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20 Million Miles to Earth [Ray Harryhausen]

20 Million Miles to Earth (1957) starring William Hopper, Joan Taylor

In 20 Million Miles to Earth, the first human expedition to Venus returns to Earth with a bang – literally. The ship crash lands off the coast of Italy. There are only two survivors, one of whom dies shortly after. But in addition, there’s a living specimen brought back. And it begins growing in Earth’s atmosphere. It’s only dangerous when provoked. But it gets provoked easily. And after it’s being held incapacitated in the Coliseum of Rome … It escapes! That poor elephant …

Review

In short, 20 Million Miles to Earth is an enjoyable Ray Harryhausen film. The actual star is Harryhausen’s animation. The human actors do a good job, although the pace is slow.

Cast

  • William Hopper (The Deadly Mantis, Perry Mason) … Colonel Bob Calder. The only survivor of the first manned exploration of the planet Venus. He barely survives, but they brought a living specimen back.
  • Joan Taylor (Earth vs. the Flying Saucers) … Marisa Leonardo. Dr. Leonardo’s granddaughter. She’s a third-year medical student, is summoned to take care of the injured astronaut. Literally, the closest thing to a doctor available. And she inevitably begins falling in love with her handsome patient.
  • Frank Puglia (Down Argentine Way) … Dr. Leonardo. A zoologist studying sea creatures. He buys Pepe’s mysterious discovery.
  • John Zaremba … Dr. Judson Uhl
  • Thomas Browne Henry (Beginning of the End) … Maj. Gen. A.D. McIntosh. Military brass in charge of ht project. He flies down to Italy upon the news that the ship has crashed there.
  • Tito Vuolo (The Bishop’s Wife) … Commissario Unte. One of the two Italian officials involved when the American ship crashes.
  • Jan Arvan (The Poseidon Adventure, The Red Skelton Hour) … Signore Contino. The other government official.
  • Arthur Space (The Big Noise) … Dr. Sharman. The other surviving member of the crew. He’s dying from the same disease that killed the other eight crewmen.
  • Bart Braverman … Pepe. The cute little boy, who wants to go to Texas in the U.S.A. and have a cowboy hat! He initially finds the mysterious goo containing the creature. And sells it to Dr. Leonardo.

Editorial review of 20 Million Miles to Earth courtesy of Amazon.com

Special-effects legend Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion talents and “Dynamation” (rear-projection) process are the highlights of the ’50s-era creature feature 20 Million Miles to Earth. An American spaceship returns to Earth after a mission to Venus and crashes into the sea near Sicily. A sole survivor (William Hopper) is rescued, along with a specimen that quickly grows into a reptilian biped called the Ymir. The being eventually grows to 20 feet high and escapes its confines, whereupon it rampages through Rome before a showdown with the military.

Despite lacking much of a personality, the Ymir is a marvelous showcase for Harryhausen’s skills. Unfortunately, the rest of the film does not match his level of excellence; direction by Nathan Juran is perfunctory (his later collaborations with Harryhausen, including The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, are more lively), and performances and scripting are flat. Still, Harryhausen fans should enjoy this opportunity to see this phase of his career before he created his most enduring works. –Paul Gaita

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