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A Twilight Zone styled voiceover introduces Dr Marvin Russell and his wife of two hours as they're buzzed by an overhead flying saucer--the first of many. When a translation device reveals the saucer-occupants' fiendish plan to take over the world, it's time for a good old army-alien punch-up. Cue screenfuls of avuncular patriarchs, loads of techno-flannel space-speak and plenty of gratuitous American-monument destruction.
A by-numbers B-movie, this is only really notable for Harryhausen's stop-motion FX work--and though this, his fifth feature, isn't a patch on his later Technicolor masterpieces, his trick of demolishing facsimiles of recognisable landmarks is cited by many premier filmmakers as being hugely influential on their work. This is very much of its time, the saucer-people arousing few of the thrills engendered by his later creations (Sinbad's Cyclops, for example). And with Cold War fears now just a memory, the Ruskies, or rather aliens, can no longer prevail upon a zeitgeist of xenophobic paranoia for their power.
On the DVD: Earth vs the Flying Saucers's black-and-white picture is clean and crisp in this anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer and the Dolby digital mono soundtrack is clear enough. The theatrical trailer will please fans of kitsch, as will the featurette "This Is Dynamation" produced at the same time as the first Sinbad movie. The real corker here though is the generously proportioned documentary "The Harryhausen Chronicles": narrated by Leonard Nimoy, it features a stellar cast of devotees (George Lucas among them) waxing lyrical about the influence of Harryhausen's films, and allows the man himself to ramble fascinatingly over clips of his filmic canon. If you're a fan, it's Harryhausen heaven. --Paul Eisinger