20 Million Miles To Earth DVD Review

Venus doesn't get enough credit. It's a very underrated planet. Every kind of movie alien comes Mars. Why? What's wrong with Venus? Seems like a perfectly good planet to me. Well, obviously the Ymir agrees here as this Venusian tore apart Rome after being marooned here on Earth in the 1957 classic "20 Million Miles To Earth." A United States rocket ship is mere miles away from home when it gets slammed by a meteor. Out of control, the ship spirals into the ocean close to a small town in Italy. Only of the pilots survives, Colonel Robert Calder (William Hopper), who tells authorities of a capsule containing a life form from the planet. What they don't know is that a young boy in the town (played by a very young Bart Braverman) has already found the specimen still in its egg and sold it to a zoologist (Frank Puglia). The creature hatches and quickly grows to an enormous size after being taken to Rome. Authorities are called after the strange beasts escapes and the final battle begins inside the Roman Coliseum. The wonders of DVD can be put to good use here. The magic of Ray Harryhausen can be appreciated even more thanks to the ability to view every frame of the film in flawless detail. The Ymir is a masterful creation, but in the wrong hands, could have failed. Harryhausen's uncanny ability gives this creature a sympathetic side, literally making it seem confused and lost, simply through motion. The alien receives ample screen time and every effects shot involving him is flawless (the opening shots of the doomed spacecraft are the only ones that fail.... miserably). The creature's big battle with an elephant is a cinema classic and you're not a true sci-fi fan until you have witnessed its perfection. Even better, the film stays away from any of the atomic age clichÈs that plagued the era. Not that a space alien is any more creative, but it is a refreshing change. Director Nathan Juran and William Hopper worked together a few years before "20 Million" on the so-so "Deadly Mantis," both redeeming themselves here. The films second lead, Joan Taylor, also starred in another Harryhausen effects classic, "Earth vs. the Flying Saucers." It's obvious everyone here knows what to do to make this film a success and it works. Yes, the effects do save what very could have been just another monster-on-the-loose movie, but the experience of everyone involved pays off and this is a film that has solidified itself as a classic. (***** out of *****) This film was one of the early ones to use the widescreen format and Tri-Star has been wise to keep it that way for this DVD release. If you wish, a pan and scam version is available on the disc as well. Nearly every scratch and speck has been removed from this print making this a gorgeous restoration job. Grain is high in a few spots, but is under control in the majority of the scenes. The contrast seems a bit high at times as well, but these are minor complaints about a transfer that is much better than expected. (****) All of the films audio will sadly only come through one speaker in this mono presentation. Though soft and hard to hear in a few spots, this is a decent presentation considering the age of the source material. The monster's unmistakable roar comes through loud and clear, as does the dialogue. Not much more you can ask for from this film. (***) As this is included in the Ray Harryhausen Signature Collection, this disc includes some great extras, though a copy of the other discs in the collection. First is the "Harryhausen Chronicles," and hour long documentary on the career of one of Hollywood's all time great special effects men. It includes a bunch of rare footage and interviews with numerous people he has influenced. Next is the promotional "This is Dynamation" featurette, a look at stop motion animation from various films. The only feature relating to the film itself is the trailer. (***) Nearly any film Ray Harryhausen worked on is worthy of your time, but "20 Million Miles to Earth" should be high on that list. The creature design is memorable to say the least, acting on par (if not above) the norm for the era, and the characters have at least some purpose in the film. This is a must see film for anyone interested in either special effects or sci-fi. The disc is also more than admirable as well.

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