Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Earth vs. the Flying Saucers

So Doctor Marvin and his beautiful secretary, Carol, are cruising through the Arizona desert, fresh from their honeymoon. Sure, he bloviates by second nature and tends to use four or five big-sounding words where one will do, but she fell in love with him anyway. She’s the General’s daughter and works the office pool at the Research Lab: how could you blame her?

Carol’s driving and Marvin’s recording a bit of pompous exposition about his latest satellite space program as a Flying Saucer swoops down upon them, gyrates to and fro, then zooms off straight up into the air. They’re confounded, shell-shocked, really … but this is the mid-fifties, and Strange Sightings are more common than undercover communists.

Back at the lab, the General’s pleased with the kids, basking in their marital bliss. Marv is a bit peeved, however, as his satellites keep plunging back to earth ablaze. Is there a connection between their strange sighting and the swansong satellites? Will the latest rocket launch proceed without hitch?

There is, and it doesn’t.

Saucers attack, annihilating the base, kidnapping the General, and leaving Doctor Marvin and the fetching Carol buried alive in their underground bunker. A lull in power reveals the saucermen’s secret message (sped up on the tape recorder) and it seems Earth’s been given a 60-day ultimatum. Marvin contacts the strange visitors, and along with Carol and a hapless motorcycle cop they’re chauffeured over the East Coast in a saucer. However, our guests aren’t placated, and more carnage ensues. The General and the Cop are chucked out a porthole, forests burn and our heroes barely escape with their lives.

Well this really ticks off the Doctor, who rolls up his sleeves and sets to work on a secret weapon to fight the invaders. At a secret location, with a secret gaggle of fellow eggheads, they discover that the saucermen, in their suits of “solidified electricity,” are vulnerable to sound waves. After dispatching a fireball that’s some sort of tv-technology for spying, and an assassination by the aliens of a limping egghead, Earthmen are ready to kick some alien ass.

And what a spectacular kicking it is! On our home turf, Washington DC is the main sight of battle. Presumably, the other citizens of the world are doing battle in their capital cities (saucers are seen flying past the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, the Pyramids, etc). The saucers destroy our landmarks with abandon, and Marvin’s men shoot their sonic superguns with equal abandon, causing saucers to further destroy our landmarks. The Washington Monument – crash! The capital building – crash! Jeeps and infantry blitz about – zapped and zapping. Who will win the battle of the Earth versus the Flying Saucers?

In the end, finally, Doctor Marvin is victorious. Our foes are vanquished, and Marv celebrates by taking Carol to the black-and-white beach. We’re treated to the sight of the Scientist-Warrior shirtless, revealing a bear-rug bed of hair, and after some portentous pontifications, he plunges into the Atlantic.

The previous scenes may or may not have taken place in the movie Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. The order of events I described may or may not be correct. But - I love this movie! This was my favorite as a kid, and I bought it on DVD and have watched it close to twenty times. Ray Harryhausen simply created the most evil, surreal, visceral death machines this side of H. G. Wells. His stop-motion models, combined with their ominous metallic hum, have stayed with me all through these years. I may be mocking in my tone in the summation, but I mock with true love and affection.

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