Director: Nathan Juran
Writers: Bob Williams and Christopher Knopf
Cast: William Hopper, Joan Taylor, Frank Puglia, John Zaremba, Thomas B. Henry, Tito Vuolo, Jan Arvan, Arthur Space, and Bart Bradley
Composer: Mischa Bakaleinikoff
Release Date: 6/1957
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
After a spaceship crash-lands near the coast of Sicily, a lifeform native to the planet Venus washes ashore. With the assistance of Marisa Leonardo (Joan Taylor), Colonel Robert Calder (William Hopper)—the only surviving astronaut of the Venus expedition—attempts to track down the rapidly growing organism, which now presents a grave threat to the city of Rome.
Introducing an alien creature into a fish-out-of-water setting, 20 Million Miles to Earth will appeal to kaiju enthusiasts and sci-fi/horror buffs alike. Especially deserving of mention is the climax of this film, wherein a giant monster climbs the Colosseum to avoid death by gunfire—likely a tribute to the Empire State Building sequence from King Kong.
Ray Harryhausen fans will appreciate 20 Million Miles to Earth for its iconic stop-motion animation, the nuances of which allow the Venusian creature (referred to as the Ymir in the working title of this production) to convey a complex range of emotional states including fear, anger, and curiosity—all of which serve to reinforce the Ymir as a gentle, sympathetic animal who attacks only when injured or provoked. (Note, for example, that the Ymir simply wishes to feed himself prior to being savagely attacked by a farmhouse dog, prompting his transformation into a violent, rampaging monster.)
Though quite rousing, the Ymir’s confrontations with a pet dog and a caged elephant—both badly wounded and possibly even killed by the alien—may perturb viewers of a sensitive nature.
Despite the obvious danger posed by the Ymir, Colonel Calder insists on capturing the creature alive in order to examine it in a laboratory setting—a commentary on how scientific progress often comes at a terrible cost.
20 Million Miles to Earth should be commended for showcasing the talents of Harryhausen in a science fiction narrative. Also worth praising is the Ymir, who—in spite of his grotesque, alien physiology—succeeds in evoking compassion from the audience.
Overall Quality: 9/10
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