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20 million miles to Earth - Thoroughly entertaining creature feature from Ray Harryhausen, now in glorious colour!
on 24 February 2011
This review is specific to the colourised version of the film, released in 2007, ASIN: B000QGEB1W. This version can also be found on the box set the Ray Harryhausen Collection : 20 Million Miles to Earth / Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers / It Came From Beneath The Sea  [DVD].
This is an entertaining creature feature from the height of the genre. A manned mission has flown to Venus and back, picking up a specimen of the local life form whilst there. We enter the story just as the space ship is returning to Earth. It crashes in the Mediterranean, killing all but one of the crew and casting the specimen jar adrift. The jar is found and opened by a young boy who sells the contents to a local zoologist. The egg contained therein hatches and a Ymir is born. The film then follows the struggle between Ymir and man, as the creature starts to grow in an unfamiliar world. The Ymir just wants to be left alone and is by nature not an aggressive creature. But after unprovoked attacks it is driven mad, leading to a final thrilling showdown in then Coliseum of Rome.
It's a reasonably well constructed plot, and moves along at a good pace from one incident to the next. The acting is of variable quality, from the good performance of William Hopper as the space ship captain through to the terrible Italian accents of some of the Sicilian fishermen. But this is all part of the fun of these old B movies. The real joy of the feature is Ray Harryhausen's model work. He manages to imbue the Ymir with a real personality, and we feel much sympathy for the creature. The special effects are quite something, especially in the elephant fight and the rampage through Rome. From a technical and artistic point of view it is as good as only a Ray Harryhausen film can be.
This version has been colourised, though there is an option to watch the original black and white version, and one can even toggle between the two using the angle button on the remote. The colourisation works very very well. The film was originally conceived in colour, and would have been filmed as such except that the cost of colour film was prohibitive, and apparently colour film stock of the era was not of a good enough quality for Harryhausen to make his special effects. I feel that seeing it in colour is how it was originally intended, and the colourisation process has been done so proficiently you cannot see any running or overlay. The second disc of special features contains a short piece about the process which is interesting, an interview between Tim Burton and Harryhausen and a short piece about the composer. All in all it is an excellent package.