Monster movie fans will readily admit Sony Pictures really did the 20 Million Miles to Earth 50th Anniversary Edition DVD right. The 2 DVD set includes the possibility of instantly switching from the original black and white version of this classic creature feature to a well-made colorized version Ray Harryhausen really likes (though the process is still not great for scenes at dusk) and loads of cool extras on a second disc. Even if you do not give a new version Godzilla's hope at the box office hoot about special anniversary editions and extra goodies, 20 Million Miles to Earth 50th Anniversary Edition is a great misunderstood monster movie.
The story of 20 Million Miles to Earth is simple. A spacecraft crashes in Sicily after a trip to Venus, a planet twenty million miles from earth. Local fishermen rescue the sole survivor but a young boy finds a capsule, opens it, finds something that looks like it popped out of a Jell-O mold, and sells it to a vacationing zoologist. The thing in the mold -which has the greatest birthing scenes in monster movie history and is, on its own, something Harryhausen fans will watch again and again-- turns out to be a fast growing lizard like monster and, like any self-respecting monster, it eventually goes on a rampage in a big city, in this case Rome.
The story and acting in 20 Million Miles to Earth are above average but what makes this monster movie superior is the Dynamation work of Ray Harryhausen and the many special effects, rear projection, double rear projections, and stop-motion animation that went with them. All of this work still looks pretty good to a modern audience used to computerized SFX. In fact, this DVD is probably the monster movie that has survived the best when it comes to stuff like that. It helps that the monster chews more scenery than Sean Connery when it gets its big scenes. The lizard especially hams it up a bit for its death scene, the best one in the genre aside from the original King Kong's.
If you are a fan of Godzilla, Mothra, King Kong and other city invading monsters, you are really going to enjoy this movie. 20 Million Miles to Earth has all the elements of the genre: an innocent young boy who is connected with the monster, a good looking babe who is the first to see monster and is good at screaming -though here she is an American medical student and more than holds her own compared to other babes in such movies-and being a bit of a love interest. Here, however, the monster is not instinctively belligerent until man attacks it. A scene involving animals and, in particular, a lamb, is there to shows that as Ray Harryhausen points out in the for once interesting audio commentary track.
A minor point I found interesting about 20 Million Miles to Earth is though it is a Hollywood movie it is not as jingoistic as most movies of the time. The action takes place in Italy and though the Italian fishermen at the beginning of the movie are a bit cliché there is an effort here to make this an international venture with competent foreign journalists, scientists, and so on.
20 Million Miles to Earth 50th Anniversary Edition includes a second DVD with lots of extra features: Remembering 20 Million Miles to Earth, The Colorization Process, Tim Burton talks with Ray Harryhausen, an interview with Joan Taylor, something on the movie's music, a comic book feature, and galleries of the artwork. Creature feature fans will be pleased with all that. Though I usually pass, Remembering 20 Million Miles to Earth features a who's who of the genre then and now giving their opinion on this classic and I liked watching that, something that rarely happens with these things. I also enjoyed the somewhat longwinded short on the movie's music.
Kudos to Sony Pictures Home Entertainment for the 20 Million Miles to Earth 50th Anniversary Edition: a great monster movie packaged in a special edition that, for a change, really is special.
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