Plot: What’s it about?
As the head of Operation Skyhook, Dr. Russell Marvin (Hugh Marlowe) is charged with supervising the launch of multiple rockets into the reaches of space. These rockets are to serve as probes, gauging the depths of outer space for potential missions in the future, to see what lies out there before we launch. Of course, if something dangerous is out there, we need to know before a space flight is sent up, so this is a most important process. But for some reason, the rockets have vanished and left not a trace, which has Dr. Marvin baffled. As the final rocket launch is prepared, a strange craft lands at the base and attempts to make contact, but the military forces presence decide to take action. Soon enough, the base is left demolished and the aliens inside the craft leave behind a mysterious, cryptic message. With these violent aliens prepared to strike our cities and leave our world in rubble, a plan is needed to save not only those cities, but also the entire future of the human race. As Dr. Marvin works on a new weapon to combat the saucers, will he be able to complete the project in time to save the world?
Ah yes, the definitive 1950s flying saucer movie, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers has arrived on DVD, a moment genre fans have waited on for some time. At its heart, this is a standard B movie in most respects, with a low budget, rather bland cast, and a predictable storyline, but in the end, it rises above those flaws to become a fun, memorable picture. I’ll grant you, you need to be a fan of 1950s sci/fi to fully appreciate Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, but with special effects by Ray Harryhausen, some outsiders are bound to discover this one. And those Harryhausen effects are cool, with some neat flying saucers whizzing about and of course, the destruction of some famous landmarks thrown in. Yes, the special effects look a little dated, but as always, Harryhausen’s work remains impressive, even timeless. A lot of alien invasion B movies stuck in some kind of social message, but Earth vs. the Flying Saucers is never weighed down by a conscious, which is perhaps why it has retained its entertainment value. I more than recommend this release to sci/fi fans, as well as those interested in seeing Harryhausen’s magical effects.
Video: How does it look?
Earth vs. the Flying Saucers is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. A low budget movie from 1956 probably doesn’t lend to much hope of a good visual presentation, but Columbia has delivered this one in fine condition. The print has some speckles, but grain is minimal and no major problems arise, which is excellent news indeed. I was also pleased to see the image is not overly soft and while it isn’t razor sharp either, it looks very good and detail remains high throughout. The contrast is stable and consistent also, so the film’s black & white visuals come through without a hitch. This is one terrific looking visual effort from Columbia, who have given Harryhausen nuts another reason to celebrate here.
Audio: How does it sound?
The audio here is rather basic, but it is a mono track from a 1956 low budget sci/fi movie, so we shouldn’t expect miracles here. I found the materials to be in good condition, as I heard little in the way of hiss and distortion, which is common on these 50s sci/fi B movies. The cool UFO sounds stream through well, as do the various destruction scenes, but keep in mind, this is an older mono option, not a remixed surround soundtrack. The dialogue is also well presented, with clean and clear vocals from start to finish. This disc also includes subtitles in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese, and Thai.
Supplements: What are the extras?
You’ll find a brief behind the scenes featurette, a selection of still photos, and the film’s theatrical trailer. This disc also includes the excellent documentary The Harryhausen Chronicles, as well as the This Is Dynamation featurette. I’m glad to see these features available, but since we’ve seen them on all the previous Harryhausen releases, I wish Columbia could have used some new material, to enhance the disc’s value.