Hugh Marlowe   Dr. Russell A. Marvin
Joan Taylor   Carol Marvin
Donald Curtis    Maj. Huglin
Morris Ankrum    Gen. Hanley
John Zaremba   Prof. Kanter
Tom Browne Henry   Adm. Enright
Grandon Rhodes   Gen. Edmunds
Larry Blake   Motorcycle Officer

Directed by Fred F. Sears. Written by George Worthing Yates and Raymond T. Marcus (based on a story by Curt Siodmak, suggested by "Flying Saucers from Outer Space" by Maj. Donald E. Keyhoe). 1956. Running time: 82 minutes.

The credits roll. The music is typical of the era. And then: the special effects are by Ray Harryhausen!

Harryhausen, as if you didn't know, is one of the most well-known and influential special effects people to have ever worked in the business. His name has graced the credits of films from the 1950s through to the 1980s - from Mighty Joe Young in 1949 and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad in 1958 to One Million Years B.C. (the one with Raquel Welsh in skimpy furs) to Clash of the Titans in 1981.

His effects are mostly stop-motion based. Stop motion is a method by which inanimate objects are manipulated (or moved) one film frame at a time, creating the illusion of movement in the process. The last films to have made extensive use of stop motion were the brilliantly executed Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach. Director Tim Burton (who served as producer on both aforementioned movies) was so enamored of the process that he wanted to use it to breathe life into his offbeat Martian invaders of Mars Attacks! He was however divested of the notion when experts convinced him that modern computer generated effects would not only be much quicker to implement, but cost a whole less as well.

Are computer-generated effects any better? I dunno. In Earth vs. the Flying Saucers Harryhausen apparently used stop motion to depict the destruction of major Washington landmark buildings because it was cheaper than simply blowing models. So the models were "disintegrated" bit by bit, Harryhausen filming them falling apart frame by meticulous frame. The effect is startlingly similar to the destruction of a building in the recent direct-to-video cheapie sequel to The Arrival, The Second Arrival. Neither of the two sequences look very realistic, let's be honest, but it makes one wonder whether there had been any progress in special effects at all! Or at least, amend that statement to that cheap computer special effects still look cheap . . .


Copyright © March 2000  James O'Ehley/The Sci-Fi Movie Page



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