Sci-fi Greats! Earth Versus the Flying Saucers. Ray Harryhausen masterpiece. Complete with robotic aliens, ray gun fights, and giant saucers!
I would be remiss if I didn't publish Wikipedia's take on this fine movie. If you haven't seen the trailer or movie yet, they're both posted in my Videos blog here!
Enjoy this tour de force of cool sci-fi movies.
Earth vs. the Flying Saucers From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Earth vs. the Flying Saucers Theatrical release poster
Directed by Fred F. Sears Produced by Charles H. Schneer
Sam Katzman Written by Curt Siodmak
George Worthing Yates
Raymond T. Marcus Based on Flying Saucers from Outer Space
by Donald Keyhoe Starring Hugh Marlowe
Joan Taylor Music by Mischa Bakaleinikoff Cinematography Fred Jackman Jr. Edited by Danny B. Landres Production
Distributed by Columbia Pictures Release dates
83 minutes Country United States Language English Box office $1,250,000 (US rentals) Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (also known as Invasion of the Flying Saucers, Flying Saucers from Outer Space, and Invasion of the Flying Saucers) is a 1956 American black-and-white science fiction film from Columbia Pictures, produced by Charles H. Schneer and Sam Katzman, directed by Fred F. Sears, and starring Hugh Marlowe and Joan Taylor.
The film's storyline was suggested by the bestselling, non-fiction book Flying Saucers from Outer Space by Maj. Donald Keyhoe.
The stop-motion animation special effects in the film were created by Ray Harryhausen.
Plot Scientist Dr. Russell Marvin (Hugh Marlowe) and his new bride Carol (Joan Taylor) are driving to work when a flying saucer appears overhead. Without proof of the encounter, other than a tape recording of the ship's sound, Dr. Marvin is hesitant to notify his superiors. 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, informs Marvin that many of the satellites have since crashed. Marvin admits that he has lost contact with all of them and privately suspects alien involvement. The Marvins then witness the 11th falling from the sky shortly after launch.
When a saucer lands at Skyhook the next day, soldiers open fire, killing one exposed alien, while others and the saucer itself are being protected by a force field. The aliens then kill everyone at the facility but the Marvins; General Hanley is captured and taken away in the saucer. Now too late, Russell discovers and decodes a message on his tape recording from the aliens: they wanted to meet with Dr. Marvin and had landed in peace at Skyhook for that purpose. Now impatient to conduct that meeting because everything has gone sideways, Marvin contacts the aliens and steals away to meet them, followed closely by Carol and Major Huglin (Donald Curtis). They and a pursuing motorcycle cop are taken aboard a saucer, where they learn that the aliens have extracted knowledge directly from the General's brain; he is now under their control. They claim to be the last of their species and have destroyed all the launched satellites, fearing them as weapons. As proof of their power, the aliens then give Dr. Marvin the coordinates of a naval destroyer that opened fire on them, and which they have since destroyed; the Marvins are then released with the message that the aliens want to meet the world's leaders in 56 days in Washington, D.C., to negotiate an alien occupation.
Dr. Marvin's later observations uncover the fact that the aliens' protective suits are made of solidified electricity, and grant them advanced auditory perception. From other observations, Marvin develops a counter-weapon against their flying saucers, which he then later successfully tests against a single saucer. After doing so, as they escape, the aliens jettison Gen. Hanley and the motor cycle cop; both fall to their deaths. Groups of alien saucers then attack Washington, Paris, London, and Moscow but are destroyed by Dr. Marvin's sonic weapon. The defenders also discover that the aliens can be easily killed by simple small arms gunfire once they are outside the force fields of their saucers.
With the alien threat eliminated, Dr. Marvin and Carol quietly celebrate the victory by going back to their favorite beach, resuming their lives as a newly wed couple.
Production 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 made by Paul Frees (uncredited) 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.
Reception Earth vs. the Flying Saucers was well received by audiences and critics alike, with Variety noting that the special effects were the real stars of the film. "This exploitation programmer does a satisfactory job of entertaining in the science-fiction class. The technical effects created by Ray Harryhausen come off excellently in the Charles H. Schneer production, adding the required out-of-this-world visual touch to the screenplay, taken from a screen story by Curt Siodmak, suggested by Major Donald E. Keyhoe’s Flying Saucers from Outer Space." 
Earth vs. the Flying Saucers has reached an iconic status in that many films in the "flying saucer" subgenre that followed, imitated and incorporated many of the elements established by Ray Harryhausen. In an article for The New York Times film reviewer Hal Erickson noted that, "Anyone who's seen the 1996 science-fiction lampoon Mars Attacks may have trouble watching Earth vs. the Flying Saucers with a straight face." The later campy film could be seen as an homage to the era, especially to the contributions made by Earth vs. the Flying Saucers.
Legacy Several films have recycled stock footage from the film, including The Giant Claw and The 27th Day (1957), an episode of the Twilight Zone (1985) and the short Flying Saucer Daffy (1958).
Audio Book. The Moon Pool by Abraham Merritt. Chapter 22: The Casting of the Shadow. Fantasy at its best!
Movie. Tarantula. A Classic Science Fiction Horror Story starring John Agar, hero of most horror and sci-fi films of that period.
In retrospect Tarantula was one of the most frightening films of its time. I have no problem with tarantulas, as long as they stay on their side of the world, but that movie gave me a serious respect for what spiders could do.
Got to be one of the best horror/sci-fi films of that time period when everyone was worried about the nuclear bomb and mutated creatures.
Below is Wikipedia's take on it:
Tarantula is a 1955 American science fiction film from Universal-International, produced by William Alland, directed by Jack Arnold, and starring John Agar, Mara Corday and Leo G. Carroll. The screenplay by Robert M. Fresco and Martin Berkeley was based on a story by Arnold but inspired by Fresco's teleplay for the Science Fiction Theatre episode, "No Food for Thought", which was aired on May 14, 1955.
Plot A man with Neanderthal features and wearing pajamas stumbles through the Arizona desert, falls and dies. Dr. Matt Hastings (John Agar), a bright, handsome and sympathetic doctor from the small town of Desert Rock, is called to view the body. Asked to give an opinion as to cause of death, he finds himself perplexed. Surprised to learn the deceased was someone he knew – biological research scientist Eric Jacobs – Dr. Hastings suggests he be given permission to perform an autopsy to learn why the man's face is distorted beyond recognition. The sheriff refuses, judging an autopsy unnecessary as Jacobs' associate, Dr. Gerald Deemer (Leo G. Carroll), signed the death certificate and there is no indication of foul play.
Curious to learn more, Dr. Hastings drives twenty miles out of town to visit Dr. Deemer in his lab. Hastings learns that Deemer and Jacobs have been conducting experiments on animals in an effort to use an atomic isotope to create a super food nutrient. Foreseeing a future when human population growth would outstrip food production and result in food shortages, their hope was to create a viable replacement for food and prevent widespread starvation.
He learns that the scientists' experiments proved successful in one respect, in that some animals were able to thrive and grow exclusively on the nutrient without any food. Yet, the nutrient has not been perfected. Other animals have died after receiving injections, and still others have kept growing to gargantuan proportions. The latter include a white mouse, a guinea pig, and a Mexican red rumped tarantula.
Deemer tells Hastings that the cause of Jacobs' death was his impatience to see if the latest batch of the nutrient would sustain humans. As a result, Jacob injected himself with the nutrient which resulted in runaway acromegaly, which killed him in four days. What Deemer does not reveal is that Jacobs also injected his research assistant, Paul Lund, with the same nutrient.
After Hasting leaves, the deformed Lund appears, attacks Deemer and partially destroys the lab. During this rampage the lab catches fire and the glass front of the tarantula's cage is shattered. Lund grabs the hypodermic that Deemer was going to use to inject an animal and injects Deemer instead.
During the melee the arachnid escapes outdoors, unnoticed. Lund collapses and dies. Deemer - who had been unconscious - regains consciousness, grabs a fire extinguisher, and puts out the fire. Intending to continue his work without questions or objections, he buries Lund's body and conceals all traces of the grave.
The following day, a new lab assistant arrives in town, by bus. The young and beautiful Stephanie Clayton (Mara Corday), who goes by the nickname "Steve," has signed on to assist in the lab as part of her master's degree program. Told she will have to wait a couple of hours for the only taxi driver in town to return and drive her out to the lab, she accepts a ride from Dr. Hastings, who is also headed there.
When they arrive and see the damage, Dr. Deemer tells them that the fire was caused by an equipment malfunction. He indicates that all the animals were killed in the fire, and avoids answering questions about what happened to his previous research assistant. As Steve's contract stipulates that she live in Dr. Deemer's residence, Dr. Hastings leaves her there with her suitcases.
Steve begins working in the lab and proves to be a capable lab assistant, even as she begins to notice disturbing changes in Dr. Deemer's appearance and demeanor. Meanwhile, the now house-sized tarantula ravages the countryside as Dr. Hastings tries to unravel a mystery that includes clean-picked cattle carcasses and pools of arachnid venom up to eight feet in diameter. Once he puts two and two together, Hastings begs the sheriff to gather law enforcement personal and explosives so they can try to destroy the creature that is killing livestock and humans.
The tarantula eventually returns to the lab during the night and kills Dr. Deemer but Steve escapes with Dr. Hastings. Then the tarantula pursues its human quarry down the road toward the town. After several failed attempts, the spider is eventually destroyed by a napalm attack launched from a jet fighter squadron.
Clint Eastwood appears uncredited in a minor role as the jet squadron leader.
This section may need to be rewritten entirely to comply with Wikipedia's quality standards. You can help. The discussion page may contain suggestions. (July 2015) The special effects showing the giant animals and the unfortunate scientist's deformity are fairly advanced for the time, with real animals (including a rabbit and a guinea pig in Professor Deemer's lab) being used to represent the giant creatures. A real spider was also used for shots where the entire monster was shown. Shooting miniatures were reserved for close-ups and the final shots of the creature on fire, resulting in a rather more convincing monster than the giant ants seen in the earlier big-bug film Them! (1954). Of this and the entire film, Jack Arnold said, "We decided to do this film because, generally, people are very afraid of spiders".
Although set in Arizona, the film was shot in California with locations for the desert scenes in Apple Valley. The movie was also filmed in and around the rock formations of "Dead Man's Point" in Lucerne Valley California, a frequently used movie location for many early western films. It takes place in the fictional town of Desert Rock, Arizona.
Like Them!, Tarantula makes atmospheric use of its desert locations; and although a radioactive isotope does make an appearance, it differs from most big-bug films in having the mutation caused by the peaceful research of a well-intentioned scientist rather than nuclear weapons and/or a mad genius. Director Jack Arnold was to use matte effects again two years later to show miniaturization, rather than gigantism, in The Incredible Shrinking Man, which also featured an encounter with a spider. That real spider was the same one that appeared in Tarantula.
The film's theatrical release poster, featuring a spider with two eyes instead of the normal eight and carrying a woman in its fangs, does not represent any scene in the final film. This gaudy depiction of a woman-in-peril had become, by this time, a standard B-movie poster cliche that would continue being used for years.
Reception This section requires expansion. (April 2015) The contemporary review in Variety indicated "A tarantula as big as a barn puts the horror into this well-made program science-fictioner and it is quite credibly staged and played, bringing off the far-fetched premise with a maximum of believability."  In Video Movie Guide 2002, authors Mick Martin and Marsh Potter characterized Tarantula as " (a) pretty good entry in the giant bug subgenre of 1950s horror and science fiction movies."
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