If you are a regular reader here, you know how much I love Ray Harryhausen. Over the years I’ve had the chance to spend many casual hours with him and his wife. They are both extraordinary people, and I’m always amazed at how modest Ray always acts. After over a half century, he still acts surprised that so many people continue to be affected by his work. I was lucky enough to have been invited by Ray personally when he finally received his star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame. With that said, I’m going to avoid repeating myself and spend less time here talking about Ray. You can see more details of my talks with him and just some great Ray Harryhausen information by looking at my previous reviews.
Earth vs. The Flying Saucers was certainly not the only “saucer” movie to come out during 1950’s. The Day The Earth Stood Still had already made a huge impact on moviegoers, and the “saucer” craze was already in full swing. What made this film special was the stop motion saucers provided by Harryhausen. He managed to give them personality as they moved across the world destroying recognizable monuments. The saucers dipped and veered, making it far more believable that an intelligence, of some sort, was behind the craft. Hugh Malrowe was one of those contract leading men that fit well into this kind of picture. He had that look of strong intelligence that, while maybe stereotypical of this era of films, was what was expected. Rough, smart, and sexy enough to get the girl. Of course, here he already had the girl. Joan Taylor played his wife and scientific assistant. She would make the ultimate discovery of how the aliens were trying to communicate. How’s that for 1950’s women’s lib?
There is an option to watch the film in color. As I’ve already mentioned in these pages, I was a long time opponent of the colorization of classic films. Having seen what Ted Turner did to King Kong, I thought I’d never see another colorized film again. I have to say that this new process, described in detail in other reviews, is a miracle. Since the saucers are silver anyway, this film doesn’t benefit as much as 20 Million Miles To Earth did. Still, Ray supervised the entire process, so we can be confident it looks like he would have made it if he’d had the budget. You can still watch the film in black and white if you wish through a toggle option. We finally get to use those angle buttons. Another great addition to this film is the finally long deserved addition of Bernard Gordon to the screenplay credit. He was blacklisted during the red scare, and his name was not included on any print before this one. It’s unfortunate, because Ray mentioned often that he contributed much to the original story. Sadly, Gordon died about a year ago and will never have the opportunity to see his name displayed as it always should have been.
Earth vs. The Flying Saucers is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1.You can watch the film in its newly colorized version or toggle to a newly restored original black & white version. Either print is exceptionally restored. Gone is almost all evidence of age present on previous releases of the film. I have copies going back to the laserdisc days, and this is certainly an improvement. There are no scratches, and the print is remarkably brighter than even the more recent previous DVD. While you might not catch any more detail than you could before, this print is both sharper and cleaner. Black levels show the most improvement. The film no longer appears washed out with grays where the blacks ought to be. The film sports true black definition for perhaps the first time in over 50 years.
The film contains a sweet Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Of course, the original film was recorded in mono, so there is only so much separation that can be achieved here. Still, you’ll find a good job was done of giving the film some depth to it in sound. Mostly you’ll hear musical cues and some roars filling the sound field by use of some clever pan work. The saucer sounds, really sewage going through pipes at a treatment facility, likely stand up better, but overall the wider field does little to improve the film.
There is an audio commentary with Ray Harryhausen, and some modern f/x guys: Jeffrey Okun, Ken Ralston, and
This is a 2-disc release. The film and commentary live on disc 1 with the trailers. The rest of the features are on disc 2. Sadly, many of these features are repeated from 20 Million Miles To Earth.
Remembering Earth vs. The Flying Saucers: Many modern-day people were influenced by Harryhausen, and they talk about that here.
A Present Day Look At Stop Motion: Kyle Anderson is a film student who provides a primer on stop motion.
Interview With Joan Taylor:
Tim Burton Sits Down With Ray Harryhausen: Tim Burton has almost singlehandedly kept the art of stop motion alive and well, so he was the perfect choice to chat with Ray here. Throughout the interview
Film Music’s Unsung Hero: Frank Schecter explains the studio system of using stock music for B pictures with maybe a little original material. Mischa Bakaleinikoff put together these pieces and added enough originality to help animate the monster. It’s nice that something often so overlooked in these classic films gets a little attention here.
The Colorization Process: Meet the folks at Legend Films who approached Ray to do these colorized films. Ray was directly involved with the process and had final approval on everything. He’s quite happy with the results.
Comic Book: Ray Harryhausen’s films are also being revived with new original stories presented as comics. These stories expand the universes of these films and even bring some together. You get a comic here that’s a little hard to read on a television screen.
Video Gallery: Using audio from the film, this is a montage of stills, conceptual art, and promo material for the film.
Trailers: There are trailers for other films, but not for Earth vs. The Flying Saucers.
Art Gallery: There is a ton of still material.
I’m a little disappointed that Sony is recycling features as was done on the first wave of Harryhausen DVD’s. The Harryhausen Chronicles appeared on just about all of his previous releases. The film itself holds up just fine, and I feel I now have a definitive copy of the movie. I hope I have the opportunity to have Ray sign them as he has most of my laserdiscs and DVD’s from other releases. I know that we’re jaded today when it comes to f/x.. I hope that true lovers of film, and in particular science fiction film, will find a place in your heart for Ray and his wonderful gifts to us. I want to thank Ray for what he’s given me both in my time with him and in the hours of time he gave me with my own dad. In person he’s a very warm and outgoing man, still full of youth in spite of his advanced years. “I thought intellectual giants were supposed to be backwards and shy.”