20 Million Miles To Earth Movie Review
Luckily for Earth and its inhabitants, Col. Robert Calder has survived the spaceship crash and has recovered enough to stop the Venusian monster before it grows large enough to hurt any civilians as it heads toward Rome for some sightseeing and destruction. After failed capture attempts and similarly ill-fated gunshots and flamethrower bursts -- a '50s favorite -- the Venusian monster inevitably arrives in Rome to terrorize the locals and fight an escaped zoo elephant before meeting its predictable demise. As with much of the sci-fi horror from the '50s, the plot hinges on man's technological advancements and the fears of overstepping our natural realm. Although that's mildly entertaining (in retrospect), even better is the foreign politics of the U.S. as the monster wreaks havoc in Italy. From a little boy brandishing a "real Texas hat" whose dream is to become an American cowboy to the conflict between the American colonel and the local Italian officials, it's a looking-glass back to a time when America thought it had all the answers. Looking back on that mentality and then looking at where America stands now in world politics, it's funny to see how things haven't changed in the minds of Americans; we still brought the creature back from Venus in the first place.
Aside from over-interpreting the monster movie's politics, there's no denying that the true star of 20 Million Miles to Earth is clearly animator Ray Harryhausen's stop-motion monster. While many of the '50s effects amount to nothing more than a pile of clay and miniatures, Harryhausen's Venusian monster is dynamic, showcasing a range of basic emotions -- pain, fear, indecision and anger. In our digital effects age, the claymation and rear-projection of the 1950s may seem archaic, but Harryhausen's monster has more life than many a computer-generated creation. In addition to its expert animation, there is tangibility to the effects that many of today's creature features lack. Whether it's the subtle breathing of the monster as it lies on an operating table or its physically clumsy motions when fighting the elephant during the famous climax, the clay-animated effects still feel real on the screen; partially because they are -- a physical model filmed in a way that matches the rest of the film's stock and feel. It's a humanity that is lost in today's digital effects and harkens back to a time when cinema's special effects were larger than life, instead of the latest, flashing computer-generated images.