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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956)

Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956)

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Released 10-May-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Menu Audio
Featurette-'This Is Dynamation'
Featurette-The Harryhausen Chronicles
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1956
Running Time 79:56 (Case: 83)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (63:42) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Fred F. Sears

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Hugh Marlowe
Joan Taylor
Donald Curtis
Morris Ankrum
John Zaremba
Thomas Browne Henry
Grandon Rhodes
Larry J. Blake
Case ?
RPI $14.95 Music Mischa Bakaleinikoff

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Just when earthmen are sending up satellites for peaceful purposes, there are reports of flying saucers appearing in the sky. One scientist working on the satellite programme is Doctor Russ Marvin (Hugh Marlowe), who has just married his assistant Carol (Joan Taylor), who just happens to be the daughter of General Hanley (Morris Ankrum). On their way back from their honeymoon, the couple are buzzed by a flying saucer. Marvin has been recording some notes on his portable reel to reel tape recorder, and manages to record a weird sound emanating from the saucer.

    General Hanley tries to stop the satellite launch. Apparently all of the previous satellites have been destroyed, by unknown means. The following day a saucer lands at the launch facility and is immediately fired upon by the Army. Hanley is taken prisoner by the owners of the saucer. Meanwhile Marvin and Carol have accidentally discovered that the weird sound they recorded is actually a message that they would be visiting. Despite being told by the chief of staff not to contact the aliens, Marvin does, and learns the aliens' secret.

    This was a big hit in the 1950s and it is easy to see why. Not only is there a lot of action involving the alien invaders (demolishing buildings a la Independence Day), but the script owes more to the hard science fiction school of scientists versus whatever threat than the Ray Bradbury school of self-indulgent humanist prose. Somewhat ironic given that the real star of this film is a lifelong friend of Bradbury: Ray Harryhausen. Of course he does not appear on screen himself, but his creations do. Some cleverly done model saucers, destruction of buildings on a large scale (though much of this is stock footage), some impressive aliens and more. The film is fast paced and while Hugh Marlowe is a somewhat staid hero and some of the effects look cheesy by more recent standards, it is all very effective and very entertaining. It (mostly) treats the audience as intelligent, though perhaps some of the humans depicted in the movie are a bit stupid.

    Of course you could read the plot as reflecting paranoia about a Communist invasion of the good ol' USA, and that is probably true up to a point. The aliens are faceless (though they have the voice of Paul Frees) and inexorable, but they are eventually defeated by American know-how and individual effort, as would be the case in real life, of course.

    This film has been very influential on later productions, especially Independence Day and Mars Attacks!, the latter of which included several direct parodies of the film. The alien creature when it is eventually revealed looks like something from Roswell out of The X-Files. While the special effects may pale in comparison to the later movies, this film has an seriousness and lack of self-consciousness that makes it if anything more enjoyable.

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Transfer Quality


    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. While this is apparently the original theatrical ratio, a lot of shots look tight or cramped.

    This is an excellent transfer, with the film probably looking as good as it did in its original cinema release. Not that the film would have looked perfect back in 1956, as the technology used to create the special effects also led to some visual problems.

    The black and white image is very sharp and detailed. Contrast is good though shadow detail is a little lacking. Blacks are quite solid but tend to look flat, with black objects like dark suits having no depth or detail. Whites are well rendered if not pure, while there is a satisfactory grey scale.

    The issues that I refer to above relate to both the stock footage (some of it cribbed from The Day The Earth Stood Still) and the process shots. The stock footage is grainy and betrays a lot of film artefacts, mainly scratches and dirt. The process shots are also quite grainy, more so than the rest of the film. This would be how the film looked in 1956, so we can't complain about it. The transfer seems to be very good. There is some minor aliasing and edge enhancement, but nothing untoward. There are some white flecks indicating minor chips to the film elements, but these are relatively few in number.

    Optional subtitles in more languages than the aliens' translating device would be able to handle are included. The English subtitles are in a smallish white font. It is quite readable and the transcription is close to the actual dialogue.

    The disc is an RSDL one with the layer change placed at 63:42, during a fade to black between scenes. I did not notice it during my viewing of the film, so it must be well-placed.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are audio tracks in several languages, with the original English mono recording being the default. It is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0.

    There is nothing to complain about with this audio transfer. Dialogue is clear and the special effects and music are clean without any undue distortion that I could hear. Audio sync seems perfect.

    The music is by Mischa Bakaleinikoff, and is the standard sort of score movies of this kind received during the 1950s: lots of dramatic chords. It suits the material well.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Menu Audio

    While the static menu is displayed, some of the music score is played.

Featurette (8:38)

    This is a short interview of Harryhausen with director Joe Dante, where they talk about the film and handle some of the original saucer models, which have moving parts. I'm not sure how old this is, but judging by Dante's hairstyle and clothing it must be from the 80s or early 90s. It appears to be shot on video and is in 1.33:1.

Featurette-'This Is Dynamation' (3:27)

    Billed as a featurette, this is really just a widescreen promotional trailer for The 7th Voyage of Sinbad showing how some of the effects were achieved.

Featurette-The Harryhausen Chronicles (57:58)

    This is a 1997 film made by critic Richard Schickel that chronicles Harryhausen's life and work, and is narrated by Leonard Nimoy (perhaps it should have been called In Search Of Ray Harryhausen). There is a lot of footage of his work, including test footage for projects that did not get off the ground and some of the surviving models. There are interviews with Ray Bradbury and producer Charles Schneer, as well as a few other filmmakers who claim to be influenced by Harryhausen's work. There is also footage from the Oscars of Harryhausen getting his honorary award in 1992, when the telecast looked like it was coming from the local school hall. Interesting stuff.


    A series of 16 production stills, publicity shots and poster art.

Theatrical Trailer (2:12)

    An excellent original trailer for the most staggering screen experience of your life!

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The US Region 1 seems to differ only by the exclusion of some of the subtitle options. The UK Region 2 is identical to the Region 4.


    An excellent alien invasion thriller.

    The video quality and audio quality are very good indeed for a film of this vintage.

    Some pertinent and interesting extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Thursday, April 07, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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