Harryhausen vs. the Incredible Shrinking Budget

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

Dr. Russell Marvin (Hugh Marlowe) is the chief scientist on Operation Skyhook, a US military project intended to send satellites into space to take readings necessary for paving the way for human space exploration; we join him as he’s just returning to the project after marrying his secretary, Carol (Joan Taylor), daughter of military overseer General Hanley (Morris Ankrum), only to find themselves tailgated on the motorway by a flying saucer. This plays into Dr. Marvin’s worries about the project – in particular, the way each of the satellites launched so far have ended up being blown up – and the next day the aliens actually land at the Skyhook base when the twelfth satellite is about to be launched. The army panic and fire on them, killing one after it steps outside the forcefield surrounding their craft, and the alien retaliation kills over a hundred personnel, Russell and Carol only being saved because they were stuck in the sealed underground control room at the time.

Sitting in the control room waiting for rescue, Russell happens to listen to an audio recording he and Carol had inadvertently made of the flying saucer they encountered on the motorway; as the batteries in his tape recorder start to die, the playback slows down, revealing a message previously too distorted to comprehend at normal-speed playback: the aliens know who Marvin is, and were attempting to make diplomatic contact with him. Can Marvin convince the aliens to take a peaceful approach to contact with humans and abandon their demands that Earth declare fealty to them, or is he doomed to play a lead role in a battle of Earth vs. the Flying Saucers? (Or, as the opening narration pronounces it, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers!!!)

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