Friday, 31 May 2013

Earth vs the Flying Saucers (5 Stars)

I watched this film today for the first time in many years. It's every bit as exciting as I remember it. Sure, it's dated. The repeated voiceovers give away the film's age: it was made in 1956, more than 50 years ago.

Dr. Russell Marvin is overseeing a project to send 12 unmanned satellites into Earth orbit to prepare for space exploration. While he is driving to the launch site with his wife a flying saucer swoops down over his car. As a good scientist he tries to rationalise it and denies what he's seen. This changes when he finds out that all 11 satellites launched so far have been destroyed. He is invited into a flying saucer, where he is informed that after two months the aliens will assume rule over the Earth.

The influence of this film over later films can't be overemphasised. Tim Burton's "Mars Attacks" blatantly copies imagery, but as they say, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery". The flying saucers used by the Daleks in the Doctor Who television series are identical to these, externally at least. If anyone were asked to sketch a flying saucer it would look like the ones created by Ray Harryhausen for this film. His images have imprinted themselves upon our collective consciousness.

On an unrelated topic, today I started compiling a list of "30 films to watch before you die". I chose the number 30 because that way the films can be watched one a day within a month, but I'm already regretting it. My initial list contains 52 films, including "Earth vs the Flying Saucers", and it will be a hard choice deciding what to throw out. Maybe I should just give up and pick 50 films, as most similar lists do.

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