20 Million Miles to Earth (1957)

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Released 10-May-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Featurette-This Is Dynamation
Featurette-The Harryhausen Chronicles
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1957
Running Time 79:10 (Case: 83)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Nathan Juran
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring William Hopper
Joan Taylor
Frank Puglia
John Zaremba
Thomas Browne Henry
Tito Vuolo
Jan Arvan
Arthur Space
Bart Braverman
Case ?
RPI $14.95 Music Mischa Bakaleinikoff


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
German
Italian
Dutch
Arabic
Bulgarian
Czech
Danish
Finnish
Greek
Hebrew
Hindi
Hungarian
Icelandic
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Swedish
Turkish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    An expedition to Venus returns but crashes into the sea off Italy. There are two survivors. One dies, but the other, Colonel Bob Calder (William Hopper), is unscathed. A canister from the ship is washed ashore and picked up by a young boy. He sells the contents to a travelling zoologist (Frank Puglia), who realises that it is something unusual. A creature later hatches, frightening his comely daughter Marisa (Joan Taylor), who also happens to be a nurse. The creature looks like a lizard that walks on hind legs and has Hulk Hogan whiskers.

    From Calder's testimony it transpires that the expedition to Venus had found that the local creatures could survive, but humans were stricken in the atmosphere. They had brought back a specimen to experiment with to determine how it survives in the Venusian atmosphere. But the Ymir (as it is known, even though this is never mentioned in the film itself) reacts strangely to being on Earth. It begins to grow and grow, and like a giant primate a quarter of a century before, the humans either want to kill it or exploit it. Instead, it goes on a rampage through Rome.

    Filmed mainly in Europe to keep the costs down, the film can be divided in two: the bits when the Ymir is on-screen, and the bits when it is not. The latter sequences are pretty dull. William Hopper, the son of actress and gossip columnist Hedda, spent most of his career in bit parts before being cast as Paul Drake in the long-running series Perry Mason. This led to a couple of leading roles in films such as this one. He is pretty stolid, and unable to generate any chemistry with leading lady Joan Taylor. None of the other players are up to much either.

    But the real star again is the visual effects wizard Ray Harryhausen. Working by himself he manages to create stop-motion animation that is believable and realistic, and that is well-integrated into the live-action footage. Whether Ymir is wrestling an elephant or being tormented in a dimly lit barn by a farmer with a pitchfork, it all looks so good that disbelief is suspended. These are the only sequences in which the film comes to life and thankfully the creature is on screen a lot of the time. It is remarkable what Harryhausen could achieve working alone without the help of computers.

    It is good to see Columbia Tristar releasing some of these lesser-known science fictional efforts from the 1950s, but someone should stop them from putting the same extras on every disc. Surely there is other material about Harryhausen out there. He's still living, and while I don't know what his health is like, surely he could have been asked to contribute something, a new interview or even a commentary on the film.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    This is a pretty good transfer, and the only apparent problems with it were most likely there in the original release.

    The film is in black and white, and what we have here is a quite detailed and clean transfer. Sharpness is good, and the transfer is bright. Contrast is not quite so good, with dark parts of the image lacking detail. Black hair for example tends to be a black mass and there is little detail of individual hairs or strands. Otherwise there is a good scale of greys, though genuine whites are few and far between.

    Some edge enhancement is visible throughout the picture, though usually not of a level that would be annoying. The actors often seem to stand out from the background a little too much, with the edges being too marked. There are numerous film to video artefacts of the small white speck type, with a little dirt and dust at times. The process shots are quite grainy, and some footage shows a lot of artefacts.

    Optional English subtitles are in a white font, of a smallish size, and seem quite close to the spoken dialogue.

    While the disc is dual-layered, the feature seems to be contained on one layer so that there is no layer break.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The default audio track is English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. There are alternative language tracks as well.

    This is a satisfactory audio transfer for a 1950s movie with a modest budget. I had no trouble understanding any of the dialogue. There was no noticeable hiss or distortion. The audio is a little thin-sounding but is perfectly apt for the film. A lot of the dialogue seems to have been looped, so audio sync is variable. I do not believe any of the audio sync issues were introduced in the transfer to DVD.

    The music score is by Mischa Bakaleinikoff. Not too dissimilar from his score for Earth vs the Flying Saucers, it is portentously dramatic when it needs to be, and it fills in the gaps in the action nicely.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Don't be surprised if you get a sense of déjà vu watching the extras, as Columbia Tristar seems intent on including the same ones on every Harryhausen DVD they release. Zero points for initiative.

Menu Audio

    Some of the score is played while the static menu is displayed.

Featurette-'This Is Dynamation' (3:27)

    Billed as a featurette, this is really just a widescreen promotional trailer for The 7th Voyage of Sinbad showing how some of the effects were achieved.

Featurette-The Harryhausen Chronicles (57:58)

    This is a 1997 film made by critic Richard Schickel that chronicles Harryhausen's life and work, and is narrated by Leonard Nimoy. There is a lot of footage of his work, including test footage for projects that did not get off the ground and some of the surviving models. There are interviews with Ray Bradbury and producer Charles Schneer, as well as a few other filmmakers who claim to be influenced by Harryhausen's work. There is also footage from the Oscars of Harryhausen getting his honorary award in 1992, when the telecast looked like it was coming from the local school hall. Interesting stuff.

Gallery-Photo

    A series of 16 production stills, publicity shots and poster art.

Theatrical Trailer (2:01)

    A serviceable full-frame trailer in reasonable condition that make the movie seem more dramatic and action-packed than it really is.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The US Region 1 and UK Region 2 releases appear to be identical in content to the Region 4.

Summary

    Pretty good when the creature is on screen, not so good when he/she is off it.

    The video quality and audio quality are very good.

    Some good extras, but you may already have these on DVD.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Monday, April 11, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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