Dazzling special effects by Ray Harryhausen highlight this thrilling sci-fi extravaganza about a Venusian monster who wreaks havoc in Italy. On its way home from Venus, a U.S. Army rocket ship crashes into the sea of Sicily leaving Colonel Calder (William Hopper of Rebel Without a Cause) the sole survivor...or so it seems. A sealed container is also recovered from the wreck and, when a zoologist (The Mark of Zorro's Frank Puglia) and his granddaughter (Joan Taylor) open it, the gelatinous mass inside escapes. Overnight, it grows into a horrific monster that has doubled in size. In desperation, Calder calls in the Army to help fight the monster, which has taken refuge atop the Coliseum in Rome. But it will take more than man's weapons to fight the evil forces of the unknown and save the world from destruction.
Special-effects legend Ray Harryhausen's stop-motion talents and "Dynamation" (rear-projection) process are the highlights of the '50s-era creature feature 20 Million Miles to Earth
. An American spaceship returns to Earth after a mission to Venus and crashes into the sea near Sicily. A sole survivor (William Hopper) is rescued, along with a specimen that quickly grows into a reptilian biped called the Ymir. The being eventually grows to 20 feet high and escapes its confines, whereupon it rampages through Rome before a showdown with the military. Despite lacking much of a personality, the Ymir is a marvelous showcase for Harryhausen's skills. Unfortunately, the rest of the film does not match his level of excellence; direction by Nathan Juran is perfunctory (his later collaborations with Harryhausen, including The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad
, are more lively), and performances and scripting are flat. Still, Harryhausen fans should enjoy this opportunity to see this phase of his career before he created his most enduring works. --Paul Gaita