Tonight on MeTV- it’s time for some special sci fi thrills we haven’t shown in a while! It comes from what we could call the Frightened ‘50s- when agitated observers around the world were on the lookout for spaceships in the skies- and worried about invasion by alien beings- as we witness their worst fears becoming a reality! Brought to life by the incredible stop-motion animation of Ray Harryhausen, It’s a mind-boggling battle between terrestrials and beings from beyond in “Earth VS the Flying Saucers”!
Actually, going back to medieval times, and then becoming almost fad-like starting in the late 1940s and into the ‘50s, sightings of flying discs have intrigued and frightened mankind. When this film premiered in 1956, Americans definitely were close to the height of watching for flying saucers- so, this film, based on a best-selling book about flying saucers by a retired Marine Corps major was bound to be a hit.
We meet scientist Russell Marvin, who is heading a project to launch research satellites, on his way to work at the local military base, accompanied by his brand-new bride Carol- when their commute suddenly becomes anything but ordinary as a strange flying saucer buzzes their automobile! Russell coincidentally had a tape recorder running when it happened- but no further proof of what they encountered. Another coincidence-Carol’s father, General Hanley, has some bad news- all the satellites they’ve launched seem to have crash-landed back to earth. With no obvious cause for this abrupt failure of the satellites, Russell has his own theories, after what they saw in the sky earlier.
His suspicions are proven right when a saucer actually lands at their facility the very next day! Aliens disembark, and the frightened military guards open fire on them. Suffering a casualty of one of their own, the aliens protect themselves with a force field- and take horrible vengeance on the occupants of the facility, with Russell and Carol surviving- but Carol’s dad the General has been taken by the aliens!
The audio on Russell’s tape recorder turns out to be a message, which he finally decodes- explaining why the aliens destroyed his satellites, and what their intentions are, the main one being- the occupation of Earth! A proposed meeting with the aliens ends up with a group including Russell and Carol being brought aboard one of the saucers, to witness how information can be extracted from a human brain. They also learn of other atrocities caused by these aliens, who release some of the earth people to set up a meeting with the world’s leaders so that they may negotiate the surrender of the planet to its new masters.
Russell begins an exhaustive study of everything they can determine about the aliens, and what could protect the earth from these intruders. It all comes down to a mammoth battle, with the saucermen attacking major cities around the world!
All this mayhem is depicted in astonishing form by the stop-motion wizardry of Harryhausen- from the spinning discs to the destruction of famous landmarks. We’ll talk about his work, the cast including Hugh Marlowe, Joan Taylor, and Morris Ankrum, and give you some behind-the-scenes information about what you’re seeing. Plus- of course- Sven saucer shtick and –a song we did when we first showed this film locally in the Chicago market.
“Earth VS the Flying Saucers” takes off on MeTV tonight at 8 pm eastern/pacific, 7 central- if you need to check for time and/or channel where you are, you can get info in your local listings, or at www.metv.com . The live-Tweeting during the program continues on Twitter with viewers posting using the hashtag #svengoolie . In the Chicago viewing area this morning, viewers can get a second frightening look at “Tarantula” at 11 am on CW26.
Many of you may have seen the sad news this week of the passing of a wonderful creative man- Bill Jackson. On the national scene, he was known for the series “Gigglesnort Hotel”, but he was a renowned and honored host of many kids’ programs in the Chicago market that were also beloved by adults, including “Cartoon Town”, “BJ and Dirty Dragon” and more. Bill wrote all the scripts, did all the character voices, created the puppets, did artwork- and did it all extremely well. Above all, he was a very kind man. I first got to know Bill when he was doing his shows at Chicago’s WFLD, at the same time that Jerry G. Bishop was doing his Svengoolie shows there. I actually got to know Bill much better years later, when he would return to Chicago for various events, and he even came on the “Stooge-a-palooza” show done by Rich Koz. He would always say to me, as far as “our” kind of television programming, “you’re the last man standing!” I learned a lot from him, utilize some of his techniques in the shows I do, and have always aspired to be like him (as well as my mentor Jerry G.). It was a huge compliment to me that he liked what I do. He is another giant whose like we will not see again.
And speaking of giants- join us tonight to witness the genius of Ray Harryhausen- and to be amazed by what his UFOs can do!