Two factors had to be present for the ‘Golden Age’ of Science Fiction movies to flourish, Special Effects technology and a movie going audience hungry for Science Fiction. Both these factors were in place for America in the 1950’s. America was a vastly different place that just a single generation before. Most American homes had electricity, washers and dryers, automobiles, a television and radios. Jets, rockets, and radar were no longer Science fiction they were real. The Nuclear Age and the Space Age were upon us, then on June 24th 1947 Kenneth Arnold, a pilot, saw several unidentified flying objects over the Cascade Mountains in Washington State and the UFO craze was born. By 1950 nine out of ten American had heard of ‘Flying Saucers’ and there were thousands of ‘Flying Saucer’ sightings after Arnold’s UFO sightings made him famous.
By 1956 when Earth Versus the Flying Saucers was made there were already several famous ‘Flying Saucers’ in movies including the Flying Saucer that Klatu arrived in in the Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) and the famous scene from Thing From Another World (1951) when the artic explorers make a circle in the ice discovering the wreck that carried the Thing was actually a flying saucer! Earth Versus the Flying Saucers is a typical of the 1950’s ‘B-Feature’ exploiting the Flying Saucer mania of the 50’s and the 60’s but it does stand out in one important way. The Special Effects are the work of the great special effects artist Ray Harryhausen.
From the 1940s through Clash of the Titans (1981) Ray Harryhausen was responsible for the most spectacular effects including the incredible 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) and Jason and the Argonauts (1963). While there is nothing as spectacular as the skeleton warriors in Jason and the Argonauts or the Medusa in Clash of the Titans, Ray Harryhausen’s special effects work in Earth Versus the Flying Saucers have become iconic symbols of 1950’s Science Fiction. His images of Flying Saucers crashing into the Washington Monument, Capital Dome, and other Washington D.C. landmarks are so famous they have been parodied in movies Mars Attacks (1996).
Join us at the Rogers Public Library Sunday May 15 at 2:00 P.M. for a showing of Earth Versus the Flying Saucers. Refreshments and discussion are free.