Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers (review by Doug Smith)

Back to the fifties we go, with one of the all time classic b-grade science fiction movies. “Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers” has everything; people who smoke five packs a day, stereotypes of women, an army that shoots first and asks questions later, and some actually pretty-good-for-their-time special effects, thanks to Ray Harryhausen. And be sure to keep watching for the surprise ending! Well, not really, I’ve just always wanted to say that.
Hugh Marlowe plays the overreacting and not entirely bright scientist, Dr. Russell A. Marvin. Joan Taylor is his wife, Carol, who’s better at making sexual innuendos than anybody I know. Donald Curtis is Major Huglin … isn’t that just a sweet sounding name? Morris Ankrum plays Carol’s dad, General Hanley, who looks like he desperately needs sleep, even before he gets his brain scanned by the aliens. And finally, “Tikki Tikki Temba” John Zaremba plays Professor Kanter.
The movie begins with the narrator telling us how “since biblical times, man has witnessed and recorded strange manifestations in the sky…” You know, like clouds and birds and stuff. A little montage goes on for a little while, giving examples of people seeing flying saucers, all the way from the shores of California, to the halls of Tripoli. Then the credits start flying through the air, which REALLY confuses people.
Now we get to go for a little ride with Dr. and Mrs. Marvin, who just got married two hours ago, which is obvious because Russ is practically sitting on Carol’s lap even though they’re driving a gigantic boat of a car, that probably has about an acre of front seat. They’re on their way to Operation Skyhook, a project that’s trying to get a satellite into space to take readings, but each and every rocket they’ve sent up has been lost. Russ quickly forgets about his recording and let’s his own personal rocket control his mind for a while and it’s almost sexy until you think, “This is what my parents were like! AAAAAAAH!” Before Russ gets too excited, Carol reminds him that he’s starting something he won’t be able to finish. Oh, the agony of impotence…
Russ gets back to work recording while some stock footage of rockets and flying carmel corn plays. Unfortunately, he’s once again interrupted, but not by his libido. This time it’s a flying saucer that hovers over their car for a little while and zips off, almost as fast as the Roadrunner. “Meep meep!” Russ and Carol then have a Montclair Moment as they contemplate what they’ve just seen and try to decide whether or not they’ll tell anybody.
A little later, they arrive at the base and we see the first example of Russ’s apparent obsession of entering and exiting cars on the opposite side. He does this several times throughout the movie and for no apparent reason. After another sexual innuendo, they get to work. Russ flips switches and presses buttons while Carol transcribes what Russ recorded in the car. When she gets to the part of the reel where Russ was interrupted, they realize that they never shut it off and it has the sound that the saucer was making. Unfortunately, they can’t deal with that now, as another rocket is about to take off.
Meanwhile, outside of the base, General Hanley (Carol’s dad, in case you weren’t paying attention before) shows up and wants to stop the rocket launch. He doesn’t, of course, because Russ tells him “we have to keep to a strict schedule.” That’s right; just waste the taxpayers’ money on failed projects. George W. Bush would be proud! Carol also tells him that her and Russ got married last night, even though when they were on their way to the base about 10 minutes ago, it was said that they got married two hours ago. Damn wormholes.
Later that night, Carol’s dad is over for dinner. He tells Russ that the prior rockets they’ve sent up have fallen from the sky. Russ explains that the only way that could have happened was if something shot them down. See how’s it’s all coming together already?
They continue discussing the problem while they eat when suddenly a messenger from base shows up with a message (What else would he have? He’s a messenger!) that contact has been lost with the rocket they sent up a little while ago. And, as coincidence would have it, they see the rocket streak through the sky like a shooting star, apparently having been destroyed. They then turn around and see two glowing orbs hovering above the house and really don’t think anything of it because they’ve seen so many lately. I don’t know about you, but if I’ve just seen a flying saucer and then start seeing floating “Foo Lights,” I’d be getting a little nervous.
Russ just doesn’t learn though. The very next day he gets set to shoot yet another rocket into space. Just as they’re about to launch, though, a very bored watchtower person starts getting calls that a flying saucer is headed towards the base. The saucer lands and a few occupants get out. The army’s answer? Blow ’em away! This goes back to the old rule, “If you don’t understand it, just kill it.” Once again, George W. Bush would be proud. (Can you tell I don’t like the little weenie?)
The army is predictably useless as tits on a bore pig and the saucer goes on a rampage, destroying almost everything and everyone on the base. The good part is, when they blast people, the people just disappear, so they’re self-cleaning! They take General Hanley as a hostage and give him a brain scan. Russ and Carol are trapped in a bunker below ground and as Russ is recording what he thinks may be his last message, the power generator wears down. And as it does so, it slows the speed of his recorder/player. And, can you guess what happens next? Yup, an alien voice is heard on the tape. As it turns out, the aliens were actually trying to contact Russ on the day he and Carol first saw a saucer, but the frequency was too high and too fast. So even though they’re almost infinitely more advanced than we are, the aliens neglected to realize that Russ couldn’t understand a word they were saying. Must’ve had a new guy on the shift that day.
At any rate, the aliens had wanted to meet with Russ, but instead were shot at. Once Russ and Carol are rescued, they take the newfound information to Washington, where they’re forced to jump through hoop upon hoop and go from committee to committee. Ahh, America’s ultra-efficient political system at work. It’s finally decided that it should be suggested to the super-high-all-powerful-committee, or something, that Russell be allowed to contact the aliens. They tell Russ that a decision will be made the next day, but he goes home and contacts the aliens anyway. He sets up a meeting with the aliens at a beach somewhere … how romantic. Carol overhears Russ talking to them and doesn’t want him to go meet them. Seeing as how she’s a woman and this is the fifties, Russ ignores her and takes off. Carol and a security guard follow him, as does a cop who starts chasing them. They get to the meeting point and, sure enough, there’s a saucer. They all go on board and it’s revealed that the saucers want to take over the earth. Kind of like tourists in Door County…
This is really a pretty fun movie. Lots of set ups for good jokes. And just wait’ll you see what the aliens look like without their armor … kind of like Nancy Reagan on a good day. I give it three yaks.