Unlike most of the other "outer space visitor" films of the era, it is the flying saucers themselves and their technology that are the focus of the plot, and not the aliens. Using stop motion animation, Harryhausen brought the flying saucers in the film to life as they had never been rendered on the movie screen before. The special effects for flying saucers in previous films were usually some kind of pie tin spinning on the end of string.
My favorite line in the film is when General Edmunds says, "When an armed and threatening power lands uninvited in our capitol, we don't meet him with tea and cookies!"
Some of the dialog between the newly married hero and heroine of the film is quite endearing as well:
Married two hours and already she's claiming community property!
Now that you're married, Dr. Marlowe, you don't have to sneak up on me.
You always did have eyes in the back of your head.
Besides, it's not safe when we're driving.
I thought intellectual giants were supposed to be backwards and shy.
My third-grade teacher, Miss Hickey, said I was a quick study.
You're starting something you're not going to be able to finish...
Yeah, Yeah. Today I've got a hot date with a three-stage rocket.
The message of the film is that an alien super intelligence is certainly no match for our earthly can-do spunk, and that scientists can always fix any problem by the last reel of the film.
the climax of the film depcits a remarkable symbolic representation of our country's worst fears as flying saucers crash into the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building. "Flying Saucers" is Freudian shorthand for
"Communists," of course.
Tonight and tomorrow morning on Turner Classic Movies
they are going to be playing a bunch of Val Lewton films. Being a Boris Karloff fan, I have only seen "The Body Snatcher", "Isle Of The Dead" and "Bedlam", but I have heard that "Cat People" with Simone Simon is really good, and any film with the word "Zombie" in the title has got to be worth checking out, in my opinon.
I don't really know who Val Lewton is, but Wikipedia
says that he was an "American film producer and screenwriter, who is best known for a sequence of nine brooding horror films he produced for RKO Pictures in the 1940s."
[...] "Lewton's first production was 'Cat People'. The film was directed by Jacques Tourneur, who subsequently also directed 'I Walked With a Zombie' and 'The Leopard Man' for Lewton. Made for $134,000, the film went on to earn nearly $4 million, and was the top moneymaker for RKO that year. This success enabled Lewton to make his next films with relatively little studio interference, allowing him to avoid the sensationalist material suggested by his film titles, instead focusing on ominous suggestion and themes of existential ambivalence." Wikipedia
The article also says that Lewton lost a job as a newspaper reporter "after it was discovered that a story he wrote about a truckload of kosher chickens dying in a New York heat wave was a total fabrication." Cool!