20 Million Miles to Earth (Jun-1957)|
Director: Nathan Juran
Writers: Bob Williams; Christopher Knopf; Charlotte Knight
Producer: Charles H. Schneer
||Binzer on Vega$
||Paul Drake on Perry Mason
||20 Million Miles to Earth
|William Hopper|| ... Col. Calder|
|Joan Taylor|| ... Marisa Leonardo|
|Frank Puglia|| ... Dr. Leonardo|
|John Zaremba|| ... Dr. Judson Uhl|
|Thomas B. Henry|| ... Gen. A.D. McIntosh|
|Tito Vuolo|| ... Police Commissioner|
|Jan Arvan|| ... Contino|
|Arthur Space|| ... Dr. Sharman|
|Bart Braverman|| ... Pepe|
Review by L C. Kuenning (posted on 15-May-2008)
As 50's monster movies go, this one is definitely a cut above the rest. My pet peeves about such movies are: 1) They seldom look believable, and 2) The whole idea seems to be "Let's have something big and bloodthirsty" without explaining why the creature is so maliciously destructive. "20 Million Miles to Earth" is an excpetion to both rules.
The Venusian monster looks like something that might actually exist, and the stop motion animation gives it realistic movements. And it is not bloodthirstily destructive. It is actually a frightened creature in an unnatural (for it) environment who wants to be left alone. The interesting thing is that in the dramatic fight to a death with a zoo elephant, it is hard to root for one creature against the other because neither is evil or bloodthirsty. The elephant, which is defending its territory, actually becomes a doomed hero. And the monster is simply defending itself. Only the creature assumes the height of a two-story building doesr3e it become an uncontainable menace. And only then is its elimination justified. The ending makes clear that the animal was tragically sacrified to the cause of human progress--study of its respriatory system was necessary if further expeditions to Venus were to be feasible.
Much of the film's sympathetic attitude toward the monster was doe to such an attitude on the part of the point-of-view character Col. Robert Calder (Willaim Hopper). In an early scene he states that the creatures are only aggressive when provoked. I would have liked a later scene, following the creature's escape, in which he reiterated the point and tried to persuade his superiors that killing the animal was not necessarily the best solution (The aforementioned knowledge had been discovered before the creature escaped.) One of the film's few week points was the fact that, initially, the humans were continually provoking the escaped monster, and such a scene might have prevented this weakness.
My other complaint is the loose end regarding Calder's relationship with Marissa (Joan Taylor). An "almost doctor" on vacation with her grandfather, Marissa is the closest thing to a health provider when Calder's ship crashes, so she is called upon to attend to him and his dying crewmember. The concept of two people starting out hating one another and then falling in love is valid and has been done well in a number of classic films. But in the late 50's and early 60's it was done and done and done. It is so refreshing to have a couple in conflict simply because the get off on the wrong foot. Hopper and Taylor have only four scenes together and no love scenes, yet their onscreen chemistry is strong and definite. The scen in which she apologizes for "distracting him" gives him aq chance to display his gift of delivering a line absolutely straight while injecting a sub-note of humor into it without distorting the scene. When Calder refuses Mariss's apology, saying, "All you've done is try to help, and all I've done is snarl at you", I chuclked. In their fourth scene, we learn that they have not yet kept the tentative date they made after his apology. But then the monster escapes, and we never see Marissa again. Are we just supposed to assume the rest? It is the writer's responsibility to provide at least the material for an answer, but none is provided here.
All in all, it's a good, enjoyable way to spend a free afternoon, and it manages to provide a little food for thought in the process.
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