A spaceship returns to earth from Venus, bringing a sample of the local life form to study. The animal escapes, and is pursued by the locals and the military. — Genre: Science Fiction — Rating: NR — Release Date: 27-MAY-2003
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Media Type: DVD« less
"Released in June 1957, "20 Million Miles to Earth" is an important film in the canon of visual effects genius Ray Harryhausen. It was the last of the black and white science-fiction films he worked on during the 50s. It was also the first film based on one of his own ideas. It set the stage for his color fantasy films triumphs that would follow.Harryhausen had originally developed a story about the frost giant Ymir from Norse mythology. He then changed the creature to a cyclops-satyr mix from another planet who rampages on modern Earth, but still kept the name Ymir. (The Cyclops-satyr would later show up in "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.") When the film finally went before the cameras, the Ymir had become a humanoid-reptilian beast from Venus. Brought to Earth in a crashed rocket, the Ymir emerges as only a few inches high, but starts growing rapidly in the Earth's atmosphere. Originally peaceful, the Ymir is provoked into violence by frightened humans. The movie climaxes in Rome when the captive Ymir bursts loose and starts smashing famous monuments in the Eternal City.The parallels to King Kong are obvious, and Harryhausen intended the Ymir to also be a sympathetic, misunderstood creature. He succeeded grandly: "20 Millions Miles to Earth" is Harryhausen's best early film. The direction from Nathan Juran and the human actors are perfunctory and clichéd, but the effects are still stunning today, and the Ymir is a superb actor. Designed along human lines, but with dinosaur features, the Ymir elicits strong emotions and exudes tremendous personality. The scene of it hatching from its `pod' (made of gelatin) and exploring the strange world around it for the first time is one of the high points of Harryhausen's career, and a sequence of which he rightly feels great pride. The scene of the full-sized, fifteen-foot Ymir wrestling an elephant (also animated) is also a stunning piece of work.(Harryhausen's love of the Ymir extended to late in his career. In his last film, "The Clash of the Titans," he used the Ymir as the basis for the design of the multiple-armed monster the Kraken -- the heads and bodies are almost the same.)The DVD presents the film in widescreen format for the first time since its theatrical release. The image is crystal clear and lets Harryhausen's work shine. There are a few extras. "The Harryhausen Chronicles," a lengthy documentary, does an excellent overview of the man's career. This same documentary appears on most of Columbia's Harryhausen DVDs, so if you're a fan of the animator you've probably seen this before. Also included is a vintage featurette about the animation process, called "This is Dynamation." It was made for the release of "The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad," so it actually has nothing to do with "20 Million Miles to Earth."This is a must-have DVD for any Harryhausen fan and any admirer of 50s science fiction. It's one of the highlights of giant monster cinema."
HARRYHAUSEN'S MAGIC TOUCH
Robin Simmons | Palm Springs area, CA United States | 07/10/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Ray Harryhausen's genius as an artist, sculptor and animator is shown off to great effect in the classic but nearly forgotten 1957 black and white monster movie "20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH" available for the first time in a digitally mastered DVD. The story may be trite and the screenplay not particularly noteworthy, but the illusion of life given the Ymir, a reptilian biped creature brought unwillingly from Venus to earth as an egg, is truly astonishing, and sometimes grotesquely beautiful. Even more amazingly, we respond to the Ymir as a living, breathing creature. Just knowing it's not an actor in a monster suit nor a drawn cartoon adds immeasurably to the effect. After it hatches, the small gestures as it rubs its eyes and reacts to light in the increasingly hostile earthly environment make it particularly endearing. In fact, we are inclined to root for this alien beast as it fights to survive while traveling from a tiny Sicilian fishing village to Rome where, of course, it wreaks havoc as a now understandably angry behemoth with very destructive proclivities. The black and white photography, no doubt a result of budget concerns, is especially dynamic and appropriately moody with scenes richly shadowed. This new edition includes nice wide and full screen transfers as well as trailers and featurettes.Ray Harryhausen's life was inexorably changed when, as a teen, he saw "King Kong" (1933) at Grauman's Chinese theater in Hollywood. The life-like puppet animation of the great ape by Willis O'Brien so captured his fancy that Ray went home and immediately attempted to duplicate the effects, making dinosuar models and animating them -- at 24 moves for every second of finished film -- within his own detailed miniature sets and hand-painted backgrounds. His early efforts were quite good and his parents encouraged Ray to continue with his hobby which, in fact, was becoming more of an obsession. He even cut up one of his mother's fur coats to make a lifelike pelt for one of his creations -- and was not reprimanded. In 1938, at a science fiction club, he met another teen named Ray -- Ray Bradbury -- who had similar interests. They encouraged each other and became life-long friends. Harryhausen went to art school near Los Angeles. The quality of his designs and miniatures greatly improved and soon he was invited by his idol, Willis O'Brien, to work on the stop-motion ape movie "Mighty Joe Young." In the age of eye-popping, super photorealistic computer generated animation, there's still something uniquely enthralling about seeing the interaction of fantastical three dimensional creatures with human actors. Maybe it's the hands-on-touch of these clay, fur and metal-armatured creations that gives them the illusion of life in a way that CGI can never achieve. Even the tiny flaws and mistakes -- like the uneven movement of fur and sometimes even the fleeting fingerprints of the animators -- add an element of emotional realism that is hard to describe in words alone. The mind knows the puppet is not alive but the eye and heart appreciate the art to such a degree that one is filled with astonishment and affection at this hand-crafted art. This is something much more than merely the willing suspension of disbelief that all the story-telling arts demand. And no man did it better than Ray Harryhausen. He has referred to the craft as "playing God by molding life from clay." And maybe that's the truer subtext of the metaphor to which we respond with such delight and wonder. Columbia/Tristar also distributes on DVD Harryhausen's "Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger," "The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad," "The Golden Voyage of Sinbad" and "Jason and the Argonauts" the latter with the incredible fighting skeletons, perhaps Harryhausen's most widely praised sequence."
Good movie.....but widescreen?????
Dirk Crockett | OKC, OK United States | 08/12/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I've really liked this movie since I was a kid. I'll spare you my analysis of it...enough people have done that already in their reviews. My comments are directed to the so-called "widescreen" version. This DVD has both full-screen and widescreen.....but they're both the same. The widescreen version is simply the full-screen with black bars superimposed. It is so obvious. The studio is ripping you off. I have found several other DVDs that are like this. Somebody needs to raise a red flag."
Bindy Sue Frønkünschtein | under the rubble | 10/23/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Ymir is one of my favorite monsters. He looks totally cool and has the same sympathetic nature as King Kong. Ray Harryhausen (Earth vs. The Flying Saucers) crafted a very memorable beasty! Taken from it's home planet (Venus), Ymir's egg is brought back to earth. The rocket that held it crashes into the Mediterranean sea, killing all but one astronaut and sending Ymir's holding-capsule onto the beach. A boy finds the capsule and takes it to a local scientist. Of course, Ymir's egg hatches and the fun begins! Growing at an astounding rate, Ymir begins looking for it's favorite food (sulfur) and terrifying all who come in contact with it. Poor Ymir is just alone and frightened, trying to survive in an alien world. Well, we humans do what we do best and hunt Ymir down so we can kill it! The final battle in the Roman colosseum is almost as good as Kong's Empire State building climb! However, my favorite scene is Ymir's fight with the elephant. A true battle of the giants! A must for the true sci-fi / Harryhausen maniac..."
Dr. Freeman | Perry, Iowa United States | 10/23/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of the better done "creature features" of the golden age. The creature has a realistic look and the direction of Juran is very good. The creature is mostly harmless until the human race decides to "study" him with the help of bullets, a pitchfork and electric shock. Torturing a creature that grows two or three feet a day is not wise. This they learn as the movie moves along. One of best of the genre."