Earth vs. the Flying Saucers
|Earth vs. the Flying Saucers|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Fred F. Sears|
|Produced by||Charles H. Schneer
|Written by||Donald E. Keyhoe (book)
George Worthing Yates
|Music by||Mischa Bakaleinikoff|
|Cinematography||Fred Jackman Jr.|
|Editing by||Danny B. Landres|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Release date(s)||July 1, 1956|
|Running time||83 min.|
|Box office||$1,250,000 (US rentals)|
Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956) is an American science fiction film, directed by Fred F. Sears and released by Columbia Pictures. The film is also known as Invasion of the Flying Saucers. It was suggested by the best selling, non-fiction book Flying Saucers from Outer Space by Maj. Donald Keyhoe. The flying saucer effects were created by Ray Harryhausen.
Scientist Russell Marvin (Hugh Marlowe) and his new bride Carol (Joan Taylor) are driving to work when a flying saucer appears overhead then zooms away. Without proof of the encounter other than a tape recording of the ship's sound, Dr. Marvin is hesitant to notify his bosses. He is in charge of Project Skyhook, an American space program that has already launched 10 research satellites into orbit. General Hanley (Morris Ankrum), Carol's father, returns from an investigation and informs Marvin that many of the satellites have crashed. Marvin admits that he has lost contact with all of them and privately suspects alien involvement. The Marvins themselves witness the eleventh falling from the sky.
When a saucer lands at the lab the next day soldiers immediately begin firing upon it, killing one alien who has left the ship, but the others and the ship itself are protected by the saucer's force field. The aliens then destroy the base, killing everyone but the Marvins, who are trapped underground. The general is kidnapped and taken away in the saucer. Russell records a broadcast from the aliens and plays it on a tape recorder, which just happened to be running low on its batteries. The message is slowed down enough that ther aliens' message can be understood: they wanted to meet with Dr. Marvin. Once rescued from the sub-basement, Marvin plays the message for his superiors, but they have to wait for authorization.
Impatient, Marvin contacts the aliens and steals away to meet them, but Carol and Major Huglin follow him. They and a motorcycle cop are taken aboard a spaceship. They discover that the aliens have extracted knowledge from General Hanley's brain, and now have him under their control, although they reassure Carol that they can restore him. They also claim to be the last of their species and that they shot down the satellites because they thought they were weapons. As proof of their power, the aliens give Marvin the coordinates of where they sank a destroyer that had fired on them. The Marvins are released with the message that the aliens want to meet the world's leaders in 56 days in Washington, D.C., to negotiate an occupation.
The flying saucers are invulnerable to conventional weapons, but from his observations Marvin develops a weapon, which he hopes will be effective. He feverishly starts building a prototype, and just as he finishes, a saucer arrives. Marvin tests his weapon and the saucer is disabled enough to send it wobbling away. As they leave, the aliens jettison Hanley and the police officer, who fall to their deaths.
Groups of alien ships then show up in the skies over Washington, Paris, London, and Moscow, and begin destroying everything. But there are enough of Dr. Marvin's new truck-mounted weapons deployed in Washington, D.C. to slowly shoot them down. One saucer clips and topples the Washington Monument, while another crashes into the Capitol Building and a third into Union Station. The defenders also discover that the aliens are vulnerable to small arms fire once they leave the immediate force fields of their saucers. Later Marvin and Carol rejoice at the beach, relieved that the danger is over.
- Hugh Marlowe as Dr. Russell A. Marvin
- Joan Taylor as Carol Marvin
- Donald Curtis as Major Huglin, the liaison officer
- Morris Ankrum as Brig. Gen. John Hanley
- John Zaremba as Prof. Kanter
- Thomas Browne Henry as Vice-Admiral Enright
- Grandon Rhodes as General Edmunds
- Larry J. Blake as a motorcycle policeman
- Charles Evans as Dr. Alberts
- Paul Frees as Alien (voice)
- Harry Lauter as Cutting - Generator Technician
Visual effects 
Special effects expert Ray Harryhausen animated the film's flying saucers using stop-motion animation. Harryhausen also animated the falling masonry when saucers crash into various government buildings and monuments, in order to make the action appear realistic. Some figure animation was used to show the aliens emerging from the saucers. A considerable amount of stock footage was also used, notably scenes during the invasion that showed batteries of U. S. 90 mm M3 guns and an early missile launch. Stock footage of the destruction of the warship HMS Barham during World War II was used for the U. S. Navy destroyer that is sunk by a flying saucer. Satellite launch depictions made use of stock film images from a Viking rocket launch and a failure of a German V-2 rocket.
The voice of the aliens was produced from a recording of Paul Frees reading their lines and then hand-jiggling the speed control of an analog reel-to-reel tape recorder, so that it continually wavered from a slow bass voice to one that is high and fast.
During a question-and-answer period at a tribute to Ray Harryhausen and a screening of Jason and the Argonauts held in Sydney, Australia, Harryhausen said he sought advice from noted 1950s UFO "contactee" George Adamski on the depiction of the flying saucers used in the film; he also noted that Adamski appeared to have grown increasingly paranoid by that time. The film's iconic flying saucer design (a static central cabin with an outer rotating ring with slotted vanes) matches descriptions given to Maj. Donald Keyhoe of flying disc sightings in his best-selling flying saucer book.
Depiction of science and technology 
The film has shots of several 1950s technologies in action, including paper tape communications, a telautograph, and a differential analyzer. The Project Skyhook in the film (released 1 July 1956) reflects the public interest in announcements about the earth satellite projects of the International Geophysical Year (1 July 1957 to 31 December 1958; first satellites in orbit included Sputnik 1 on 4 October 1957 and Explorer 1 on 31 January 1958.)
The invaders' flying saucers use magnetic drives capable of near light speed velocities, resulting in a distortion of time: while time seems like minutes to the passengers, events on board occur in split seconds of real time. They use spy drones that look like ball lightning or Foo fighters. Their language translator device resembles a glowing crystal rose which also serves as the input device for their "Infinitely Indexed Memory Bank". Humans captured by the invaders are subjected to scanning for the "Infinitely Indexed Memory Bank" which strips the victims' mind of all knowledge, leaving them mindless zombies. At one point, the invaders seize control of all communications to broadcast their ultimatum: "People of Earth, Attention!"
The invaders induce solar flares that disrupt earth's weather and mankind's communications. The invaders' main weapons are disintegrator rays housed in the arms of their space suits (which are unarmored and vulnerable to gunfire) and in a parabolic device that extends and retracts from the base of their saucers. The ray reduces humans and trucks to ashes and causes aircraft, ships, and buildings to explode or fall apart.
Military scientists analyze an alien's suit of armor after its wearer is killed by a rifle shot. The helmet is described as being light as a feather and impervious to some forms of damage, and is shown to extend a wearer's vision and hearing.
- 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1956', Variety Weekly, January 2, 1957
- Earth vs. the Flying Saucers at the Internet Movie Database
- Earth vs. the Flying Saucers at AllRovi
- Earth vs. the Flying Saucers at the TCM Movie Database