Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (Blu-ray) (1956)

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Released 5-Dec-2018

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Fantasy Alternative Version-Black and White and Colorized versions
Audio Commentary-Ray Harryhausen and visual effects artists
Featurette-The Hollywood Blacklist and Bernard Gordon (29:27)
Featurette-Remembering Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (21:25)
Interviews-Cast-Joan Taylor (17:29)
Featurette-The Colorization Process (11:02)
More…-Original Screenplay Credits (3:16)
More…-”Flying Saucers vs. The Earth” Comic Book
Gallery-Posters and photos
Trailer-x 3 for other Harryhausen films
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1956
Running Time 83:43
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Fred F Sears
Studio
Distributor

ViaVision
Starring Hugh Marlow
Joan Taylor
Morris Ankrum
Donald Curtis
Case ?
RPI ? Music Mischa Bakaleinikoff


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
French Dolby Digital 2.0
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
French
Japanese
Spanish
Portuguese
Arabic
Hindi
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Newlyweds Russell and Carol Marvin (Hugh Marlow, Joan Taylor) are driving on a desert highway when their car is buzzed by a flying saucer. Russell is a scientist, the director of a nearby facility that has been sending communications satellites into space for the US military; they have launched eleven but have been unable to contact any of them since launch. Carol’s father, General John Hanley (Morris Ankrum) arrives at the launch facility; he has examined space debris in Panama and has concluded that it is one of their satellites. Russell decides to go ahead and launch number twelve but just before the launch a flying saucer appears and lands at the facility. The soldiers guarding the site open fire on the saucer, which responds killing the soldiers, destroying the facility and taking away an unconscious General Hanley. Deep in an underground bunker Russell and Carol are the only survivors.

     Russell and Carol are taken to Washington to tell what happened but the brass remain sceptical. However, Russell discovers that the aliens have been trying to contact him; against orders he arranges to meet a saucer; Carol and military minder Major Huglin (Donald Curtis) follow Russell and they all go inside the saucer. They discover the fate of General Hanley and are informed that the Earth has 56 days to gather the world’s leaders in Washington or the saucers will attack. The military are determined to resist so Russell and other scientists have 56 days to invent and test a weapon that is capable of defeating the saucers.

     Earth vs. the Flying Saucers is the second film producer Charles Schneer and special effects wizard Ray Harryhausen made for Columbia in the 1950s. It was directed by Fred F Sears, a journeyman director; Earth vs. the Flying Saucers is one of six films he made that were released in 1956. The film marks a departure for Harryhausen from his previous stop motion creature features, and although his work here influenced later films, including Mars Attacks! and Independence Day (both 1996), to my mind the inanimate flying saucers lack the “character” of Harryhausen’s creatures such as the giant octopus in It Came From Beneath the Sea; we have sympathy with the creature and sad to see it destroyed, which is not the case with the impersonal saucers. There is also a flat middle section in Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, full of exposition, talk and scientific gobbledegook, but when the attack starts and the saucers destroy iconic Washington buildings and monuments the film is wonderful, and still looks impressive 60 years after being made. Who does not love to see the Capital Building destroyed!

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Earth vs. the Flying Saucers is presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     Both the Black and White and Colourised versions (called Chromachoice on the menu) of Earth vs. the Flying Saucers are provided on the Blu-ray. You can toggle between the versions using the “Angle” button on the remote.

     The colours of the colourised version are flat and don’t look as natural, or as effective, as the colourisation of It Came From Beneath the Sea. It may be that the stock footage that was used extensively in Earth vs. the Flying Saucers did not lend itself to colourisation as easily as the footage shot for the film. Detail in back projection shots with live action in the foreground and saucers behind look soft in either version, but this is 1956 technology! The black and white print showed good, solid detail and excellent blacks and greys. Brightness and contrast is consistent.

     Grain is very apparent, especially in stock footage and there are a number of slight marks, some vertical lines and motion blur against banks of instruments.

     English and English subtitles for the hearing impaired are provided, plus subtitles in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Arabic and Hindi.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The main audio is English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and there is a French Dolby Digital 2.0 dub. The audio commentary is Dolby Digital 2.0.

     The film was released in theatres with mono audio and this track is front oriented, with mostly music and some effects in the surrounds such as explosions. Dialogue is clear. The subwoofer was mostly noticeable during the crashes and explosions.

     The music for Earth vs. the Flying Saucers was provided by an uncredited Mischa Bakaleinikoff,mostly reusing scores from the Columbia stock library.

     There are no lip synchronisation issues.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Start-up ad (2:24)

     At start-up an ad for Blu-ray plays. This is also available from the trailers menu.

Alternative Version

     Both the Black and White and Colorized versions of Earth vs. the Flying Saucers are provided on the Blu-ray; at any time you can use the “Angle” button on the remote to toggle between them.

BD Live

     If the Blu-ray player is connected to the internet, access other material.

Audio Commentary

     Ray Harryhausen, Arnold Kunert and visual effects artists Jeffrey Okun, Keith Ralston sit together and chat. This is a rather trivial commentary and they joke a fair bit but they do talk about how the film came about, the sound effects, the colourisation, the use of stock footage, the budget, how certain effects were done, locations and the cast.

The Hollywood Blacklist and Bernard Gordon (29:27)

     Made in 2007, Del Reisman of the Writers Guild of America speaks about the reign of the House Un-American Activities Committee and its effects upon American society and Hollywood, including writers who were blacklisted for 15 years. Unlike actors, who were well known to the public, most writers were not known so could work under a false name, producers knowing full well that the writer was blacklisted and thus could not be given a film credit. Reisman was one of a three man committee appointed by the Guild in the late 1980s to investigate, and restore, writer credits. He speaks briefly about the now restored credit for Bernard Gordon on Earth vs. the Flying Saucers and points out other anomalies, such as a screenplay Academy Award given to a man who did not write the picture, the real writer being blacklisted, and he also talks about restoring the writers’ credits for Carl Foreman and Michael Wilson on Bridge on the River Kwai. Fascinating.

Remembering Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (21:25)

     Made in 2007 this features Ray Harryhausen playing with his flying saucer models from the film and speaking about how Earth vs. the Flying Saucers came about, researching UFO sightings, giving the flying saucers a character and how they did the stop motion destruction of the Washington buildings and monuments. He then talks about how his stop motion films inspired filmmakers, including George Lucas and Steven Spielberg an influence confirmed by interviews with special effects man Stan Winston and directors Frank Darabont and Terry Gilliam. Additional comments by historian John Canemaker.

Interview with Joan Taylor (17:29)

     A lively and spritely Taylor talks about her background, how she got into movies including westerns and the 1954 MGM musical Rose Marie, comments about her co-stars, her memories of Earth vs. the Flying Saucers and 20 Million Miles To Earth and her subsequent career in TV.

The Colorization Process (11:02)

     This is a bit of a disappointment. Harryhausen and Legend Films (who did the colourisation) people Barry Sandrew, David G Martin and Rosemary Horvath mostly talk about how wonderful the colourisation process is and how it is a good idea. There is very little about the actual process itself; any examples are from 20 Million Miles To Earth.

Original Screenplay Credits (3:16)

     The original credit sequence showing Raymond T Marcus as the co-writer instead of blacklisted co-writer Bernard Gordon.

”Flying Saucers vs. The Earth” Comic Book

     Fifteen screens of the colour comic book; silent, use the remote to advance.

Galleries (23:20)

     Copious photo galleries of the film’s promotional artwork in various languages and production stills. The photos advance automatically with the film’s soundtrack, dialogue and effects.

Theatrical Trailers

     The following trailers, plus an ad for Blu-ray, are available: 20 Million Miles To Earth (2:00), It Came From Beneath the Sea (2:03) and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1:41).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     Elsewhere Earth vs. the Flying Saucers is only available on Blu-ray in a box set with other Harryhausen films. See the link here for some of the sets. There is no direct equivalent to this, Australian released set. We get the black and white and colourised versions, plus most of the extras that were available on the Sony Region Free US release. What is not on this film is on the It Came From Beneath the Sea film that is included in our box set. As a box set, ours is fine.

Summary

     I don’t think that Earth vs. the Flying Saucers is a top level Ray Harryhausen effort; the inanimate saucers lack the character of his best creatures but the film certainly influenced later filmmakers and the destruction of Washington buildings and monuments is always a hoot. The colourised version is a bonus.

     The video and audio are very good for a 60 year old B movie, the extras genuine and interesting.

     Earth vs. the Flying Saucers is included in the 3 Blu-ray package from ViaVision The Fantastic Films of Ray Harryhausen: Collection Two which also includes It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955) and The 3 Worlds of Gulliver (1960), all with commentaries and other extras, a treat for fans of Harryhausen or classic sci-fi adventure.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Saturday, December 22, 2018
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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