Review of “Earth vs. The Flying Saucers” (1956)

trailer from You tube

This is another of our Saturday pizza and bad movie offerings. We watched the flick with Svengoolie. This flick was a super serious, if a bit improbable, good ol’ rendition of those horrible critters from Outer Space who want our earth, donchya know.


Dr. Russell Marvin (Hugh Marlowe) is riding back to work at Project Skyhook while his new bride, Carol (Joan Taylor), drives. Marvin makes notes into a reel-to-reel tape recorder. (Kids, ask your grandparents.) From his dictation, the viewer gathers Project Skyhook involves a series of three-stage rockets launched to place satellites in orbit to monitor things like cosmic rays. They’ve launched ten. They’re on their way to send off number eleven.

While he’s talking, a strange sound arises. Out their back window, the viewer can see a flying saucer hovering, a central cylinder with a revolving discus. The craft flies over the roof of the car and appears in the front windshield, making the strange noise, then takes off and disappears.

 Astoundingly, Russell and Joan talk themselves out of believing they’ve seen anything and continue on to work. They’ve got a rocket to shoot off.

Joan is transcribing the tape Russell made in the car. Wait—the strange  noise is on the tape. They don’t have time to study it now; they have to head for the bunker and set off a rocket.

Arriving at Skyhook shortly after Russell and Joan is General John Hanley (Morris Ankrun). They thought he was in Panama. He wants Russell to halt the missile launch. Russ says that’s not possible. These things are on a schedule.

 Number eleven goes off without a hitch.

The General is also Carol’s father. Carol and Russell break the news they’re married. The General is happy, and Carol invites him to dinner. Here, the General breaks the news. That wasn’t a meteor that crashed in Panama but a satellite. All the satellites have crashed. They exploded in space. This puzzles Russ. They carry no explosives.

“It’s as if someone or something is shooting them down,” he says.

“No gun in the world could shoot that high,” the General says.


The next day when the aliens land—on a restricted military base—they’re met with force, and one of them dies. In turn, they wipe out every soldier who attacks them with a single ray gun. To make matters interesting, they kidnap General Hanley. The aliens are surprised by their reception. Didn’t Russell Marvin receive their message?

Oh… the tape… the strange noise. Maybe there’s a message that recorded too fast for humans to hear?


Their ships look like the Jupiter II, a stationary cylinder surrounded by a revolving disk. They also have a sort of retractable elevator that emerges from the bottom through which the occupants can enter and exit the ship. Weapons also appear from the bottom.

 The aliens themselves are not seen until near the end of the film. They march around in metal suits, including featureless headgear. They claim to be escapees from a dying solar system.

The aliens have a universal translator built into their helmets. Carol tests it out by reciting Shakespeare:

“The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven…”

Another universal translator, looking like an oversized white silk rose, descends spinning from the ceiling of the aliens’ oddly spacious spacecraft.

In the ensuing war, saucers slice through the Washington Monument, take a chunk out of what I think is the Capitol Building, and—really—land on the White House lawn. Stock footage is used, some depicting actual tragedies, like a crash at an airshow in the 1940s. Other, show the launch of Viking rockets—so much for those three-stage rockets Skyhook promised.

 Ray Harryhausen created the stop-action motion in the film. Earth vs. the Flying Saucers was one of the inspirations for the Mars Attacks! (1996). The movie won the 1957 Golden Reel Award from Motion Picture Sound Editors (USA) for Best Sound Editing in a Feature Film.

While slow at times and improbable at others, this movie was a lot of fun.

This is available for rent or to buy. There is an original black-and-white version on YouTube, but the alignment is off and a good chunk of the sides are cut off the screen. The colorized version is available here.

Title: Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956)

Directed by
Fred F. Sears

Writing Credits (WGA)
Bernard Gordon…(screenplay) &
George Worthing Yates…(screenplay)
Curt Siodmak…(screen story)
Donald E. Keyhoe…(supported by “Flying Saucers from Outer Space” by) (as Major Donald E. Keyhoe)

Cast (in credits order)
Hugh Marlowe…Dr. Russell A. Marvin
Joan Taylor…Carol Marvin
Donald Curtis…Maj. Huglin
Morris Ankrum…Brig. Gen. John Hanley
John Zaremba…Prof. Kanter

Released: 1956
Length: 1 hour, 23 minutes

Published by 9siduri

I have written book and movie reviews for the late and lamented sites Epinions and Examiner. I have book of reviews of speculative fiction from before 1900, and short works in publications such Mobius, Protea Poetry Journal, and, most recently, Wisconsin Review and Drunken Pen Writing. I'm busily working away on a book of reviews pulp science fiction stories from the 1930s-1960s. It's a lot of fun. I am the author of the short story "Always Coming Home," a chapbook of poetry titled "Sotto Voce," and a collection of reviews of pre-1900 speculative fiction, "By Firelight."

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