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EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS ($25) may not be the same caliber science fiction movie as THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, but it does feature the wonderful special effects of stop motion master Ray Harryhausen to separate it from other similarly themed movies of the 1950s. Personally, I love EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS and think that the movie is a genuine hoot. Filled with that distinctly 1950s flavored paranoia, EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS tells the story of alien spaceships that come to Earth with the intention of taking over the planet. As Harryhausen fans might expect the plot is almost secondary to his wonderful special effects, which have a personality all their own. There is almost nothing better than the climax of the movie, which features the Ray Harryhausen created flying saucers crashing into a number of well-known Washington D.C. landmarks.

EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS features Hugh Marlowe as Dr. Russell Marvin, the scientist in charge of Skyhook Project, which is placing a series of artificial satellites in orbit around the Earth. One by one, each of the satellites falls back to Earth shortly after its launch- leaving Dr. Marvin puzzled as to the cause. However, after an encounter with an unidentified flying object, Dr. Martin discovers that an extraterrestrial invasion force is behind the failure of the satellites. When the military tries to destroy one of the flying saucers, the aliens use their superior weaponry and defenses to demonstrate that conventional weapons are useless against them. Of course, it falls to Dr. Marvin to develop some form of unconventional means to defeat the alien invaders. The cast of EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS also features Joan Taylor, Donald Curtis, Morris Ankrum, John Zaremba, Tom Browne Henry, Grandon Rhodes and Larry Blake.

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment has made EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS available on DVD in a 1.85:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. This is a great looking transfer, with one caveat. EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS made use of a lot of stock footage, much of which looked pretty beaten up at the time it was first spliced into the movie's negative. All of the scratches and blemishes that were present in stock footage in 1956 are still present today. However, the rest of the movie is in very good shape, displaying very few age related blemishes. Sometimes there is a noticeable grain structure in the picture, but it never becomes objectionable. The black and white image is usually crisp and displays very nice detail. Some of the rear screen projection work is a bit soft looking, but not at all bad for a film of this vintage. Blacks appear solid and deep, while the whites are clean and stable. Dual layer authoring keeps digital compression artifacts at bay.

EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS comes with a Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack that has the expected fidelity limitations of a forty six year old movie. However, even with those limitations, the soundtrack managed to sound pretty darn good. A number of the non-direction sound effects are fun and serve to invigorate the film's visuals. Dialogue is always completely understandable, although some of the voices occasionally have a canned quality. Music can be a bit thin, but I think it holds up rather well with a bit of amplification. Subtitles are provided on the DVD in English, French and Spanish.

Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few supplements. Starting things off is The Making of The Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers featurette. The Making of The Earth vs. the Flying Saucers runs under ten minutes and features director Joe Dante interviewing Ray Harryhausen about his work on the movie and Harryhausen demonstrates how the flying saucers worked. Appearing yet again from the previous Ray Harryhausen DVDs are the This Is Dynamation featurette and the Ray Harryhausen Chronicles. This Is Dynamation runs about three and a half minutes and explains the special photographic process Harryhausen used to create his stop motion special effects. The Harryhausen Chronicles is an hour-long program hosted by Leonard Nimoy, which details Ray Harryhausen’s life and career in cinema. Also included on the DVD is a still gallery and theatrical trailers for EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS, THE 3 WORLDS OF GULLIVER and FIRST MEN IN THE MOON.

EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS is a fun movie and another great Ray Harryhausen offering fro Columbia TriStar. The DVD offers the finest looking presentation of EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS that I've ever seen, making it a must have for Harryhausen fans.



Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2002 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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