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Sometimes it can be challenging to review movies such as 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH, because my natural instinct is to focus on the story and characters. To say that they are both weak here, is being kind, but you don’t watch a film like this for that. You watch it for the mind-blowing stop-motion animation by master FX wizard Ray Harryhausen (THE 7th VOYAGE OF SINBAD, JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS). 

Made during the peak of the 1950s when alien invasion flicks were the height of the low-budget mainstream, this film stands out for its technical achievements and is just plain fun to watch. 

Directed by Nathan Juran and produced by Charles Schneer, who would produce the Harryhausen films for years to come, 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH borrows heavily from the original King Kong, but instead of an ape king discovered on a remote island, the Ymir hatches from an alien egg brought back to Earth by the surviving astronauts of a doomed mission to Venus. They’ve crashed landed off the coast of Italy and a small boy recovers the egg. 

Soon enough, the egg hatches and the tiny reptilian creature is born, rapidly growing in size until its primed to wreak havoc all over Rome. The cardboard cut-out characters consist of surviving astronaut Calder (William Hopper) and budding anthropologist hottie Marisa (Joan Taylor). 

The highlight of the film is the Ymir. A cross between an alligator and a T-Rex, its head looks like a precursor of the Kraken from another Harryhausen classic CLASH OF THE TITANS (1981). The life that Harryhausen breathes into his creation is simply astounding especially during an epic fight with an elephant. The Ymir feels alive and has more personality than most of his living co-stars. You even start feeling bad for it after awhile. It is quite literally a stranger in a strange land. 

It’s worth watching 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH if you are a fan of special effects or 50’s invasion flicks, but for those looking for a more introspective film, you may want to look elsewhere.

MARCH 21, 2014