I’ll never be able to remember what the first Ray Harryhausen movie was that I saw. All I’ll ever know is that most of his flicks were but one of many TV highlights of my childhood, with his mythology movies being my favorites. Taken on an individual basis some of his movies have distinct memories of when I first saw them.
Generally speaking the first time I ever saw anything related to 20 Million Miles To Earth (1957) was in this newspaper-type supplement to the TV Guide that came with the local paper my grandparents used to get. My grandmother showed me this one particular issue because it had an entire page of small, black and white photos of monsters from a plethora of movies I had yet to see. Later on in life I recognized some of them to be from various Godzilla and Ray Harryhausen movies.
My first inclination was to remove the page and keep it, but I remember my grandmother telling me I couldn’t until my grandfather had read it. She stuffed it down in this magazine rack where they kept all the newspapers, and TV guides and whatnot. The next day I wanted to look at the photos again, but the whole supplement was gone. I even asked my grandmother, and all she could do was tell me to look in the magazine rack. I never did find out what happened to it either.
My next memories of it were from various monster movie books I used to read, and there were always those same black and white stills of the creature that used to show up in almost every one of them.
There were times when some of those monster movies came on in the wee hours of the night. The only way my brother and me could see them was to ask my mother if she or my grandmother could wake us up. For most part we got lucky and she’d always say, yes, but it was always my grandmother who was tasked with doing the waking, which amazingly she always managed to do. She was basically a night owl, I came to find out. I always managed to keep myself awake throughout the movie, my brother on the hand always ended up falling asleep. Most times I would catch him and wake him up. In case you haven’t guessed 20 Million Miles To Earth was one of those wee hour movies.
William Hopper stars as Col. Robert Calder who as the movie starts is in the process of crashing landing his rocket back on Earth, in Sicily of all places. He and his crew were previously exploring the wonders of Venus, collecting specimens and watching each other die from the awful atmosphere their space suits couldn’t filter out. After rescuing two survivors, Calder obviously being one of the two, a local boy stumbles upon an odd container with a strange, white, semi-transparent globule in it. He takes it to this zoologist and his daughter to sell.
This globule eventually hatches and out pops Ray’s stop-motion Venusian. As the movie progresses we learn these Venusian fauna are naturally small creatures but our atmosphere has created a metabolic imbalance that makes it grow and grow and grow.
Calder and the army finally get wind of their missing specimen and go after it. While it remains man-sized they track it across the countryside and finally manage to capture it, but once back in a zoo in Rome, it’s obvious it’s now the size of King Kong, and when it goes on it’s final city wide rampage it looks to be the size of Godzilla.
Like most of Harryhausen’s monster movies, especially his mythology movies, his King Kong influence is always present, as in there always has to be another “monster” for his monster to battle, which, quite frankly, is the highlight of all of these movies. In 20 Million Miles To Earth it’s not another monster the overgrown Venusian fights but an elephant from the zoo it encounters after it breaks out. It’s still a fun stop-motion scene to watch.
When it comes to the next feature on this blu-ray, It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955), this was another movie I was familiar with from movie monster books before I ever saw it, but this one wasn’t a late night flick. We saw this one for the first time on a weekend in the afternoon.
When it comes to the next feature on this blu-ray, It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955), this was another movie I was familiar with from movie monster books before I ever saw it, but this one wasn’t a movie my brother and I saw late at night. We saw this one for the first time on a weekend in the afternoon.
As the movie kicks off Kenneth Tobey (The Thing From Another World, The Howling, Strange Invaders), playing Pete Mathews, is in charge of a new atomic submarine and is taking it out for a test run in the Pacific Ocean. Soon they encounter an “object” on the radar that grapples them and refuses to let go, plus the radiation levels are so high he presumes the sub’s reactor is about to go belly up, but the radiation isn’t coming from them, it’s coming from outside.
After they get loose a couple of officers checking out the dive panels find the fleshy remnants of an unknown sea creature jammed in between. This is where Faith Domergue (This Island Earth, The House Of Seven Corpses) and Donald Curtis (Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers), respectively playing scientists, Lesley Joyce and John Carter, come into the picture as this biological specimen is sent off to them, along with Mathews himself. During the course of this scientific investigation we see Mathew getting smitten with Joyce.
Eventually it’s revealed that the remains come from a giant octopus, and as soon as they, and we the audience find that out, the giant cephalopod is off creating more havoc on the ocean like taking down a freighter in spectacular stop-motion style.
The theory put forth by Joyce and Carter is that this creature is the result of H-bomb testings and that it’s radioactivity is alerting it’s natural prey to its presence so it’s chosen to chew on mankind instead. Eventually the octopus gets so bold it decides to take on San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge but in the end the Navy wins by blowing the mother to smithereens.
Again Harryhausen’s stop motion is superb, but to due to budgetary issues he only gave the creature six tentacles rather than the eight he wanted to.
Since 2003 Sony has released both of these movies in various DVD, DVD sets and blu-ray incarnations, the most notable are the editions that have both films colorized alongside their original black and white counterparts. This is a rare instance where someone connected to films (in this case, Harryahausen) helped in the colorization process. Not sure about It Came From Beneath The Sea, but I did read an article where he mentioned 20 Million Miles To Earth was supposed to be filmed in color but in the end they just couldn’t afford it. I have yet to see these colorized versions, but I have seen stills of them on the net, and it does take some getting used to since I have only known these movies in their black and white form.
Mill Creek has recently licensed them from Sony and has decided to re-release them in a double feature blu-ray; for purists they’ve only included the black and white versions, unfortunately none of the copious extras that were found on Sony’s original sets were ported over. This blu-ray is movie only, with a main menu that only allows you to choose whichever flick you want to watch.
For me this is the first time I’ve seen a black and white flick remastered for blu-ray and I have to say they are very crisp and detailed. I was more impressed by the transfer on It Came From Beneath The Sea. Both films are in a 1080p 1.85:1 aspect ratio that’s formatted for widescreen TVs. There are no subtitles and the audio is in English Dolby Digital Stereo.
This is worth a purchase, if you’re not a fan of extras nor the colorized versions, plus without all the bells and whistles this blue is incredibly affordable.