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20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH ($25) is another of the great Ray Harryhausen classics finding their way to DVD, thanks to the folks at Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment. The plot of 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH concerns an American spacecraft returning from a mission to the planet Venus, that crashes into the ocean off the coast of Sicily. A couple of local fishermen are able to rescue two members of the crew, before the spacecraft sinks into the sea. Also aboard the ship is a tiny animal specimen from Venus, which washes up on the shoreline. A young boy finds the creature from Venus, and he sells it to a vacationing zoologist from Rome. Of course, the American Air Force wants their specimen back, especially after it begins growing at an unprecedented rate and becomes dangerous. Eventually, the military finds their lost specimen and take it to Rome for study. As you might expect, the now huge creature 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 the Venusian creature with a personality and he turns it into a sympathetic character, one that didn’t ask to be brought to Earth 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.

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment has made 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH available in a 1.85:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. A full screen presentation is also available on a separate layer, which can be chosen from the DVD's menu system. The black and white transfer is very good for a modestly budgeted film from 1957. Sure, there are some signs of age on the film element, but a few blemishes will not detract from anyone’s enjoyment of this Ray Harryhausen classic. The image on the DVD is generally crisp and offers a good level of definition. The rear screen projection work in the film is rather obvious, but Harryhausen’s own stop motion work holds up much better. There is some graininess in the picture throughout the course of the movie, but it is never objectionable. Blacks appear accurate and whites are generally stable. Contrast is good almost all of the time, but there were a couple of shots where it looked a little hot. Digital compression artifacts are usually well contained, with only a couple of instances where they became noticeable.

The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack is somewhat fidelity challenged, but what would you expect from a movie three years shy of its fiftieth anniversary? Overall, the sound is clean and crisp, with no overt signs of background hiss or distortion. Even with a fair amount amplification, the soundtrack still manages to sound pretty good. Additionally, dialogue is well reproduced, and one can even make out what some of the actors are saying through thick Italian accents. Subtitles have been provided on the DVD in English and French.

The basic interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few supplements. Coming again from previous Ray Harryhausen DVD releases are This Is Dynamation and the Ray Harryhausen Chronicles. Running about three and a half minutes, This Is Dynamation is a promotional featurette that explains the special photographic process Harryhausen used to create his stop motion special effects. The Harryhausen Chronicles is an hour-long program hosted by Leonard Nimoy, which details Ray Harryhausen’s life and career in cinema. Also included on the DVD are theatrical trailers for 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH and THE 3 WORLDS OF GULLIVER.

20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH is another Ray Harryhausen classic that has been given a fine presentation on DVD by Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment. If you are a Harryhausen fan, then picking up this DVD will be a no brainer.


20 Million Miles to Earth (1957)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2002 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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