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Film / Earth vs. the Flying Saucers

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A 1956 Science Fiction B-Movie about — what else? — an Alien Invasion, directed by Fred Sears, written by The Twilight Zone and The Wolf Man legend Curt Siodmak, and starring Hugh Marlowe and Joan Taylor.

The film is mostly remembered for its groundbreaking special effects by the legendary Stop Motion animator Ray Harryhausen, used to destroy Washington, D.C. in a spectacular fashion unmatched until Independence Day.

This film contains examples of:

  • Always Chaotic Evil: Averted. The aliens have come to conquer Earth, but would prefer to negotiate terms rather than subdue our planet by force, which would mean governing a devastated world and its resentful population.
  • America Saves the Day:
    • The Flying Saucers concentrate their attack on the United States capital of Washington D.C., completely ignoring the other nations of the world.
    • Some of the saucers are seen against Stock Footage of New York, Paris and London, but there's no further reference to them.
  • Do Not Adjust Your Set
    "People of Earth, attention. This is a voice speaking to you from thousands of miles beyond your planet. Look to your sun for a warning."
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Ya got flying saucers attacking Earth and lots of them!
  • Flying Saucer: Well, duh...
  • George Lucas Altered Version: The DVD release includes a newly-colorized version, supervised by Harryhausen himself, although the original black and white is also included.
  • The Greys: The aliens inside their powered armor.
  • Little Green Man in a Can: The inhabitants of the flying saucers are Greys wearing powered armor. It's almost word-for-word, if not for the black and white film.
  • Mind Probe: The "Infinitely Indexed Memory Scanner."
  • Monumental Battle: One of the first. Watching icons like the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building being trashed at the climax is one of the highlights of the film.
  • Monumental Damage: The Washington Monument being knocked down after an out-of-control flying saucer rams into it near its base, the front of the Supreme Court building being damaged by flying saucer beams and another saucer ramming into and destroying the Capitol Dome. All of these were nice pieces of FX work by Ray Harryhausen.
  • Poor Communication Kills: The aliens send a message informing Dr. Marvin of their upcoming visit to the rocket base. Unfortunately they made an error regarding the speed at which it was transmitted, so when a flying saucer lands at a military base without warning, a massacre occurs.
  • Powered Armor: The aliens use a version, mostly just to keep themselves alive, but they do have built-in blasters.
  • Revenge by Proxy: The aliens do this to General Hanley and the policeman as revenge for one of their number being killed. They'd been keeping the two imprisoned and brainwashed aboard their ship, and kill them and dump the bodies from a high altitude for Russell and Carol to find in the woods.
  • Science Hero: The Drs. Marvin both qualify, though Russell gets most of the work done.
  • Stock Footage: Lots of it, obviously for budgetary reasons, but quite cleverly integrated.
  • Stop Motion: Unusually, it's used for the flying saucers, not for the aliens themselves. It's even used for scenes where buildings are destroyed, because the usual technique of blowing up miniatures in slow-motion would have been too expensive.
  • Two of Your Earth Minutes: The aliens tell Dr. Marvin that they will give him "two of your lunar days or 56 days Earth time" to set up a meeting between them and Earth's leaders. To the aliens, one lunar day is the time it takes the Moon to orbit around the Earth, or about 28 days.
  • Versus Title
  • Washington D.C. Invasion: The final battle takes place around major landmarks in the city. Notable for the amount of (second unit) location filming around the Capitol Building and other landmarks, giving the tightly budgeted film a better look than your average B movie.
  • We Come in Peace — Shoot to Kill: The military fire on the Flying Saucer when it lands in the middle of an army base, having not understood their signal asking for a meeting (because it was transmitted at the wrong speed). The aliens in turn want to make peaceful First Contact, but only to negotiate the surrender of a Vichy Earth, as conquering Earth by force is not in their interests.
  • When Things Spin, Science Happens: The flat section of the flying saucers' hull spins for no discernible reason while they fly. According to Harryhausen, that's how their Anti-Gravity works (this actually works, within limits).