Earth vs. the Flying Saucers [1956]

A textbook example of '50s-era science fiction, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers boasts not only a solid script and competent performances, but some genuinely impressive stop-motion effects courtesy of one of the industry's uncontested masters, Ray Harryhausen. Scientist Hugh Marlowe (who faced a more benevolent invader from space five years earlier in The Day the Earth Stood Still) discovers that UFOs are responsible for the destruction of a series of exploratory space rockets launched by his space exploration project. The saucers' helmeted pilots land on Earth and deliver an ultimatum to humanity via Marlowe: fealty or complete annihilation. Harryhausen's painstakingly intricate saucers and the destruction they wreak (particularly during an assault on Washington, D.C.) are the film's unquestionable highlights, but Marlowe and Joan Taylor (as his wife/partner) are capable leads, and veteran B director Fred F. Sears doesn't let the dialogue and expositional scenes fall apart in between the barrage of effects. Earth vs. the Flying Saucers is a fun and effective slice of sci-fi that should please younger audiences as well as nostalgic return viewers. Sears later reused some of the effects footage for his jaw-droppingly awful 1957 effort, The Giant Claw. --Paul Gaita

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