Plot: What’s it about?
After a trek to the planet Venus, an American rocket heads back to the surface with its crew and some samples onboard. But then in a tragic turn of events, the craft crashes down into the sea and of the crew members, only Colonel Calder (William Hopper) manages to survive. At the same time, a strange egg of some kind floats out of the ship, headed toward the shore and soon discovered by a young Sicilian child. The youngster takes the egg to a local zoologist named Dr. Leonardo (Frank Puglia), who watches as the egg hatches and a creatures emerges, one he has never seen before, even in books. While this happens, Col. Calder is being nursed back to health by Dr. Leonardo’s granddaughter, who is a medical student. In addition to being unusual, the creature has some odd traits, such as exponential growth rates and when it reaches six feet in height, Dr. Leonardo decides to take it to the zoo. But the creature escapes from its holding cage and makes a mad dash through the streets of Rome, where it encounters crowds, police & military forces, and a large bull elephant. Is this creature a monster that needs to be killed at all costs, or just a peaceful alien startled by its new surroundings?
This good old fashioned monster movie has it all, a wild premise, thrills galore, military intervention, scenes of mass destruction, and of course, a very cool monster to focus the picture upon. As you should already know, the creature here is the Ymir and its creator was Ray Harryhausen, who is nothing short of a legend in the field. This would be Harryhausen’s final black & white picture and after 20 Million Miles to Earth, he lent his talents to the incredible Sinbad series, quite a change of pace. As usual, Harryhausen’s creations are the main reason to visit the picture, with the Ymir being one of his greatest accomplishments, if you ask me. While not always as sympathetic as some classic movie monsters, the Ymir has its moments and if nothing else, has ample personality and is a testament to Harryhausen’s skills. Aside from the monster scenes however, this movie is flat and forgettable, but then again, it was never meant to be more than a framework, on which to hang Harryhausen’s creations. This movie is highly recommended to anyone who enjoys monster movies and while Columbia’s disc has the same extras as the other releases in their Harryhausen line, it is still more than worthwhile.
Video: How does it look?
20 Million Miles to Earth is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, with a full frame edition also included on this dual layered disc. I am pleased with the overall visual effort here, although some slight flaws do emerge, including some digital artifacts at times. I was glad to see a clean print was used and while some scenes do have signs of wear & grain, the print is smooth and clean on the whole. I found contrast to be terrific here, with rich & refined black levels and no visible detail loss to report. I do wish the digital mishaps were solved prior to this release, but even so, this is a fine looking visual presentation.
Audio: How does it sound?
As expected, the included mono option is by no means memorable, but it is solid and handles the material well enough. Although time has worn the materials somewhat, I found hiss to be minimal and no real harsh moments arise, which is good news. The dialogue is clean and never hard to understand, while the sound effects are clear and sound terrific here. I do think the music is a little confined at times, but this is mono, so we can’t expect too much. This disc also includes subtitles in English and French.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes a This is Dynamation featurette, the wonderful Harryhausen Chronicles documentary, and the film’s theatrical trailer.