Saturday, 25 May 2013

20 Million Miles To Earth (1957)

When a spaceship crash-lands off the coast of Sicily, some local men go to investigate and find two survivors. A young boy then finds a container full of some strange substance and sells it to a zoologist (Dr. Leonardo, played by Frank Puglia) living nearby. It turns out that the spaceship was an American spaceship returning from the first manned trip to venus and the substance in the container actually has a creature inside it. A creature that starts off small and cute, in a way, but soon starts to grow and grow and become more and more destructive. It's up to Dr. Leonardo, his daughter (Joan Taylor), Col. Robert Calder (one of the men rescued from the spaceship, played by William Hopper) and other official folk to make sure that the alien creature is unable to endanger the public.

While this is a standard 1950s sci-fi movie in many ways, it's also another riff on King Kong (a huge influence, of course, on Ray Harryhausen thanks to that great work from Willis H. O'Brien). The creature at the centre of events isn't some malicious alien wanting to destroy every human being that it sees. It's a big, confused animal that ends up being badly treated by people around it who, understandable, react with fear and panic.

The script by Robert Creighton Williams and Christopher Knopf is decent enough. It doesn't have to do much beyond hitting the usual beats for this kind of thing, but it's all done well enough and treats the leads better than, for example, It Came From Beneath The Sea. The direction from Nathan Juran is decent enough, keeping things moving along nicely in between moments that constantly build up the threat on the way to a typically grand finale.

Hopper and Taylor spark off each other pretty well. Although one or two moments may be a bit clumsy, they aren't often as wooden or uptight as performances from this era sometimes could be. Puglia does well, and John Zaremba, Thomas Browne Henry and Tito Vuolo all do okay, so there's nothing here to really make viewers cringe.

The work from Harryhausen is as good as ever, the main creature being one that becomes a real danger while also never really feeling like a monster. It's strange and sweet, but also something that could accidentally bring drop a building on your head.

All in all, this is a great little film. It starts with a bang and never really slows down until the end credits roll.


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