Earth vs. The Flying Saucers Review

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Dr Russell Marvin (not a martian) has no idea why his scientific rockets keep disappearing into the ether until a UFO lands during the final launch attempt. Before he knows it, the whole of Washington is under attack, and it is up to him and fellow scientists to sort it out.


Not quite on the classic level of The Thing From Another World, Invasion of the Body Snatchers or The Day the Earth Stood Still, this archetypal, enjoyable black and white '50s s‑f item delivers scenes of mass devastation which are still often excerpted (in Orson Welles’ F for Fake, for instance) or homaged (in Mars Attacks! and Independence Day).

As the tabloid headline-style title indicates, it’s the definitive collection of 1950s UFO legends, and as such a key source for Close Encounters and X-Files to come: ‘foo fighters’, abduction and mind-probe, buzzed airliners, etc. Flying saucers, brilliantly animated by Ray Harryhausen, attack the Earth, and we get lots of great scenes of the buzzing machines smashing up Washington landmarks or blasting away at the army with ray guns.

The stubby, helmeted aliens sometimes emerge from their sleek ships and zap people with death-rays, but it’s the saucers that are the main attraction. There are a few too many 'scientific' talks with wooden hero Marlowe explaining things in the laboratory and paranoid modern audiences might be disturbed by the high-handed attitude of the authorities in suspending all personal freedoms in order to wage interplanetary war (one of the uncredited screenwriters was blacklisted Bernard Gordon).

However, the aliens are genuinely eerie, the battles are exciting and it has enjoyable blustering from a cast of familiar B stalwarts like Morris Ankrum, giving his 87th reading of the part of the uptight general who heads up the Earth defence forces (‘when an armed and threatening power lands uninvited in our capital, we don’t greet it with tea and cookies!’).

Better than average 50s B-movie, but entirely worth it for the Harryhausen models.