20 Million Miles to Earth (1957) (82 minutes)
Directed by Nathan Juran.
Written by Robert Creighton Williams, Christopher Knopf and Charlotte Knight.
Starring William Hopper, Joan Taylor and Thomas Browne Henry.
In a picturesque Sicilian fishing village all is peaceful and serene. Fishermen are out on the boats bringing in the catch of the day. However, they catch more than they bargain for when a secret US spaceship crash-lands just off shore after meteorite struck. Did anybody or anything survive the crash if so what havoc would be unleashed on humanity?
In this ground-breaking film with special-effects by the great Ray Harryhausen, we see inept scientist and military officials run around Italy after something that is perfectly harmless unless provoked. I know lets poke it with big sticks, electrocute it and stick it in a laboratory, that’ll do the trick.
Mans capacity to balls things up is in evidence again here in Nathan Juran’s 1957 film 20 Million Miles to Earth. After a secret US mission to Venus, the spacecraft on its return is struck by a meteorite and is forced to crash-land into the sea just off the coast of Sicily. On board 2 survivors, Colonel Robert Calder (William Hopper) and Dr. Sharman, are rescued by fisherman from the small village nearby. However, they brought something back with them unbeknown to the locals, which is of great importance to the US Government.
These 2 survivors are taken to local infirmary and are treated by the ‘almost a doctor’, Marisa Leonardo (Joan Taylor, also appeared in the classic Earth vs. the Flying Saucers), where Dr Sharman dies due to poisoning from exploring Venus.
Meanwhile, back on the coast a small fishing boy [Pepe] discovers a glass canister containing a gelatinous egg; and for a few hundred lira he sells it to Dr. Leonardo a zoologist and Marisa Leonardo’s farther. That night the egg hatches and out comes our monster of the piece. It appears as small biped lizard creature of only about 30cm tall, marvelously animated by Ray Harryhausen.
Amazed by his discovery, Dr. Leonardo decided to take his new found wonder to the Italian Zoological society in Rome that next morning, along with his daughter. Before leaving that morning they discover that the creature [Ymir] has increased in sized dramatically. Still in wonder, they set off to Rome with their precious cargo.
Meanwhile, back in the village the local bureaucrats and US Military officials have arrived and are on the haunt for their missing canister. After flashing the cash, Colonel Robert Calder and his Superiors discover that it is with Dr. Leonardo and is on its way to Rome.
The chase is on, but as usually nothing goes to plan and the creature escapes from Dr. Leonardo and the local dignitaries want to kill the creature on site, while the US military want to take it alive for study and to aid them in the exploration of Venus, all the time the creature is continuing to grow in size.
After one failed attempt to catch the creature, where Colonel Robert Calder informs everybody that the creature will not harm you unless provoked and will only eat sulfur, starts to poke it with a big stick (good going numb-nuts and this bloke is supposed to be an astronaut)! However on their second attempt with an electrified net and flamethrowers, (if this is provocation, I don’t know what is) the creature is captured and packed off to Rome.
Now this is where the stupidity of man is really cranked up. While the creature is sedated with the use of electric shocks, more provocation is needed. With the creature over 20 foot tall now, some bright spark decides to move some lab equipment right over the creature with the use of some sort of feeble crane device, leading to inevitable destruction of the lab and the equipment keeping the creature sedated. That’s one lab assistant out of work right there.
Now with the creature awake and non-too happy, the action builds, first with the running and the screaming of the scientist and local. Then a great sequence is set up with a fight between an elephant, which has also escaped from the zoo and the creature. The fight rages through the streets of Rome until the elephant is vanquished, but not killed. Even the creature knows compassion, man…well.
With creature fleeing for its life, the Italian Army is sent out to stop it, and they’re always good in a fight. The creature is forced to find refuge in the Colosseum. Now this is no fair fight, like the one between Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris (Way of the Dragon) which also took place here. This is one creature against an army, with tanks. Though through this scene, it the first time I’ve seen Rome that empty. As the fight continues the film builds up to its King Kong moment and with creature standing atop of the Colosseum with no means of escape he is finally brought to his end as is the film with the final lines by Dr. Judson Uhl (John Zaremba, also in Earth vs. the Flying Saucers):
“Why is it always, always so costly for Man to move from the present to the future?”
For me a top Saturday matinee film with great effects by Ray Harryhausen and nice storyline, which, however does drag a little during the middle, but one I can heartily recommend if you can get passed the stupidity of the officials, but officials are always stupid so enjoy.