Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Flying Saucer!

I didn't know what to expect when I first watched The Flying Saucer. But I was disappointed, that I can tell you straight up. The 1950 movie is the first flick to address or perhaps the better term is exploit the Flying Saucer phenomenon of the later 40's and early 50's. It's so early in the treatment of the concept that there are no aliens in this one, not even fake ones.

Mike and Vee take in the sights-dog seems bored
First let me warn you. This is a terrible, terrible movie. It's long and dull and often stupid. It's craftsmanship is suspect and as a comment on the times its hardly definitive nor instuctive.

The story begins when flying saucers scare Americans in all corners of the country and the government turns to our hero Mike Trent (Mikel Conrad), a drunken playboy who happens to have ties to Alaska to return to his home state and investigate sightings in that remote region. Along for the ride is an actual government agent and obligatory femme fatale Vee Langley (Pat Garrison). They proceed to  bore the hell  out of you as they meander up the coast eventually finding a remote cabin from which they rarely stray. It's odd espionage, I'll tell you that. Trent spends most of his time trying to put the moves on Vee or find a drink. Meanwhile the caretaker of the shack is clearly up to no good. At the same time Soviet agents are running amok causing all kinds of damage as our American team ambles in the woods. Eventually, after a bender Trent stumbles across some actual intel but he's almost killed several times before he can get that information up the chain. In fact he's captured along with Vee and the scientist who created the saucer. The last several minutes are actually pretty exciting, but man does it take a long time to get there. 

The only really good look we get of the saucer
The trouble is pretty easy to spot. This movie appears to have almost no budget and an amazing amount of screen time it taken up with stock footage of some admittedly beautiful Alaskan scenery with dodgy voice overs added to make it somewhat stick to the story. Add to that the fact that Conrad, who also directed and partially wrote the script for this movie, spends most of his on-screen time lighting an endless array of cigarettes and trying to sound like Humphrey Bogart, and you have some notion of how irritating this flick can be.

This wants to be a spy thriller, but it features hapless spies and doesn't remotely qualify as a thriller. Trent spends a lot of time getting soused and admittedly his drinking binge does yield the only clue they stumble on, but it's hardly because of his acute planning. You are left wondering how the United States will ever take on the Soviet menace with lunkheads like this in charge of our security.

The Flying Saucer holds a notable place in the lore of sci-fi films, it was first. But that doesn't make it foremost by any conceivable stretch of anyone's imagination. This one is for the most stout-hearted of film watchers only. Beware!

This is the second of three reviews from the DVD set Watch the Skies from Image Entertainment.

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