Dr. Marvin was at the lab, aliens sent a warning message across the world via electronic means. The warning was transmitted in many different languages all over the world. The aliens stated that they would land in Washington DC and meet with the world leaders in about 8 days. This coincided with a solar storm that would disrupt Earth's defenses. The leading military general told Dr. Marvin that the fight would continue despite the adverse conditions. He also instructed Dr. Marvin to complete his work on the sonic weapon, which was in its testing phase.

Attack!

Over the next eight days, the Earth is hit by a series of natural disasters, including hurricanes, storms, floods, and communication disruptions. Meanwhile, the Military is getting ready for an alien invasion. To prepare for the invasion, cities are being evacuated, including Washington D.C. However, despite the evacuation order, some residents remain in the city, including Mrs. Marvin.

Mrs. Marvin informs the military general in charge that she missed her flight out of Washington and would like to stay with her husband. The general locates Dr. Marvin and informs Mrs. Marvin that her husband is still in the city, working on the weapon he created. The weapon in question is a sonic cannon mounted on the back of a truck. There are several such trucks throughout the city, all waiting for the alien invasion. Dr. Marvin is in charge of the operation and hopes that his weapon will prove effective against the invaders.

The flying saucers have finally begun their attack on Earth, starting with Washington DC. Despite the military's efforts to defend the city by firing artillery and guided missiles at the saucers, they have no effect as the force shield blocks all weapons used against them. The aliens use their force beam to destroy any military weapons and nearby buildings, causing widespread terror as they approach the city.

Dr. Marvain's crew spotted a saucer and used a weapon against it. The saucer wobbled and fell into a nearby river, proving the weapon's effectiveness. Other saucers flew elsewhere but met with the same fate, as they wobbled and crashed into the ground. One saucer crashed into the capital building, one destroyed the Washington Monument, and another crashed into a train station. A saucer also landed on the lawn of the White House, but once the occupants left the saucer, they were met with small arms fire.

After all the invading saucers are disabled and no aliens emerge from the wreckage, the all-clear signal is sounded, and the attack is declared over. In the aftermath, Dr. Martin reunites with his wife and resumes his work at Project Skyhook.

My Thoughts.

"I enjoy this movie and consider it one of my favorites. I first watched it when I was in my early teens, and I was impressed with the story and the strong dialogue used by the male lead actor, Hugh Marlowe. He made you feel like you were listening to a real scientist rather than an actor, which is what I appreciate about 50s sci-fi movies. The hero was more of a thinking man type, relying on his intellect instead of his trigger finger. If he needed muscle, he would call on the police or military for backup. Nowadays, sci-fi movies tend to have more action heroes than characters who use their brains."

By ruddy.media on Unsplash

The special effects in this movie are what make it stand out, in addition to a good script. Ray Harryhausen did an exceptional job in creating the flying saucers, which look incredibly realistic. The stop-motion work is some of the best he has ever done, and the sequences featuring the saucers have been used in many sci-fi documentaries over the years. The movie also makes use of a lot of stock footage depicting rocket launches of the V-2 missile, which was captured by the US military during the Second World War. The cutaway view of the brain during the mind probe scenes is particularly dramatic and effective. Finally, the suits worn by the aliens are very scary-looking and were designed to instill fear in the audience.

There is one more thing I would like to mention: I believe that "Earth V. The Flying Saucers" leans more towards an A-grade movie rather than a B picture. It had a well-crafted storyline, an engaging plot, and impressive visual effects. However, I think part of the problem was its lower budget and the fact that it was shown as part of a double feature, which caused it to be shortened in length. Nonetheless, it still stands the test of time and holds up well by today's standards.

Thank you for tuning in to today's podcast episode. I hope you found it informative and enjoyable. This is the last show for the year, but I'll be back next year with a new episode discussing the topic of 50s science fiction. Thanks for listening and stay tuned for more!

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About the Creator

Edward German

A long-time sci-fi fan who loves the internet. I am also writing on subjects other than sci-fi.

you can follow me on "X" @EdwardGerman3 Listen to my podcast The 1950s Science Fiction Podcast on Spotify for Podcasters.

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