Original Black & White Version – 1956
Colourised Version – 1956/2007
DIRECTOR: Fred F. Sears
May contain spoilers!
Why haven’t I seen this before? Well, the snob in me probably dismissed the film outright with a title like this but what was I thinking? I love classic sci-fi but have not really seen enough. It was only by chance that I caught the last 15 minutes of this on TV and was inspired to rush out and buy a copy on Blu-ray to see the rest.
What a gem of a movie this is. Clearly the inspiration for Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks (1996), and in turn, other modern special effects extravaganzas including Independence Day (1996), this is a fast paced, intelligent action film, bolstered by the high quality and ever ground breaking visual effects wizardry of Ray Harryhausen.
The script is hammy, but of its time, especially where science fiction was in 1956, but it is also littered with science, through either dumbed down facts or fictitious, but whilst using terms which would have sounded awesome to an audience of the 1950’s, make little sense now when we actually understand the words!
But it is filled with clever sci-fi concepts and more than it needs, proving that a real effort was made to produce a true work of science fiction and not just some alien invasion romp. The effects may be dated, but they are brilliant, conveying the plot with ambitious visuals and a sense of speed and pace which is surprising for a film of this era.
The final battle between Earth’s forces and the Saucers over Washington D.C. is thrilling, clearly inspiring so many modern action films.
But what about the controversial Colourisation process? Well, I like it, in this case at least. I am not a fan or supporter of Colourisation on the whole, but I am also not against having the option. In the 1980’s, the process was met with hostility as classics were butchered by the process which was unnecessary and garish, thanks to Ted Turner of the TCM (Turner Classic Movies), with films such as Casablanca being subjected to this treatment.
But Noir is not the right genre for this process though there are plenty of films which would have been shot in colour given the choice at the time and this, so Harryhausen claims, was one of them. And seeing the results of the modern process, which is leagues above that of the 80’s and 90’s, I can see his point.
The colour version looks great. Bright and vibrant, changing and in many ways, improving the look of so many scenes. Now, I have no problem with black and white and I in fact watched this first in the original monochrome but the final scene on the beach for example, looks completely different in colour.
In the black and white version, the beach looks dull and over cast, dark and bleak, but in colour it looks like a sunny paradise and since this was supposed to be a bright and happy ending with our leading couple running off into ocean having saved the world, I think that the bright and vibrant look is correct.
Ray Harryhausen seems to think so and who are we to disagree? Legend Films, who are responsible for the colourisation, have done a admirable job and whether we agree or not as to the value of the process, as long as the original version exists, then there is no real harm in it. In fact, if the colour version attracts just one new, younger fan who would not normally have sat through the black and white version, then it is worth while.
But colour or monochrome, this is a great classic sci-fi flick and must see for any fan of the genre.