When one hears the name Ray Harryhausen they either say who’s that or know of his masterful special effects skills, honoring and respecting his contributions to cinema, especially in both the horror and sci-fi genres. A classic creation of his which features Ymir, the beast from Venus celebrates its 60th anniversary in the film 20 Millions Miles to Earth, a movie that lacks some energy, based on a weaker script, but still a love to special effect fans. Now director Nathan Juran, known for his work on Attack of the 50-Foot Woman (1958), takes the 1950s a time known for enlarging many things beyond the normal scope lined up another monster creature feature for the audience to enjoy while chopping on popcorn. Now fans of these flicks and Ray’s admirers can enjoy the Mill Creek Entertainment 2014 Blu-Ray release (double billed with It Came From Beneath the Sea), rather than trying to watch a bootleg copy online.
Aside of the direction, comes a confusing script, using a story from Charlotte Knight, who in her career had five writing gigs, this film being her only venture into horror, teamed up with two screenwriters both who never previously work in the horror or sci-fi genres. First, Robert Creighton Williams, whose career tallied 58 writing credits, of which overall he known a point-person for western genre content, 44 films in the genre alone, and some of that experience used as filler, praising cowboys actually occurs in the film. Crazy – I know. His co-writer Christopher Knopf 144 writer credits, majority in both drama and western, and this movie served as his venture into this genre, only to revisit it again for a 1973 TV movie called A Cold Night’s Death.
What sets this movie apart from many other sci-fi films of that era not originating from Mars, but rather Venus, while technically not the best choice namely do a planet of 900 degrees (F) and an atmosphere thick of sulfuric acid and carbon dioxide, but it 1957 ignorance accepted. By the way, the film’s title makes a small error in judgment and calculation actually 25-million miles not 20, to Earth from Venus. However, in cinema the sci-fi market exploded like a star in space, brilliantly shining outward and still having an impact on the markets to this day, but the time the success of The Thing from Another World (1951) and Forbidden Planet (1956) just to name two of many. The studios back just about every crazy and zany storyline presented to them, the cost to create extremely low, the reaping of profit very high.
Finally studios learn that not all creature features need to happen on United States soil, this film setting in Rome, and the spaceship crashing into the Mediterranean with Sicilian fishermen rescuing two survivors. Meanwhile on shore a tagalong child Pepe (Bart Braverman) discovers a metal canister containing the beast and sells for the ability to purchase a cowboy hat and pistols. In fact, overall one could assign the blame for everything to this child; it is after all his greed which projects the death and destruction, though too harsh, why does the advance space control have better guidance or tracking of property. It’s supposed to be advanced, sending manned flights to Venus, doesn’t actually seem so on the screen. Ymir endures so much pain for a visitor (likely stolen, as it came from an egg) shock treatment, bullets, bazooka shells and much more. Fret not the military on the case, and even the lead Colonel Calder (William Hopper) takes the time to belittle aspiring doctor Marisa (Joan Taylor) only to have her fall in love with him, there’s the romance angle.
Ray Harryhausen’s Ymir the true star of the movie, displaying the stop-motion animation work, thereby enhancing the visual effects tremendously well, as the creature features started to fade out, and replaced with sci-fi horrors. Harryhausen clearly showed he had a lot to deliver the audience, as within this movie his creation, battles an elephant one of the best sequences, and later an impression of King Kong.
While this older creature feature, may not entice all horror fans or even the sci-fi ones, and yes perhaps slanted in the views of that era, the work of Harryhausen still encourages filmmakers and special effect artists, he’s still receiving thank you credits on film. Honestly, when the creature Ymir becomes absent from the screen the flick tends to drag, and dipping into the realm of losing the viewers’’ attention, however when it returns everyone perks up for the monster. A word of advice, avoid the colorized version, it takes away from the overall impact of the movie.