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(50th Anniversary Edition)

I grew up watching Ray Harryhausen movies on television and 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH ($25) remains amongst my personal favorites- heck, they’re all my favorites. There was always something special about the stop motion animation of Ray Harryhausen to make his movies magical and timeless, even if the live actors weren’t quite as interesting as the creatures the visual effects master brought to life. The plot of 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH concerns the crash of an American spacecraft into the ocean off the coast of Sicily, upon its returns from the planet Venus. At first, the two crewmembers plucked from the sinking spacecraft appear to be the only other survivor of the crash. However, when a tiny animal specimen from Venus that washes up on the shoreline, a local boy decides to turn it into a profit by selling it to a vacationing zoologist from Rome. Of course, the American Air Force come in search of their missing specimen, and after capturing it, they take it to Rome for study. By this time, the creature has grown to enormous proportions, and as expected, breaks free and goes on a rampage through Rome.

While the plot of 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH is kind of predictable, the movie greatly benefits from the foreign locations and Ray Harryhausen’s incredible stop-motion special effects. Harryhausen imbues his Venusian creature with a personality and he turns it into a sympathetic character, one that didn’t ask to be brought back to Earth- let alone, to be poked and prodded by scientists. Of course, what would any good Harryhausen monster movie be without the creature getting to topple a very recognizable landmark? 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH allows Harryhausen’s creation to run amok on top of the coliseum in Rome, which provides a very cool climax for the movie. The cast of 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH features William Hopper, Joan Taylor, Frank Puglia, John Zaremba and Thomas Browne Henry.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has made the 50th Anniversary Edition of 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH available on DVD in a 1.85:1 widescreen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. Utilizing the multi-angle feature, the DVD offers fans a Chromachoice- or the ability to toggle between the film in its original black and white, or a new colorized version overseen by Harryhausen and produced by Legend Films. While I prefer the original black and white presentation that I grew up with, the colorized version adds a new level of fun to 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH. Its cool to see the colors that Harryhausen originally envisioned for the production of 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH, which was filmed in black and white for budgetary reasons. The black and white transfer looks really sweet, producing a crisp image and good grayscale. As for the film elements, they appear very clean, with little beyond minor blemishes to detract from the presentation. Film grain is fairly modest. The colorization process used here is of excellent quality and it applied with some artistry to prevent the process from calling attention to itself. FYI… while the majority of the film appears to have applied color to the black and white transfer, I noticed some individual shots in the colorized version that are framed with slight differences. Digital compression artifacts are never a concern on either presentation.

The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack gets the job done- but isn’t a showcase for the format. As expected, the sound is clean and crisp, with most signs background hiss and distortion being scrubbed away. Fidelity is more than adequate for a fifty-year-old movie. Voices are nicely reproduced, and the dialogue remains understandable, even through the thick Italian accents of some of the actors. No other language tracks are offered, but subtitles have been provided in English and French.

The basic interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials, which have been spread across both discs of this set. Disc one features a running Audio Commentary with Ray Harryhausen, Visual Effects Artists Dennis Muren and Phil Tippett and Arnold Kunert. Moving on to disc two, one will find the remainder of the supplemental programming. Remembering 20 Million Miles to Earth offers a look back at the film’s production with Ray Harryhausen. The Colorization Process features an enthusiastic Harryhausen talking about finally being given the opportunity to offer his black and white films in color, plus what Legend Films brings to the table. Tim Burton Sits Down with Ray Harryhausen features the famed director sitting down with one of his idols to talk about his work. An Interview With Joan Taylor offers the film’s lead actress an opportunity to discuss her Harryhausen films, as well as other aspects of her career. David Schechter On Film Music's Unsung Hero talks about the contributions of musical director Mischa Bakaleinikoff, who massaged stock music into countless B productions, in addition to composing snippets. Comic Book and Ad Artwork, plus a Photo Gallery close out the supplements.

Featuring a great monster and a scenic Italian setting, 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH finds Harryhausen in top form. The black and white DVD presentation is terrific, plus the colorized version offers long time fans a fun new way to experience the film. Additionally, the supplements are pretty sweet. The 50th Anniversary Edition of 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH comes highly recommended.



20 Million Miles To Earth (50th Anniversary Edition) (1957)



DVD reviews are Copyright © 2007 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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