Tag Archives: Sci-fi Movies

20 Million Miles To Earth

Directed by Nathan H. Juran
Produced by Charles H. Schneer
Written by Bob Williams & Christopher Knopf
Starring William Hopper
Joan Taylor
Frank Puglia
Cinematography Irving Lippman & Carlo Ventimiglia
Editing by Edwin Bryant
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date June 1957
Running time 82 minutes
Country United States

I must make a point of the fact that of all the movies that I have watched so far this month, 20 Million Miles To Earth is the first one that I have watched with a pen and notebook in hand to jot down anything of importance that I may want to add to this blog. For all the films that I have watched so far, I have written my thoughts after the movie has finished. Sometimes I have waited around 12 hours before putting my thoughts down.

20 Million Miles To Earth is another 1950s Sci-fi film. It features one of Ray Harryhausen’s most memorable monsters, the Ymir, although he is only referred to as the creature throughout the film. I believe that the armature (skeleton) of the Ymir was later used for another Harryhausen monster, the Cyclops from The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad.

The plot begins when a secret US rocket ship crash lands in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Sicily. They were on a return flight after a secret mission to Venus, yes, the planet Venus, when the space craft is hit by a meteorite that causes it to crash-land. The crash landing looks quite dodgy and extremely primitive from a special effects point of view. There are only two survivors of the flight as we soon find that most of the crew have succumbed to a strange disease caused by poisons in the Venusian atmosphere. Soon after the crash, one of the survivors also dies of the fatal disease.

After the ship crash a canister that the astronauts collected from Venus ends up washed onto the shore, where it is found by the young and annoying Pepe. Inside the canister Pepe discovers some ectoplasm containing something or other. Naturally he sells it to Zoologist Dr. Leonardo. The thing inside the ectoplasm soon hatches and it is the lizard-like Ymir. At first he is quite small but ugly, but he grows rapidly and before long is wrecking havoc throughout the Sicilian countryside. He is eventually captured and taken to Rome where he escapes, attacks an elephant, runs amok and then finally climbs the Coliseum in what was homage to the original monster movie, King Kong. He is finally brought down by modern weapons of war.

This is a fun little movie and quite enjoyable. Most of the stop-motion animation is first-rate although it is not as polished as some of Harryhausen’s later work. Some scenes such as the rocket ship crash look very awkward, while the scene of the battle royal between Ymir and Jumbo the elephant also seems a bit primitive and fake. Perhaps it is because there a too many switches of shots between the live-action and animated elephant and it is very easy to identify which is which. Still, if you can overlook this you will find 20 Million Miles To Earth a very enjoyable film to watch.

20 Million Miles To Earth is a part of the Ray Harryhausen Gift Set with It Came From Beneath The Sea and Earth Vs The Flying Saucers. The special gift set featuring a Ymir figure is available from Amazon for $69.49. You can purchase it by clicking here…

If you just want the Gift Set with 20 Million Miles To Earth, It Came From Beneath The Sea and Earth Vs The Flying Saucers and a book but without the Ymir figure, it can be purchased from Amazon for $44.99. You can purchase it by clicking here…

20 Million Miles To Earth is also a part of the Fantastic Films of Ray Harryhausen – Legendary Science Fiction Series DVD box set with It Came From Beneath The Sea, Earth Vs The Flying Saucers Mysterious Island and H.G. Wells’ First Men In The Moon. It can be purchased from Amazon for $43.49 by clicking here…

Buy the 50th Anniversary edition of 20 Million Miles To Earth on DVD or Blu Ray from Amazon by clicking here…

Please note that this is a region 1 release that requires a region free DVD or Blu Ray player to be viewed outside North America.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Directed by Richard Fleischer

Produced by Walt Disney

Written by Jules Verne (novel) & Earl Felton (screenplay)

Starring Kirk Douglas
James Mason
Paul Lukas
Peter Lorre

Cinematography Franz Planer

Editing by Elmo Williams

Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures

Release date(s) December 23, 1954

Running time 127 min.

When one thinks about Walt Disney they usually picture Mickey Mouse, Snow White or perhaps Jimminy Cricket. Disney and animation are two words that are synonymous, so it’s understandable that the live action films that he made aren’t as well-known as his cartoons. That’s a shame because many of them are very good. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea from 1954 would have to be one of my favourite Disney live action films.

Though 20,000 Leagues Under the see features a fine cast it is James Mason who dominates the screen as the iconic Captain Nemo. Even alongside stars of the quality of Peter Lorre and Kirk Douglas it is Mason whose performance becomes indelibly etched in the viewer’s mind. This is simply his film and he is always excellent as Captain Nemo, especially when he shows the mental anguish that Nemo goes through when he seeks his vengeance on mankind and those who imprisoned him and tortured his wife and child on the prison island of Rura Penthe. He does not relish having to commit murder until the deed is done, and this shines through with Mason’s performance.

The same cannot be said for Kirk Douglas, who is hamstrung with a truly annoying character. Usually Douglas is a fine, dependable actor, but here he is burdened with some really clichéd seafaring jargon and typically Disney-esque happy-go-lucky attitude that becomes grating after about twenty minutes. It is only when he briefly shows his frustration at being Nemo’s prisoner that he gets to show any substance with his performance. This is not Kirk’s fault, as his Ned Land character was brought in to counter-balance the mood of the film opposite Mason’s tortured soul in Nemo. As this is a Disney film, and their primary target audience has always been families, they needed a goofy, lighthearted family friendly hero.

Another thing I should mention here is the special effects which were considered to be awesome back in 1954. They still hold up well today, especially the underwater photography and shots of the Nautilus streaking through the water. Less successful is the fight with the giant squid, which to 21st century eyes looks a little bit lame. Still if you can overlook that it is quite menacing and the fight is quite well staged.

Overall I think that 20,000 League Under The Sea is a terrific movie suitable for all ages. This is not only Disney’s finest live-action film but one of the best adventure movies of the 1950s, one which still stands up well today over 55 years since it was first released.

* This movie was not released in Australia until 22 December 1955, 364 days after Americans first got the opportunity to see it.

The Day The Earth Stood Still

Directed by Robert Wise
Produced by Julian Blaustein
Written by Edmund H. North
Harry Bates (story)
Starring Michael Rennie
Patricia Neal
Billy Gray
Hugh Marlowe
Sam Jaffe
Frances Bavier
Music by Bernard Herrmann
Cinematography Leo Tover
Editing by William H. Reynolds
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date September 28, 1951
Running time 92 min.

Phew! It’s only the second day into this project and I only just made my self-imposed deadline. It would have been quite an inauspicious way to start this thing by not be able to keep up with the premise of watching and writing about a movie a day.

The truth is that I was up at 1am this morning watching The Day The Earth Stood Still before I turned into bed. After waking up this morning I went about doing my usual Saturday things and it wasn’t until about half an hour ago that I decided to finally do this write-up. Talk about cutting things short.

I bought the definitive 2 disc version of The Day The Earth Stood Still a couple of weeks ago from JB Hifi for $13 but I saw it there today for just $10. I really recommend this DVD not just to Sci-fi lovers but to everyone who loves good films, and $10 is a real bargain for such a brilliant and entertaining film. I don’t know if I should have already of pointed this out or not but the film that I watched is the 1951 original version and not the crappy remake from 2008 that features Keanu Reeves.

The basic premise of The Day The Earth Stood Still is that a space ship lands in Washington DC and its pilot, Klaatu emerges declaring that he is visiting Earth on a mission of goodwill. He presents a small device that is meant for the President, but is shot by one of the onlooking soldiers. This action causes Gort, an 8 foot tall robot to emerge from the spaceship and disintegrate all of the weapons that the surrounding soldiers are armed with. Klaatu orders Gort to stop, before he is taken away to have his wounds tended to in the military hospital.

Klaatu then meets the President’s secretary Harley, and explains that he has a message that he wants all the people of Earth to hear. He would like to address all the leaders of the world in one place, which Harley explains to him would be impossible. Klaatu tells Harley that he would be able to better understand humans if he was to live among them incognito, but Harley says that this would be impossible and places Klaatu under protective custody.

When Klaatu escapes custody and lives at a boarding house there is a lesson that we can learn from in today’s society. It is here that he meets ordinary people and sees first hand how the mass media can demonize things that are different to the norm with their propaganda. When the occupants at the boarding are listening to the radio we hear the shock jock brand Klaatu a monster, even though nobody knows anything about the alien. It just shows that some things don’t change at all.

Klaatu befriends a widow, Helen, and her son Bobby. He agrees to babysit Bobby, who takes Klaatu, who has assumed the alias Mr. Carpenter, around Washington. They visit Arlington National Cemetery and the Lincoln Memorial, where Klaatu asks Bobby who the greatest living person is. Bobby suggests the scientist Professor Barnhardt, who resides in Washington. Bobby takes Klaatu to Prof. Barnhardt’s house but the professor is away. Klaatu decides to leave a message for the professor by completing a complex mathematical problem that is left on a blackboard. Klaatu then leaves his address with Barnhardt’s housekeeper.

Eventually Klaatu meets Professor Barnhardt, after being escorted to the professor by a government agent. Klaatu reveals himself to the professor and warns him that the Earth has been under surveillance from other planets, who are dismayed that the humans have developed atomic power. They have noted the disregard humans have for their fellow human beings and fear that it will only be a matter of time before the people of Earth turn their attention to the rest of space. Klaatu tells Professor Barnhardt that he wishes to address the people of Earth with a message of utmost importance and if his message is rejected it would spell the ultimate destruction of Earth. Klaatu then promises to show the professor a demonstration of his power to serve as a warning. Later that night when he returns to his spaceship to implement this plan he is unaware that he has been followed by Bobby, who later tells Helen and her fiancé Tom about what he has seen.

After being told about who Mr. Carpenter really is, the scheming Tom goes into Klaatu’s room and discovers a unique diamond. Meanwhile Klaatu has gone to Helen’s workplace to speak to her. They step into an elevator which suddenly stops. Klaatu tells Helen that he is the cause of this, and we soon learn that all the power on the earth has stopped, except for that used on aeroplanes in mid-flight or in operating theatres. This action brings the entire world to a standstill.

After the blackout finishes a manhunt begins, as the army decides that Klaatu has evaded them long enough and that they will get him one way or another, either dead or alive. Tom spills the beans to the authorities and they soon spot the alien and the woman in a taxi on their way to meet the professor who has gathered outside the spaceship with a group of eminent scientists. Klaatu tells Helen that if anything should happen to him it could spell the end of the world, as Gort would try to avenge his death. The only way to stop the robot is to say the words, “Klaatu barada nikto.” As he flees the taxi Klaatu is shot in the back by one of the soldiers and dies.

Helen runs to the spaceship to see Gort has awakened and killed two soldiers who were guarding the spaceship. Helen passes Klaatu’s message to Gort who then carries her into the spaceship. He then retrieves Klaatu’s corpse and revives the spaceman.

Klaatu then steps out of the ship to address the awaiting scientists. He tells them of the rest of the universe’s concerns about Earth’s disregard of life and how destructive the people of Earth can be. He warns them that if they continue with their destructive ways then robots like Gort, who have been created to protect the universe, will come and destroy the entire Earth. His final words before stepping into the spaceship and leaving are, “The decision rests with you.”

I found The Day The Earth Stood Still to be quite a fascinating film. Bernard Herrman’s score gave the movie, especially the opening sequences when the flying saucer first arrives on Earth, quite an eerie feeling. The acting is all first rate and the special effects are very good for a movie released in 1951. The most interesting aspect of the film is how some of the messages still resonate today, almost sixty years after the film’s release. As I mentioned earlier, we can see how the media can manipulate the feelings of their listeners/viewers even when they have no idea what they are talking about. The truth of a story is not as important as getting people worked up about it. Does this not sound like the way News Limited journalists go about their business.

The other message is to show that humans are very reactionary and that if they do not understand something then they must destroy it. We see this when the soldier shoots at Klaatu at the beginning of the film, and again when the general declares that he doesn’t care if Klaatu is taken dead or alive, just as long as he’s taken. It shows just how intolerant and selfish we can be. I enjoyed watching this film very much.