Sunday, 1 November 2015

Earth vs the Flying Saucers (5 Stars)

30 films to watch before you die, #1

I've appointed this month, November 2015, as my "30 films to watch before you die" month. I completed my list recently, after two years of pondering, and even after publishing it in my blog last month I've been having second thoughts about what should and shouldn't be in the list. It's not so much what shouldn't be in, it's what should be in. There are so many other films that are good enough to be in the list, but I had already decided to make it a list of 30 films, not 50 or 100, so I had to make painful cuts.

I've imposed four restrictions on the list:
  1. Only films in the English language.
  2. No more than one film by the same director.
  3. No more than two films from the same year.
  4. Only films that are easily available.

The first restriction is entirely arbitrary. There are many good films in other languages. I've only made this restriction in order to make my choices easier by reducing the number of potential films for the list.

The second restriction is to make my list more varied. I have a few favourite directors, and I might feel tempted to include half a dozen films by each of them. Having this restriction spreads the list more.

The third restriction is one that I made out of desperation. Even after making the first two restrictions I still had more than 50 films in my list. I noticed that I had a few clusters of films, for instance I had five films made in 1996. By imposing this restriction it was easier to make cuts, for instance I knew that three of the 1996 films had to go. I almost decided to have a maximum of one film per year, but that would have distorted my list too much.

The fourth restriction is for purely practical reasons. If I'm recommending essential films to my viewers, it would be unfair of me to include films that are out of print and impossible to find anywhere. In my case, this restriction only led to the omission of one film, "The Paperboy", which has never been released on DVD in America or England.

I'm sure the list will be controversial. There are no Alfred Hitchcock or Orson Welles films. It's my personal list. There's a disproportionate number of science fiction films in the list, but I make no apologies, I like science fiction films. On the other hand, the list isn't just a list of my 30 favourite films. I've omitted a few of my favourite films to make room for films which I consider to be important. For instance, I don't consider "Scream" to be one of the best two films of the fateful year 1996, but it's such an important film in the history of horror films that it would have been criminal to exclude it.

I posted a list of the 30 films in my blog last month. I've decided to remove the post, which is something I never usually do. This will make the choice of my 30 films to watch before you die more exciting for my readers who either didn't read that post or have forgotten what I included. Everyone will have to wait for the next film each day.

Now for my first film in the list. Rather than rank the films in order of importance, which would have made the list even more controversial, I'm watching them in chronological order. I'm starting in 1956, which means that I've ignored the first 40 years of the history of cinema. Maybe I could have added a further restriction, at least one film per decade, but I'll stick to what I've decided on. Almost half of the films in my list are from the 1990's, but I can't help it, it was such a good decade for films.

One more general point: I've already watched and reviewed most of the 30 films in my list. I don't like to write new reviews which just repeat what I've already said, so some of my reviews this month may be short. I'll at least write enough to explain why I think each film is worthy of being included in this list.

"Earth vs the Flying Saucers" is well known as being one of the first films featuring the special effects of Ray Harryhausen. I doubt anybody except for the most hardcore film buff could remember who directed it. It was Fred Sears, a man who made films for less than 10 years before dying in 1957 at the age of 44. If the action and pacing of this film is anything to go by, he had talent which he could have built upon if he had lived longer. But the fact remains that this film will be remembered for Ray Harryhausen's iconic flying saucers, which have been imitated in countless films and television series for the last 50 years.

I could have picked other films featuring Ray Harryhausen's animations, but this film is close to my heart. As I've already said, I love science fiction films. Apart from the flying saucers themselves Ray's animations are limited to the destruction of buildings in this film, not the dinosaurs and fantasy creatures he's most famous for.

One small thing I'd like to point out is that the colouring of this film is surprisingly good. Even though I've owned this DVD containing a coloured version for a few years I've never watched it before today. I was always a snob and thought that the original black and white version must be better. After checking it out I would say that both versions are equally good.

If you like this film I recommend any of Ray Harryhausen's other films, especially

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