Updated: December 03, 2005
ORIGINAL EARTH VS THE FLYING SAUCERS PROP
Original stop-motion flying model from Earth vs. the Flying Saucers,
created and used by special effects legend Ray Harryhausen. (Columbia,
1956) One of the actual "Flying Saucers" created for the film's visual
effects, this stop-motion flying model was used in several key scenes
of the film. Indeed, as one of the "title characters", so to speak,
its construction was of paramount importance. In Ray Harryhausen's
autobiography, Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life, he describes the
unique problems he faced when designing this piece:
"The prime fascination of the project for me was the challenge of seeing
just how visually interesting and convincing I could make a metal spaceship
look on the screen. Although the possibilities were limited for stop-motion,
the ideal of a fleet of saucers attacking Earth had great potential for
delivering something a little different to the usual saucer pictures.
"The design of the craft also had to incorporate something to show the
audiences that it was moving and avoid it becoming a boring lump of metal,
so in addition to the humps (used to suspend it with wire for filming) I
decided to give the smooth finish of the saucer something extra, something
that would "animate" it. I designed the models so that the outer rim of the
craft and the center were independent of the inner revolving section. These
rims were decorated with parallel lines that gave the saucers, when animated,
a strange stroboscopic effect."
This flying saucer model was machined from aluminum by Harryhausen's father on
a small home lathe. It was then anodized to give it a matte look so that it did
not reflect light while the effects shots were being filmed. Grooved bezels on
the top and bottom turn independently, to create the "stroboscopic" effect that
Harryhausen desired. Both of the bezels on this model are still free-spinning,
and two of the three original groupings of silver orb "anchors" on the bottom
are still present.
This exceptional visual effects model comes direct from the estate of Terry Smith,
whose father was Hal J. Smith who starred as "Otis the Drunk" on The Andy Griffith
Show. Hal Smith was also a writer on It Came from Beneath the Sea (Columbia, 1955),
a film on which Harryhausen also worked, and it was while working on this film that
the two men became acquainted.
Weighing approx. 1 lb 4.3 oz., the saucer measures approx. 6 1/2 in. diameter and is
accompanied with two vintage stills taken on the set during the filming of the visual
effects sequences, which are both signed by Harryhausen in black ink.
An important visual effects model from one of Harryhausen's most challenging film
projects, rare to have survived in such exceptional condition.
Value: $40,000 - $60,000
(*) Photos and text courtsey of Profiles in History!