In the fifties, many horror and science fiction films spoke of two things. The nuclear age, and the potential dangers of space exploration. While the US tested radiation, and strived to bring their men to space to explore other planets, Hollywood explored such ideas and its negative effects through filmmaking in films like “Godzilla”, “The Day The Earth Stood Still”, “Them”, and another film that would come in 1968 changing the face of filmmaking and horror for decades to come, a much more grim grotesque exploration in to the potential consequences of bringing a foreign chemical home with us and eventually spell doom for the rest of the world through a familiar foe.
“20 Million Miles to Earth” is one of the greatest monster films of all time. Sure, some consider it a knock off of “Godzilla” but–Harryhausen’s science fiction classic carries its own twists that individuate it–and in many respects transforms in to a knock-off of “King Kong.” Altogether, the monster movie that destroys Rome, is a very worthy knock-off. After a space crew arrives from Venus, they crash land in Sicily where two men are rescued. Also discovered is a mysterious cylinder which is carrying an odd object. The village boy finds it and sells it to the local zoologist. There, he discovers an egg storing a small creature which breaks free from its shell and appears docile. The twist with “20 Million Miles to Earth” is that the creature discovered within the egg begins growing larger and larger, and then larger until it begins toppling buildings.
What’s examined in “20 Million Miles to Earth” is not only the ill-effects of space exploration, but also how humans can at times be more monstrous and horrifying than any creature. The creature here is very docile and acts violent only upon being attacked by a local dog, and then goes incredibly violent when stabbed by a pitchfork, and then the people here have a surefire threat on their hands. Though, the film isn’t perfect with yet another bland obligatory romance between the heroine and hero that just pads the story, certain plot holes, and features many actors whom are supposedly Italian not speaking a word of it, “20 Million Miles to Earth” is a fun, and exciting monster film with a creepy creature called the Ymir, which would later become one of Harryhausen’s most well known creations. With a spiked tail and a thunderous high pitched squeal, this once harmless creature becomes a horrifying monster at the hands of the aggressive man.
Harryhausen’s creature effects are still considered rather excellent and streamlined. Even in the age of computers and CGI, Harryhausen’s effects still have heart and soul, effects that even the most advanced graphics can not accomplish. The Ymir is an expressive and intriguing creation even for Harryhausen. His clay molds have also managed to capture more imagination and utter fascination than any Gollum in “Lord of the Rings” can hope to. Take the sword waving skeletons, or ominous UFOS of Harryhausen, and you’ll see a true creation. The Ymir is also one of those beautiful monsters that Harryhausen captured, and when it wreaks havoc in Rome, finally being taken down, it’s an exciting sequence and climax that continues to be revered even in the digital age. “20 Million Miles to Earth” is still a very effective monster film of the golden age of B cinema, and Harryhausen is still the king.