' ' Cinema Romantico: Friday's Old Fashioned: The Flying Saucer (1950)

Friday, May 26, 2023

Friday's Old Fashioned: The Flying Saucer (1950)

“The Flying Saucer” billed itself as being the first movie to tackle its eponymous subject, both capitalizing and commenting on the phenomenon that took root in America in 1947 after pilot Kenneth Arnold’s UFO sighting near Mount Rainier and the incident in Roswell, New Mexico. Indeed, director Mikel Conrad’s opens with a montage of newspaper headlines mimicking the so-called flying disc craze of 1947 in which famous American playboy Mike Trent (Mikel Conrad) is recruited by American Intelligence to return to his native Alaska under cover of having had a nervous breakdown with government agent Vee (Pat Garrison) posing as his nurse to covertly investigate reports of Soviet spies poking around The Last Frontier in the wake of flying saucer reports. If it sounds like a flimsy intelligence operation, well, such flimsiness embodies “The Flying Saucer” itself, which spends less time on UFOs than it does on both an unconvincing, altogether heatless love story between Mike and Vee and the Alaskan scenery. The climax seems to exist less in the name of culminating suspense than showing off an on-location glacier and one scene in which Mike pilots a small plane spends a couple minutes at least just watching him as he looks at the scenery below, like a moving advert for future statehood.

The UFO itself is barely glimpsed, Conrad as director apparently knowing his special effects were not up to snuff, and is most interesting for the sound it makes, not the eerie whirring to which we are so accustomed but something more akin to a fighter jet. That betrays its human origins, invented by an American scientist (Roy Engel) and craved by the Soviets, who will stop at nothing to acquire this saucer for themselves. “The Flying Saucer” generates an almost stunning lack of tension from this set-up, but the twists and turns at least interesting through a historical lens, a movie employing the saucer craze as Cold War propaganda, never really seriously entertaining otherworldly thoughts. Watching this drowsy attempt at Sci-Fi, it’s easy to understand why ensuing cinematic cracks at this topic decided to opt for little green men instead.

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