Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers Blu-ray Review
PictureThis is, as one would expect, AVC encoded in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. In a strange reversal of my appraisal of the earlier “It Came From Beneath the Sea” here the latter picture hasn't aged quite so well in many ways. Starting with the positive, the colourization process is, again, a marvel to behold. It breathes new life into the film and is a great addition to see the action unfold as Harryhausen had originally intended. As with all films that have colour added (as well as some native colour films from the era it's worth noting), skin tones are yellowish and fall within the magenta spectrum. Colours generally have a cartoonish feel to them that is entirely in keeping with the comic book nature of the film. Greens in particular look almost painted on your screen and appear rich and vibrant if perhaps a little radioactive at times.
Grain itself was fairly even for the most part and unobtrusive however occasional shots seem to have more than their fair share. What is more distracting is the amount of dirt and scratches that are apparent. I know Legend (the company behind the restoration and colourization) can't work miracles and this has to be viewed within the context of a film that is some age but I found myself looking for the imperfections (and not having to look very hard). The shots in the sky appear to be dirty prior to Harryhausen's effects having been overlaid, as what I presumed was initially dirt on the finished frame was covered by the saucer as it passed so must have been present during the dynamation process. The dirt, scratches etc are most apparent, as mentioned, when viewing light material such as the sky etc. Add to this smudges, flickering of the frame and what looked to be at one point some form of double exposure and I'm afraid this is far from ideal. If anything it's the colour that tends to heighten these distractions as amid the black and white they seem to contrast far less. In short, the colour is great, detail is much improved on any previous version but the stock material is showing its age in places and the very fact that these imperfections aren't even throughout only serves to emphasize this fact.
SoundFor what was a monaural mix, the Blu-ray does a fine job of creating some depth to proceedings. We're given a TrueHD track that probably wasn't entirely warranted but it's always nice to see in the specs list of any Blu-ray. As one might expect the majority of the action takes place across the fronts and only occasionally makes much use of the rears. One particularly pleasing note was just how crisp and clear the centre channel was. Overall this mix lacks some of the bass from the four note theme composed for “It Came From Beneath the Sea” but the high pitch whining and whirring of the saucers makes up for this with its ear splitting tendency to unsettle and leaves more room for voices to be heard. Certainly not a system seller but factoring in the age and original monaural nature of the mix this performs as well as could be expected
ExtrasCommentary with Ray Harryhausen, Arnold Kunert and visual effects experts Jeffrey Okun and Ken Ralston
Perhaps it's more down to my personal admiration for the man's creations but I'd never dismiss the opportunity to hear him retell his experiences of making some of the most lasting imagery in cinema history. He may be vague at times and his memory is very in keeping with a man his age trying to recollect something from half a century ago but the periphery members here do their best to fill in the gaps and keep the pace moving along.
The Hollywood blacklist and Bernard Gordon - 480p - 29:27
Del Reisman of the Writers Guild of America talks us through the story of the blacklist, how it affected individuals, movies and the industry as a whole. In this day and age it's nice to be given a simple talking head monologue that allows the subject matter to hold your attention rather than how the interview is shot. Perhaps this may be a little dry for some but I found it fascinating as it touches upon many writers and numerous classic films such as “Lawrence of Arabia”.
Remembering Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers - 480p - 21:25
Ray Harryhausen, amongst others, gives us an insight into creation of the film, from the producer and long time collaborator Charles Schneer's interest in UFO newspaper clippings to the workings of the models used and much in between. This takes the form of various talking heads interspersed with clips and sketches.
Interview with Joan Taylor - 480p - 17:29
We catch up with Joan Taylor 50 odd years after her roles in the two Harryhausen features (this film and later “20 Million Miles to Earth”). She tells us in her own words how she came to be in the industry, from her ambitions as a young girl, her big screen roles and through to her decision to focus on TV work and why.
The colourization process - 480p - 11:02
A glimpse behind the mammoth task undertaken to finally realise Harryhausen's dream of seeing his films in colour. Staff from Legend Films explain to us what this entails and a little of the technology involved.
Original screenplay credits - 480p - 3:16
I'm a little perplexed as to why this was included. I'm all for giving consumers the most complete package possible but did anyone really disbelieve the story about Gordon's name not being on the original credits? Either way, here they are to prove the point.
“Flying Saucers Vs. the Earth” comic book
A mere five pages of a comic that seems to be being released in conjunction with this film. The artwork is nice but the captions and speech bubbles are too small to read comfortably.
Galleries; Ad art and production photo galleries - 480p - 23:20
Some nice stills of foreign posters which I'm sure will please fans of obscure movie memorabilia. Each shot is about 15 seconds long and is accompanied by audio from the film itself. The production photos appear to be actual frames rather than behind the scenes shots. We do, at the end, at least see a couple of Joan Taylor horsing about with the alien suits. The main problem is the inclusion of a border around each, so that the picture isn't even maximum height on our screens, which makes everything a tad small.
“20 Million Miles to Earth” - 1080p - 2:00 (black and white)
“It Came From Beneath the Sea” - 1080p - 2:03 (black and white)
“The 7th Voyage of Sinbad” - 1080p - 1:41 (colour)
VerdictThis is considered by many to be the superior film to “It Came From Beneath the Sea” yet is also supposed to have been Harryhausen's least favourite. One can only surmise that a great deal of this was to do with the fairly inanimate nature of his models here when compared to creations, such as the ymir and the like, where his imagination was given free rein. Whatever his reasons, the fact is there is much to be enjoyed here. The film itself is tighter and better paced and has a greater degree of urgency than the aforementioned creature feature. The acting is good and the script well written, so definitely sidesteps the B-movie tag that might have befallen it. The disc similarly is a triumph but for almost opposite reasons to the “It Came..” Blu-ray. There we were given a guilty pleasure that had kitsch value that wouldn't stand up to a great degree of scrutiny. However it was well represented in transfer and extras. Here we have a slightly lesser set of extras (the coup of Tim Burton talking to Harryhausen has no real equal on this disc) and what seems to my eyes an inferior transfer, yet the film itself raises this disc to the level that it may stand on fairly equal footing with its predecessor. Once again, just don't expect miracles and you will surely enjoy the film itself and likely many of the extras.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £12.99
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