EARTH VS. THE FLYING
As a kid I couldnít get enough of those wonderful movies featuring the special effects of that master Ray Harryhausen and I am glad to see that his movies continue reach new generations of fans through DVD- especially when those DVDs are crammed with special features paying tribute to a man whose work continues to inspire filmmakers to this day. Now even as a huge Harryhausen fan, I will admit that EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS ($25) isnít of the same caliber as a fifties science fiction movie like THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, but Harryhausenís wonderful stop motion effects do render it a cut above.
Personally, I love EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS and think that the movie was, is and will always be a genuine hoot. Filled with that distinctly 1950s brand of paranoia, EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS tells the story of alien spaceships that come to Earth with the intention of taking over the planet. As Harryhausen fans might expect, the plot of EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS is almost secondary to his wonderful special effects, which have a personality all their own. There is almost nothing better than the climax of this movie, which features clearly Ray Harryhausen designed flying saucers crashing into a number of well-known Washington D.C. landmarks. Heck, the climax of EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS is filled with icon stop motion imagery.
EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS stars Hugh Marlowe as Dr. Russell Marvin, the scientist in charge of Skyhook Project, which is placing a series of artificial satellites in orbit around the Earth. One by one, each of the satellites falls back to Earth shortly after its launch- leaving Dr. Marvin puzzled as to the cause. However, after an encounter with an unidentified flying object, Dr. Martin discovers that an extraterrestrial invasion force is behind the failure of the satellites. When the military tries to destroy one of the flying saucers, the aliens use their superior weaponry and defenses to demonstrate that conventional weapons are useless against them. Of course, it falls to Dr. Marvin to develop some form of unconventional means to defeat the alien invaders. The cast of EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS also features Joan Taylor, Donald Curtis, Morris Ankrum, John Zaremba, Tom Browne Henry, Grandon Rhodes and Larry Blake.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has made EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS available on DVD in a 1.85:1 widescreen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. Utilizing the multi-angle feature, the DVD offers fans a Chromachoice- or the ability to toggle between the film in its original black and white, or a new colorized version overseen by Harryhausen and produced by Legend Films. As a purist I will state my preference for the original black and white presentation that I grew up with. Still, the colorized version adds a new level of enjoyment to watching EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS. Again, itís very interesting to see the colors choices that Harryhausen originally envisioned for the production of EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS. Like the other Harryhausen titles receiving the colorization treatment, EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS was originally produced in black and white for budgetary reasons, even though the effects master envisioned his work in color. As I stated on my review of 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH, the colorization process used here is of excellent quality and it applied with some artistry to prevent the process from calling too much attention to itself. Moving on to the black and white transfer, it is quite appealing, producing a reasonably sharp image, with very respectable grayscale. As for the film elements, they appear very clean, with little beyond minor blemishes to detract from the presentation. Stock footage is footage looks a bit beaten up, but the film proper is just fine. Film grain is present, but not excessive. Digital compression artifacts are not a problem on either presentation.
EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS comes with a re-mixed Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. The remixed track is expectedly front heavy and generally come across as nicely spread monaural. Most signs of background hiss and noise have been cleaned up in the mastering process, which leaves a generally smooth sounding track. EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS has the expected fidelity limitations of a half-century-old movie. Dialogue is always completely understandable. English, French, Portuguese and Spanish monaural tracks are also encoded onto the DVD, as are subtitles in the same languages.
The basic interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well the supplements, which have been spread across both discs of this set. Disc one features a running Audio Commentary by Ray Harryhausen, Arnold Kunert, Jeff Okun, Ken Ralston. Moving on to disc two, one will find the remainder of the supplemental programming. Ray Harryhausen On Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers is an interview program with the effects master talking about the production. The Hollywood Blacklist And Bernard Gordon is a lengthy interview program that gives a history on Hollywood blacklisting and the filmís writer having his credit restored for this presentation of the film. Original Screenplay Credits is the original theatrical credit roll. A Present Day Look At Stop-Motion offers a film student demonstrating how stop-motion animation is done today.
Tim Burton Sits Down with Ray Harryhausen features the famed director sitting down with one of his idols to talk about his work. Interview With Joan Taylor offers the filmís lead actress an opportunity to discuss her Harryhausen films, as well as other aspects of her career. The Colorization Process features an enthusiastic Harryhausen talking about finally being given the opportunity to offer his black and white films in color, plus what Legend Films brings to the table. David Schechter On Film Music's Unsung Hero talks about the contributions of musical director Mischa Bakaleinikoff, who massaged stock music into countless B productions, in addition to composing snippets. A digital Comic Book and Ad Artwork, plus a Photo Gallery close out the supplements.
EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS is another great Ray Harryhausen movie given first class treatment on DVD. Highly recommended.
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