Earth vs. The Flying Saucers (1956)

Sony

Cast: Hugh Marlowe, Joan Taylor, Donald Curtis.

Rating: NR.

Run time: 83mins

Genre: Science Fiction.

Verdict: Beautiful (see rating system)

It's great that special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen, now 87, has lived long enough to fulfil his dream of seeing his 1950s sci-fi classics in color.

Filmed in black and white because there simply wasn't the budget for expensive color, this is the latest movie to be colorized by San Diego-based Legend Films, which has worked on more than 100 old movies and contributed color effects to Martin Scorcese's The Aviator a couple of years ago.

The results are natural and impressive and even the most ardent opponent of colorization will have to admit that they give this cult classic a definite lift. Harryhausen, who was consulted on the colorization of this film, plus 20 Million Miles To Earth and It Came From Beneath The Sea is certainly delighted with the results.

Purists can toggle between the original black and white and the new color version with their controller, though I think there's no denying the color version is the one to watch.

Earth vs. The Flying Saucers tells the story of a U.S. government space exploration program led by Dr. Russell Marvin (the great Hugh Marlowe, who starred in Oscar-winning classics like All About Eve (1950) and Twelve O'Clock High (1949).

On the way to the launch of the latest unmanned test rocket, Marvin and his wife (Joan Taylor) are buzzed by a flying saucer on a remote highway, an experience they have a hard time rationalizing.

After the latest rocket subsequently vanishes in space - just like its predecessors - Marvin is forced to face the possibility of alien interference . . . a theory soon proved chillingly true.

OK, the primitive special effects take some accepting because we've grown so used to seamless computer-generated images. But after a while, you realize Harryhausen's flying saucers have real character, the aliens are great and the plot seems somehow very plausible.

Using stop-motion photography, during which models were painstakingly moved one frame at a time, plus other ingenious photographic effects, Harryhausen created a movie that thrilled audiences 50 years ago and which still works today. Ray guns, explosions, menacing aliens - it's got the lot!

The picture looks much improved from previous incarnations, though there is still some grain and a few imperfections. The 2-disc edition has some fine extra features, including recent interviews with Harryhausen (one hosted by director Tim Burton), and star Joan Taylor, plus featurettes on the special effects, stop-motion photography and the colorization process.

A particularly nice touch is a featurette on the restoration of screenwriter Bernard Gordon's name to the credits - his name was removed because of the disgraceful McCarthy-era communist witch-hunt of the 1950s that wrecked many careers in Hollywood.

A lovingly restored classic for a new generation!

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