'20 Million Miles To Earth (50th Anniversary)'
(William Hopper, Joan Taylor, Frank Puglia, John Zaremba, Thomas Browne Henry, et al / 2-Disc DVD / NR / (1957) 2007 / Sony Pictures)
Overview: Special effects genius Ray Harryhausen (Jason and the Argonauts, Clash of the Titans)brings you one of his earliest groundbreaking films, now available for the first time in vibrant color! When an American spaceship crash-lands off the coast of Sicily, a rescue team discovers that the crew has brought back a gelatinous mass that soon hatches and evolves into a strange bi-ped creature which increases in size rapidly. Soon 20-feet tall, the creature rampages through Rome before being destroyed as it seeks refuge in the Colosseum.
DVD Verdict: The first manned mission to Venus malfunctions on its way home and crashes into the sea off the coast of Sicily, killing all but its commander (William Hopper), one scientist who succumbs later and a small reptilian organism that the explorers discovered on our planetary neighbor. The creature, still in its egg, is washed ashore in a tiny container, where it is discovered by a young boy. The boy sells it to a local biologist, but once it hatches, its exposure to Earth’s atmosphere causes it to quickly grow to human size. The bewildered alien is captured by the military, but continues to grow and eventually breaks free again, now 25 feet tall and ready to rumble in the streets of Rome.
That is the plot of 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH, one of animator Ray Harryhausen’s best-loved monster pictures and a film that marked a turning point in the legendary FX artist’s storied career. The 1957 movie was the first to be based on an original idea by Harryhausen (although he didn’t take credit for the screenplay, remarking on the new DVD’s commentary track, “It took me 50 years to learn that modesty’s a dirty word in Hollywood”), and marks a major step forward in his pioneering stop-motion animation work. The Venusian creature—generally known as the Ymir, although that name is never uttered in the picture—not only has a real personality, but elicits genuine sympathy as well. The confused and essentially peaceful beast, lizardlike in appearance but built like a humanoid, only becomes aggressive when attacked—and it is provoked continuously once on Earth, whether by animals, farmers or the military. Its lonely death, far away from its home world, was Harryhausen’s statement on man’s cruelty to animals, and is eloquent without once taking away from the movie’s monster-on-the-rampage thrills.
There are plenty of those, including amazing FX setpieces such as the Ymir’s battle with an elephant and its final stand atop the Roman Colosseum. The intricacy, detail and handcrafted nature of Harryhausen’s work—no CGI here, folks—still holds up today, and the monster remains one of the master’s best-realized characters. This lavish 50th-anniversary double-disc set offers the opportunity to view the film either in its original black and white or in a new colorized restoration done by Legend Films. I’m no fan of colorization, but this is not the bleary, fuzzy process of 20 years ago; the process here is absolutely stunning (it was done with the approval and partial supervision of Harryhausen, who says that only the budget kept the film monochromatic in the first place), and gives the movie and Harryhausen’s work a new vigor. It’s a fine achievement. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.78:1) and comes with the Special Feature of:
Feature Available in Original B&W and Color (Chromachoise to Toggle Between B&W and Color)
Audio Commentary with Ray Harryhausen, Visual Effects Artists Dennis Muren and Phil Tippett, and Arnold Kunert
Remembering 20 Million Miles To Earth,br>
The Colorization Process
Tim Burton Sits Down with Ray Harryhausen
Interview with Joan Taylor
David Schechter on Film Music's Unsung Hero
20 Million Miles More Comic Book
Video Photo Galleries
Original Ad Artwork