Friday, September 5, 2014

The Flying Saucer (1950) - a review

This movie is far better than some of the reviews on IMDB indicate. One reviewer rightly said that good films like The Thing or The Man from Planet X were made at the same time, but the comparison is faulty. The Flying Saucer was a one-off by Mikel Conrad who starred in it, wrote the storyline, directed and produced; it seems to be his only writer-director-producer credit.

TMFPX was extremely low budget but used far superior actors. And Thing was a Howard Hawks production with a top-notch cast and crew; many of the scenes, judging by dialogue and action alone, seemed to have been directed by Hawks even though he is not credited.  Compare The Flying Saucer to the many other low budget sci-fi flicks of the early fifties and it holds up a little better.

Except for interiors, the entire film was shot on location in Alaska – so you get a great look at the 1949 Alaska environment around Juneau, Spring Lake, and Taku Glacier. And a number of boats, docks, cabins, and float planes from that era. The story is that the cinematographer was, in fact, shooting a doc on Alaska, when his Hollywood chums called to see if he could wrap in the sci-fi story.

I found the storyline interesting – a scientist builds a saucer (From alien plans? This question is left to the viewer’s imagination) that both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. want to get a hold of. The indie film is reputed to be the first movie portrayals of UFOs. The saucer was a good MacGuffin. Acting was stiff at times, but this was a pro-sumer production. Still, it was worth watching. [You can find the film on YouTube for free.]

From time to time I will post about old movies – mostly black & white, westerns, noir, spy, and sci-fi. I fall asleep to them, but eventually get through to the end after a couple of nights. I watch so many I figure I had better start writing about them. As a mystery novelist, I have learned a lot from these overlooked flicks, especially how to set up conflict quickly in a story and creating the nuances of ongoing characters (like Bob Steele, Buster Crabbe, Al St. John, George “Gabby” Hayes, the Duke, and Charles King). And I have found some interesting plot ideas. --RJS