Saturday, 9 February 2013

The Flying Saucer (1950)


Below Average

  •         Produced & Directed by Mikel Conrad
  •         Written by Howard Irving Young
  •         Starring Mikel Conrad
  •         Music by Darrell Calker
  •         Cinematography Phillip Tannura
  •         Distributed by Film Classics Inc.
  •         Running time: 69 minutes


Cast


  •         Mikel Conrad - Mike Trent
  •         Pat Garrison - Vee Langley
  •         Hantz von Teuffen - Hans
  •         Roy Engel - Dr. Lawton
  •         Lester Sharpe - Col. Marikoff
  •         Denver Pyle - Turner, spy
  •         Erl Lyon - Alex, spy
  •         Frank Darrien - Matt Mitchell
  •         Russell Hicks - Intelligence Chief Hank Thorn
  •         Virginia Hewitt - Nanette, bar girl
  •         Garry Owen - Bartender




Read on for more.....





Taste of the Times


The era of the flying saucers & UFOs had well and truly begun.


Prior to 1950, Pilot Kenneth Arnold gave an eyewitness account in June of 1947 of strange saucer-shaped objects in the skies over the Cascade Mountains in Washington State.
Soon after reports surface of a flying saucer crash-landing at Roswell, New Mexico. 

Conspiracy theories over alleged government cover-ups of this and similar events have persisted to the present day.

Many incredible inventions arose out of Nazi Germany’s desperation to avoid defeat and developed by the West in the post-war years. New and amazing jet airplanes and rockets (V1 & V2 rockets, me163 & me 262 rocket & jet aircraft) were being developed and were far more advanced than what the Allied nations possessed. Suggestions have recently been made of Nazi-era research into magnetic levitation and UFO-style aircraft development.

At the end of World War 2, Scientists from Nazi Germany were spirited away to both the former Soviet Union and the United States to work on various technological, military and other projects.

The era had begun whereby UFO sightings and reports of flying saucers would find their way into films as allegories of the Cold War.

The Cold War era for many in America was a time of fear of nuclear annihilation, Soviet invasion, another impending World War and the ever present threat of secret Communist / Soviet infiltration and subversion of the American way of life, freedoms and democratic ideals.




Synopsis


  • Across the United States, people are stunned and terrified by sightings of what seems to be a flying saucer.
  • American Intelligence officials have learned that Soviet spies have begun exploring a remote region of the Alaskan Territory in search of answers to the worldwide reports of "flying saucers."
  • The CIA sends playboy Mike Trent posing as himself suffering from a nervous breakdown, to Alaska with agent Vee Langley, posing as his "nurse," to investigate flying saucer sightings and determine what the Soviets are up to..
  • They are met at Mike's family's cabin in the wilderness by a new, foreign-accented caretaker named Hans.
  • Mike and Vee finally learn that Hans is one of the Soviets' agents who are also after the saucer secret.
  • The flying saucer is an invention of an American scientist, Dr. Laughton.
  • Laughton's assistant, a communist sympathizer, is trying to sell the saucer to the Soviet agents while Laughton is approaching the Americans


Who will get their hands on the saucer first? 
Will Mike and Vee succeed in their mission?
Will the Soviets have a sure-fire means of unleashing the A-bomb on the US? 


Join Mike and Vee as they travel across the scenic Alaskan wilderness in their patriotic quest of solving the mystery of The Flying Saucer ….

Points of Interest


  • The Flying Saucer is more of an adventure spy-drama rather than a science-fiction film. It does, nevertheless, plainly highlight the prevailing mood of nervousness arising from cold war tensions between the Iron Curtain countries and the West. Instead of proposing that flying saucers originate from somewhere outside of the earth, a more earthly origin is offered as the most likely explanation for the development of such a piece of technology.


  • And what a piece of technology the saucer is! It seems to be able to perform neck-breaking manoeuvres and can attain a speed of 2000 miles per hour. There is a suggestion that it might employ a type of magnetic propulsion, but there is some reluctance to let go of the idea of some kind of reliance on rocket power as seen from the puffs of vapour from the twin exhaust engines that form part of the saucer’s structure. How it can contain an A-bomb, I just don’t know!



Mikel Conrad: Co-writer, producer, director and star of The Flying Saucer. He apparently claimed that he had filmed eight flying saucers landing and taking off forty miles from Juneau, Alaska. He also claimed that the film had been seized by the Air Force and that only a third of it was returned to him. Note that the title card at the start of the film thanked “those in authority” for making the release of the film ossible. The implication was that the film’s footage had been vetted before being cleared by government officials. The testimony of an FBI agent named McKnight, confirming the existence of the removed footage of the Alaskan saucers was exposed as being a part of an elaborate publicity and promotional stunt when the FBI agent was revealed to have been an actor friend of Mikel Conrad’s. The result was a public lashing in the media and personal hammering of Conrad’s reputation. Egotistical? Publicity-seeking? Self-promoter? Actor of little note? Some would say so and have said so. Still, here we are more sixty years later discussing a film that was the brain-child of one man. It was his film that was the first to make direct reference to the term “flying saucer” and use UFOs as its subject-matter. Despite the film’s faults and the shenanigans surrounding it, Conrad certainly left an interesting and contentious legacy. 


  •  Mike Trent: What do we see of this character on the screen?  We are introduced to a hard-drinking playboy (“My polo team starts practice at Meadowbank tomorrow”) who is plainly irresponsible (“Hey, Hans – seen any Russian spies around here lately?”…. “Seen any flying saucers?”) And prone to throwing temper tantrums. We also see someone who when pressed (under the glare of the Capitol building!) and when placed under certain circumstances, can be relied on to do the right thing. Unlike the Vee Langley character who is a part of the system (“one of our best operatives”,) and prefers to robotically wait for “orders” and “instructions”, Trent is more of a maverick who can think on his feet in order to get results. There were times when I was wondering if it was just plain dumb luck on his part or if there was some method in his drunken boorishness which got the Russians (and Hans) to play their hand and eventually locate the saucer. It certainly had nothing to do with Vee Langley!


 Overall Assessment


  • Generally: The Flying Saucer is pretty dull fare and light on pace and action.
  • Tedium: Far too many scenic shots of Alaska with characters travelling to and fro.  Not to mention a six minute plane ride over the ice punctuated by sputtering engine noises!


What To Look For:


Effective shots of the saucer in flight and a good full-size version of it.


Lack of Realism:


· Mike's old caretaker mysteriously disappearing and his "replacement," Hans constantly acting suspiciously around them. No need to concern yourselves, Mike and Vee!

· A total lack of sensible precautions (spy-type precautions!) being taken. Would anyone really yell, “SEEN ANY FLYING SAUCERS YET??” Or yell back in reply, “LOOK, MR TRENT, WE’VE GOT TO BE VERY CAREFUL WHAT WE SAY AND DO FROM NOW ON!!?” One would almost think they were doing it deliberately to smoke the Russians out. I doubt it though.

· Incompetent characters: Vee, an alleged professional cannot seem to control Mike and in fact falls for him. She does manage to get Dr Lawton but she also manages to steer him straight into a Communist cell’s trap.

· Who would wander about the Alaskan wilderness without a gun? “When you go out in the woods today YOU’RE SURE TO GET A SURPRISE….” Yes Vee, a bear!

· The Russians' inexplicable reluctance to dispose of their enemies, except for poor old Matt.

· Mike managing from an airplane “to spot a solitary cabin” (the right one too) in that entire wilderness!

· The failure of any bullets to penetrate Mike’s human shield’s body, or his own body.


The Ending: Pretty lame with Dr Lawton’s nonchalant chuckle and comment…. (You’ll see what I mean, reader!) The animal head trophy on the cabin wall didn’t stick around to find out. It decided enough was enough and disappeared halfway through the film! Will You?



©Chris Christopoulos 2013