20 Million Miles to Earth


1h 22m 1957
20 Million Miles to Earth

Brief Synopsis

A crashed spaceship unleashes a rapidly growing monster from Venus.

Photos & Videos

20 Million Miles to Earth - British Front-of-House Stills
20 Million Miles to Earth - Novelization
20 Million Miles to Earth - Lobby Cards

Film Details

Also Known As
The Giant Ymir
Genre
Sci-Fi
Release Date
Jul 1957
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Morningside Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Rome,Italy; Rome, Italy, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 22m
Sound
Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1
Film Length
8 reels

Synopsis

Off the coast of a small Sicilian fishing village, two fishermen watch in amazement as a spaceship pierces the skies and crashes into the sea. The men, Mondello and Verrico, row out to the site and pull two space travelers from the capsized craft before it shudders and sinks into the sea. Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., Maj. A. D. McIntosh discovers that the government's missing spacecraft, piloted by Col. Bob Calder, has been located off the coast of Italy. As McIntosh flies to Italy, Pepe, a little boy who lives in the fishing village of Gerra, finds a metal capsule that has washed up on the beach. Upon opening the capsule, Pepe finds a jelly-like glob inside and sells it to Dr. Leonardo, a visiting zoologist who is studying sea creatures. Meanwhile, Leonardo's medical-student granddaughter Marisa is summoned to town to take care of the injured Calder and his companion, Dr. Sharman. When Calder regains consciousness, he finds Sharman in the last throes of the fatal disease that decimated his crew. That night, after Marisa returns home to the trailer that she shares with her grandfather, a small creature hatches from the glob and Leonardo locks it in a cage. By morning, the creature has tripled in size. That same morning, McIntosh arrives in Gerra, accompanied by government scientist Dr. Justin Uhl, and meets with Calder and Signore Contino, a representative of the Italian government. As Leonardo and Marisa hitch up the trailer containing the creature to their truck and head for Rome with their discovery, McIntosh informs the astonished Contini that Calder has just returned from Venus. Calder's spacecraft, crippled by a meteor, was carrying a sealed metal container bearing an unborn species of animal life from the planet. As police divers begin to search for the capsule, McIntosh offers a reward for its recovery, prompting Pepe to come forward and lead them to the empty container. When Pepe tells them that he sold its contents to Leonardo, who is currently on his way to Rome, McIntosh and Calder take off after him. That night, when Leonardo stops the trailer, he discovers that the creature has grown to gargantuan size. Soon after the creature breaks out of his cage and flees, Calder and the others arrive. Confused, the beast blunders onto a nearby farm, terrorizing the animals. After trapping the behemoth in the barn, Calder explains that it is not dangerous unless provoked. Ignoring Calder's admonition, the farmer plunges a pitchfork into the beast, causing it to go berserk and attack him. After distracting the beast with gunfire, Calder rescues the farmer and they flee the barn, locking the incensed Goliath inside. When the creature breaks out of the barn and disappears into the countryside, the commissario of police insists that it be destroyed, but Calder pleads with him to reconsider. After the Italian government grants Calder permission to track and capture the creature, he devises a plan to disable it by ensnaring it in a giant electric net dropped from a helicopter. The Italian police, meanwhile, conduct their own pursuit, shooting the creature with flame throwers. Aware that sulfur is the creature's food of choice, Calder uses the mineral as bait, luring it to a secluded site and then subduing it with an electric jolt from the net. Later, at the American Embassy in Rome, McIntosh briefs the press corps on the situation and allows three reporters to view the creature, which is incarcerated at the Rome zoo. There, Calder explains to the reporters that the beast has been incapacitated by a strong anaesthetic, thus allowing the scientists to study it. Marisa, who is there aiding her uncle, begins to flirt with Calder. Suddenly, the electrical equipment shorts out, releasing the creature from its stupor. Breaking free, the beast enters into combat with an elephant, sending the panicked zoo visitors running for their lives. As the rampaging beasts lumber into the streets of Rome, Calder tracks the creature to the Tiber River, where it submerges. When the military lobs bombs at the submerged creature, the angry beast surfaces, bursts through a bridge and heads for the Colosseum. As the creature disappears into the vast cavern of the Colosseum, Calder charges it with a group of bazooka-firing soldiers, driving it to the top of the ruins. After Calder scores a direct hit with his bazooka, the creature tumbles to his death on the ground below, after which a relieved Marisa runs into Calder's arms.

Photo Collections

20 Million Miles to Earth - British Front-of-House Stills
20 Million Miles to Earth - British Front-of-House Stills
20 Million Miles to Earth - Novelization
This is the cover of the novelization of 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957), put out by the publishers of Amazing Stories, a pulp digest science-fiction magazine.
20 Million Miles to Earth - Lobby Cards
Here are a few Lobby Cards from 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.

Videos

Movie Clip

20 Million Miles To Earth (1957) - Not Ferocious Unless Provoked Col. Calder (William Hopper) and his international intergovernmental squad help an Italian farmer (Rolin Moriyama) deal with the spooked creature, from Venus and animation Ray Harryhausen, in 20 Million Miles To Earth, 1957.
20 Million Miles To Earth (1957) - A Fishing Village In Sicily Sicilian fishermen Mondello and Verrico (Don Orlando and George Khoury) and their sidekick Pepe (Bart Bradley) experience a highly unusual series of events, after a prologue about sudden advances in sciende, opening animator Ray Harryhausen's 20 Million Miles To Earth, 1957.
20 Million Miles To Earth (1957) - I've Never Seen Anything Like It! The gooey blob fished from the sea after the spaceship crash hatches, to the surprise of Sicilian doctor-in-training Marisa (Joan Taylor) and her zoologist Grandpa Dr. Leonardo (Frank Puglia), the first and smallest appearance by animator Ray Harrryhausen's creation, in 20 Million Miles to Earth, 1957.
20 Million Miles To Earth (1957) - Man's First Interplanetary Voyage General McIntosh (Thomas Browne Henry) explains to Siilian local official Signor Contino (Jan Arvan) that Col. Calder (William Hopper) is just back from Venus, not Venice, in 20 Million Miles To Earth, 1957.
20 Million Miles to Earth (1957) - We Need Some Firepower The creature from Venus has escaped from sedation at the Rome zoo, citizens fleeing as it tangles with an elephant, Lt. Calder (William Hopper) spreading word to the general (Thomas Browne Henry), nearing the climax in animator Ray Harryhausen's 20 Million Miles to Earth, 1957.

Trailer

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Also Known As
The Giant Ymir
Genre
Sci-Fi
Release Date
Jul 1957
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Morningside Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Rome,Italy; Rome, Italy, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 22m
Sound
Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1
Film Length
8 reels

Articles

20 Million Miles To Earth - 20 Million Miles To Earth


One of animator Ray Harryhausen's greatest monsters was inspired by his longing for a European holiday. In 1952, with no money for a trip, Harryhausen dug through his old idea file for a story that required European locations. A possibility was "The Giant Ymir" about a creature from outer space rampaging through a major metropolis. Harryhausen picked Rome, Italy, as both vacation spot and the unfortunate site for attack by his extraterrestrial giant.

In 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957) a U.S. spacecraft, returning from a secret mission to Venus, crash-lands in the sea off the coast of Sicily. The rocket's two astronauts are rescued, but a local boy finds something more: a container with a strange jelly-like substance inside. He takes it to a zoologist visiting from Rome who hatches from the jelly a tiny being resembling a lizard walking upright like a man. Exposed to the Earth's atmosphere, the creature begins to double in size every twenty-four hours. Soon it breaks free and scours the countryside for its food: sulfur. Meanwhile one of the surviving astronauts and the U.S. Army try to hunt down this Venusian threat.

The monster may have been from 20 million miles away, but Harryhausen's vacation turned out to be a long four years away. His script was loosely fashioned as a space-age version of King Kong (1933) but, as he later recalled, the script's many faults "stood out like the boot of Italy on a map." A friend, Charlotte Knight, re-worked the script while Harryhausen made sketches of the major action scenes and pitched it to studios. Many turned it down. The sketches made the film look too costly and complicated. Finally Harryhausen turned to monster-film producer Charles Schneer. Two of Schneer's earlier films, It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955) and Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956), had used stop-motion animation provided by Harryhausen. Schneer was confident of Harryhausen's abilities and knew how to bring the film in on budget.

Nathan Juran was chosen to direct. He had experience with the giant-creature-on-the-loose genre, having already made The Deadly Mantis (1957). He would later helm the classic Harryhausen film The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) as well as the TV series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lost in Space and Land of the Giants.

The creature's name is never used in the film but, thanks to interviews Harryhausen gave over the years, "Ymir" has become well known to science-fiction enthusiasts. Its name comes from the Norse giant that was father to all the Norse gods in Scandinavian mythology. Ymir's creator did get his trip to Rome, spending two weeks scouting for locations his monster could destroy. Harryhausen even made it into the film. He can be seen playing the zookeeper.

Producer: Charles H. Schneer
Director: Nathan Juran
Screenplay: Christopher Knopf, Bob Williams, based on a story by Charlotte Knight
Art Direction: Cary Odell
Cinematography: Irving Lippman
Visual Effects: Ray Harryhausen
Film Editing: Edwin H. Bryant
Original Music: Mischa Bakaleinikoff
Principal Cast: William Hopper (Calder), Joan Taylor (Marisa), Frank Puglia (Dr. Leonardo), Thomas Brown Henry (Gen. A.D. McIntosh), John Zaremba (Dr. Judson Uhl), Jan Arvan (Contino).
BW-83m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.

by Brian Cady
20 Million Miles To Earth  - 20 Million Miles To Earth

20 Million Miles To Earth - 20 Million Miles To Earth

One of animator Ray Harryhausen's greatest monsters was inspired by his longing for a European holiday. In 1952, with no money for a trip, Harryhausen dug through his old idea file for a story that required European locations. A possibility was "The Giant Ymir" about a creature from outer space rampaging through a major metropolis. Harryhausen picked Rome, Italy, as both vacation spot and the unfortunate site for attack by his extraterrestrial giant. In 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957) a U.S. spacecraft, returning from a secret mission to Venus, crash-lands in the sea off the coast of Sicily. The rocket's two astronauts are rescued, but a local boy finds something more: a container with a strange jelly-like substance inside. He takes it to a zoologist visiting from Rome who hatches from the jelly a tiny being resembling a lizard walking upright like a man. Exposed to the Earth's atmosphere, the creature begins to double in size every twenty-four hours. Soon it breaks free and scours the countryside for its food: sulfur. Meanwhile one of the surviving astronauts and the U.S. Army try to hunt down this Venusian threat. The monster may have been from 20 million miles away, but Harryhausen's vacation turned out to be a long four years away. His script was loosely fashioned as a space-age version of King Kong (1933) but, as he later recalled, the script's many faults "stood out like the boot of Italy on a map." A friend, Charlotte Knight, re-worked the script while Harryhausen made sketches of the major action scenes and pitched it to studios. Many turned it down. The sketches made the film look too costly and complicated. Finally Harryhausen turned to monster-film producer Charles Schneer. Two of Schneer's earlier films, It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955) and Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956), had used stop-motion animation provided by Harryhausen. Schneer was confident of Harryhausen's abilities and knew how to bring the film in on budget. Nathan Juran was chosen to direct. He had experience with the giant-creature-on-the-loose genre, having already made The Deadly Mantis (1957). He would later helm the classic Harryhausen film The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) as well as the TV series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lost in Space and Land of the Giants. The creature's name is never used in the film but, thanks to interviews Harryhausen gave over the years, "Ymir" has become well known to science-fiction enthusiasts. Its name comes from the Norse giant that was father to all the Norse gods in Scandinavian mythology. Ymir's creator did get his trip to Rome, spending two weeks scouting for locations his monster could destroy. Harryhausen even made it into the film. He can be seen playing the zookeeper. Producer: Charles H. Schneer Director: Nathan Juran Screenplay: Christopher Knopf, Bob Williams, based on a story by Charlotte Knight Art Direction: Cary Odell Cinematography: Irving Lippman Visual Effects: Ray Harryhausen Film Editing: Edwin H. Bryant Original Music: Mischa Bakaleinikoff Principal Cast: William Hopper (Calder), Joan Taylor (Marisa), Frank Puglia (Dr. Leonardo), Thomas Brown Henry (Gen. A.D. McIntosh), John Zaremba (Dr. Judson Uhl), Jan Arvan (Contino). BW-83m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. by Brian Cady

20 Million Miles to Earth - A Venusian Trashes Rome in the 1957 Sci-Fi Romp, 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH with Special Effects by Ray Harryhausen


When you think of the most entertaining science fiction films of the 1950s and 60s, Ray Harryhausen is a name that comes immediately to mind, a name that conjures worlds of hostile aliens and jaunty mythological creatures. Since he was usually a special effects supervisor Harryhausen wouldn't normally be credited as one of the main creative forces but nevertheless his name is the guarantee of quality behind films like Jason and the Argonauts, Mysterious Island and The Valley of Gwangi. Harryhausen's stop-motion animation and painstaking blend with live actors created a sense of wonder and such plausibility that you didn't really question seeing a man swordfight with a moving skeleton. A sterling example of Harryhausen's skill and one of his best films is 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957), now available in a bonus-filled two-disc release in time for its 50th anniversary.

20 Million Miles follows the same template that many such films inherited from King Kong, appropriately enough the film that inspired Harryhausen to become a stop-motion animator. The film opens with Sicilian fishermen witnessing the crash of a rocket in offshore waters. They rescue two men and a mysterious cylinder, the latter spirited away by a small boy with an eye on its resale value. It turns out that this rocket was a secret trip to Venus, which apparently means Earth's astronomers and amateur stargazers were all asleep during its weeks-long trip. (The distance also provides the film's title though in fact Venus is never closer than 25 million miles from Earth.) What they've brought back is a specimen of the local wildlife. This critter, which you've already guessed was in the cylinder, starts life just a few inches tall and charmingly lizard-like. Somehow the Venusian visitor quickly grows, becoming hungry and more a threat to the local inhabitants or at least their farm animals. Toss in a strong-chinned American pilot from the spaceship and a pretty doctor's assistant who just happens to be visiting Sicily so you have the requisite love interest. Then close with a slam-bang sequence as the bus-sized critter sets his eyes on Mama Roma and you've got a film that hits all the bases.

What makes 20 Million Miles so effective is that the creature is never purely a vicious threat or purely an adorable lost animal and in fact often has more personality than the human characters. Its actions are understandable when it protects itself or looks for food and unlike the lead in so many giant animal movies it's not merely rampaging against humanity or showing the folly of our tampering with nature. When threatened the Venusian visitor reacts appropriately; one example in a barn sequence is still quite effectively unnerving and must have left lasting impressions on a lot of kids back in 1957. As an indication of the times, the Americans aren't interested in the commercial aspects of the animal as with King Kong, at least not explicitly, but want to study it for scientific purposes. (The film was released just four months before Sputnik's launch.) Harryhausen effectively reimagines the creature as it grows from scampering around a table top to just the size that can punch a car to clambering about multi-story buildings.

Director Nathan Juran was a real journeyman who later worked with Harryhausen on The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) and First Men in the Moon (1964). Juran certainly kept the pace going and wasn't much distracted by anything that didn't forward the story. He did have some problems with blocking so that at times you almost wish one character would move out of the way but fortunately that's not a common problem. More importantly is that there's enough snap to the action sequences to keep the film in front of audiences for fifty years, unlike many similar outings of the period which require more of an enthusiast's eye. Overseeing the story was writer Christopher Knopf, nephew of the publisher Alfred Knopf and later winner of several Writer's Guild awards. There's not much in the way of depth to the script but the dialogue mostly avoids ponderous declamations and the characters mainly act in realistic ways, from the fisher boy who finances the purchase of a cowboy hat by selling local oddities or the Italian government officials suppressing their resentment of American interference. Which may sound like faint praise but it's such details that are the difference between 20 Million Miles or something more forgettable such as The Hideous Sun Demon.

The new release includes several extras of interest. Harryhausen provides a commentary along with current special effects experts Dennis Muren (Terminator 2) and Phil Tippett (Jurassic Park). There are also some shorter video pieces such as an interview with Harryhausen, one that shows a meeting between him and long-time fan Tim Burton, a bit about the film's history and another about the music. The new DVD does include one bonus of uncertain value: a colorized version of the film. Harryhausen claims that he had wanted to shoot the film in color but even if that's true what was shot was a blunt, brightly lit B-movie typical of the time. As such we don't even have to consider the questions of whether any film should be colorized or not since the end result here is just plain ugly. This type of shooting doesn't take to colorization well, often looking like layers of color were simply added to the image. The technology is admittedly much improved from the earliest attempts but that doesn't amount to much. Still, the colorization is more or less irrelevant considering the fine black-and-white transfer and the other material that gives weight to the film.

For more information about 20 Million Miles to Earth, visit MGM. To order 20 Million Miles to Earth, go to TCM Shopping.

by Lang Thompson

20 Million Miles to Earth - A Venusian Trashes Rome in the 1957 Sci-Fi Romp, 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH with Special Effects by Ray Harryhausen

When you think of the most entertaining science fiction films of the 1950s and 60s, Ray Harryhausen is a name that comes immediately to mind, a name that conjures worlds of hostile aliens and jaunty mythological creatures. Since he was usually a special effects supervisor Harryhausen wouldn't normally be credited as one of the main creative forces but nevertheless his name is the guarantee of quality behind films like Jason and the Argonauts, Mysterious Island and The Valley of Gwangi. Harryhausen's stop-motion animation and painstaking blend with live actors created a sense of wonder and such plausibility that you didn't really question seeing a man swordfight with a moving skeleton. A sterling example of Harryhausen's skill and one of his best films is 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957), now available in a bonus-filled two-disc release in time for its 50th anniversary. 20 Million Miles follows the same template that many such films inherited from King Kong, appropriately enough the film that inspired Harryhausen to become a stop-motion animator. The film opens with Sicilian fishermen witnessing the crash of a rocket in offshore waters. They rescue two men and a mysterious cylinder, the latter spirited away by a small boy with an eye on its resale value. It turns out that this rocket was a secret trip to Venus, which apparently means Earth's astronomers and amateur stargazers were all asleep during its weeks-long trip. (The distance also provides the film's title though in fact Venus is never closer than 25 million miles from Earth.) What they've brought back is a specimen of the local wildlife. This critter, which you've already guessed was in the cylinder, starts life just a few inches tall and charmingly lizard-like. Somehow the Venusian visitor quickly grows, becoming hungry and more a threat to the local inhabitants or at least their farm animals. Toss in a strong-chinned American pilot from the spaceship and a pretty doctor's assistant who just happens to be visiting Sicily so you have the requisite love interest. Then close with a slam-bang sequence as the bus-sized critter sets his eyes on Mama Roma and you've got a film that hits all the bases. What makes 20 Million Miles so effective is that the creature is never purely a vicious threat or purely an adorable lost animal and in fact often has more personality than the human characters. Its actions are understandable when it protects itself or looks for food and unlike the lead in so many giant animal movies it's not merely rampaging against humanity or showing the folly of our tampering with nature. When threatened the Venusian visitor reacts appropriately; one example in a barn sequence is still quite effectively unnerving and must have left lasting impressions on a lot of kids back in 1957. As an indication of the times, the Americans aren't interested in the commercial aspects of the animal as with King Kong, at least not explicitly, but want to study it for scientific purposes. (The film was released just four months before Sputnik's launch.) Harryhausen effectively reimagines the creature as it grows from scampering around a table top to just the size that can punch a car to clambering about multi-story buildings. Director Nathan Juran was a real journeyman who later worked with Harryhausen on The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) and First Men in the Moon (1964). Juran certainly kept the pace going and wasn't much distracted by anything that didn't forward the story. He did have some problems with blocking so that at times you almost wish one character would move out of the way but fortunately that's not a common problem. More importantly is that there's enough snap to the action sequences to keep the film in front of audiences for fifty years, unlike many similar outings of the period which require more of an enthusiast's eye. Overseeing the story was writer Christopher Knopf, nephew of the publisher Alfred Knopf and later winner of several Writer's Guild awards. There's not much in the way of depth to the script but the dialogue mostly avoids ponderous declamations and the characters mainly act in realistic ways, from the fisher boy who finances the purchase of a cowboy hat by selling local oddities or the Italian government officials suppressing their resentment of American interference. Which may sound like faint praise but it's such details that are the difference between 20 Million Miles or something more forgettable such as The Hideous Sun Demon. The new release includes several extras of interest. Harryhausen provides a commentary along with current special effects experts Dennis Muren (Terminator 2) and Phil Tippett (Jurassic Park). There are also some shorter video pieces such as an interview with Harryhausen, one that shows a meeting between him and long-time fan Tim Burton, a bit about the film's history and another about the music. The new DVD does include one bonus of uncertain value: a colorized version of the film. Harryhausen claims that he had wanted to shoot the film in color but even if that's true what was shot was a blunt, brightly lit B-movie typical of the time. As such we don't even have to consider the questions of whether any film should be colorized or not since the end result here is just plain ugly. This type of shooting doesn't take to colorization well, often looking like layers of color were simply added to the image. The technology is admittedly much improved from the earliest attempts but that doesn't amount to much. Still, the colorization is more or less irrelevant considering the fine black-and-white transfer and the other material that gives weight to the film. For more information about 20 Million Miles to Earth, visit MGM. To order 20 Million Miles to Earth, go to TCM Shopping. by Lang Thompson

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The working title of this film was The Giant Ymir. The film opens with an offscreen narrator explaining: "Great scientific advances are often times sudden accomplished facts before most of us are even dimly aware of them. Breathtakingly unexpected, for example, was the searing flash that announced the atomic age. Equally unexpected was the next gigantic stride when men moved out of his very orbit to a point more than 20 million miles to earth." Although the ^Var review lists Thomas Henry's character as "Major McIntosh," he is addressed as "General McIntosh" throughout the film. Hollywood Reporter news items add Sid Cassell, Darlene Fields, Terence Maples, John Sorintino, Michael Garth, Jerry Riggio, Saverio LoMedico and Noel Drayton to the cast, but their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed.
       According to several August 1956 Hollywood Reporter news items, location filming was done around Rome, Italy in September 1956. According to a modern source, William Hopper was the only principal actor involved in the Rome footage. The modern source adds that the illusion of the creature was created by using a rubber and metal puppet about one foot tall that was moved, one frame at a time, by hand. The special effects scenes were filmed one month after the live action sequences were completed. According to the source, special effects wizard Ray Harryhausen appeared as an extra in some of the zoo scenes.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States March 1975

Released in United States on Video April 11, 1995

Released in United States Summer July 1957

Released in United States March 1975 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (Science Fiction Movie Marathon - Selection of Trailers) March 13-26, 1975.)

Released in United States on Video April 11, 1995

Released in United States Summer July 1957