20 Million Miles to Earth – Movie review and tribute

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Part of the “Keep Watching the Skies” Blogathon from Cinematic Frontier – Click on logo at right to see more entries of 50’s sci-fi classics!

 

20 Million Miles to Earth

directed by Nathan H. Juranscience-fiction-movies-of-the-1950s-blogathon-04
produced by Charles Schneer
Special effects by Ray Harryhausen

starring:
William Hopper
Joan Taylor
Frank Puglia

 

A US rocket returning from Venus crashes near a fishing village in Italy. Before it sinks beneath the waters depths, a young boy finds a strange figure encased in a gelatinous egg. He trades it to a zoologist and the next day it hatches an amazing little creature. However, this is the 1950’s so rest assured it won’t be ‘little’ for long; it will grow to monstrous proportions. It’s a testament to the amazing work of Ray Harryhausen that the directors of his films are mostly forgotten, but his name and his work lives on. He created a unique creature for this film, part reptilian, part humanoid and part alien, taken from its natural habitat to fend for itself in a strange new world.

Stop-motion animation from Harryhausen (as well as Willis O’Brien) was not Claymation. They did not use clay. They used a metal armature with movable joints, like a skeleton. It was then covered with foam and latex rubber enabling it to hold detail and fixed markings while maintaining flexibility for lifelike movement. For mammals the artists would add hair. You couldn’t get such good detail and movement with clay. Some stop-motion animation involved clay, (Gumby) and others involved wooden puppets (Rankin Bass holiday specials). However, Ymir was made with the aforementioned20-million-miles-to-earth-pic-1 rubber layers and molds over skeletal design. Another big aspect to the magic of stop-motion monster films (one that it shares with Toho’s suitmation effects) is the building of miniature sets. You will see actors running down the street on location, then the monster chasing them on that same street. However, that same street is a miniature version in a studio for which the stop-motion filming can be conducted upon.

Ymir’s humanoid expressions manipulated by the talented and patient hands of Harryhausen, gave the creature empathy. We see shock, disappointment, anger, fear, desperation, all within the reactions of the beast; wide eyes, roars, hand and arm gestures, posture, all used to communicate without words. Because of this, most who see the film feel sad for Ymir’s demise, cringing at the sound of gun shots that bring him down. Ymir’s fight with a zoo elephant brought a special realism to the film and a sense of scale. Ray’s self-drawn storyboards choreographed a tense battle that intercut real elephant footage with his own recreation of the huge mammal.  This was perhaps the greatest creature battle since Kong fought the T. Rex some 25 years previous. Shadows of Ymir will show up in later Harryhausen 20-million-miles-to-earth-postercreatures, the body is similar to his Cyclops in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and his face is similar to the Kraken from Clash of the Titans. The wonderful long tail seems like a prerequisite for the snake-like Medusa. As with most 50s sci-fi/horror, there is a sub-plot following a budding romance concerning, Colonel Robert Calder, the only survivor from the space mission, and the zoologist’ s daughter, Marisa, played by the lovely Joan Taylor.

Charles Schneer was a good friend to Harryhausen and an advocate for his fine craft, working with him on nearly a dozen films. This was Ray’s fourth film depicting giant monsters rampaging through cities. The first was his work under his mentor, Willis O’Brien in Mighty Joe Young. Following that was Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, and It Came from Beneath the Sea. Ray and Charles Schneer would move into fantasy adventure films after this, depicting mythological figures in his Sinbad films and other tales of ancient lore.

To younger generations, stop-motion FX doesn’t seem so real. That was part of the charm for our generation. We knew there was an art involved with making these beasts come to life. These FX artists didn’t just copy motions and images from real animals and put it into the creature’s digital repertoire. They infused the model’s movements with their own personality and mannerisms. It’s like the difference between a digital photo of a human face and the Mona Lisa. The Mona Lisa isn’t perfect and that’s what makes her so. That’s what gives her soul and personality. You can sense Ray’s soul and personality through these films, the creator, the adventurer, the craftsman, and the boy with wide eyed wonder at endless possibilities.

 


 

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They recently digitally colorized the film and it looks like they did a decent enough job. However, I still prefer to watch it in b&w, the way Ray made it.

Once again, be sure to check out the Keep Watching The Skies Blogathon for more 50’s movie classics!



Parlor of Horror’s ‘Creature Feature’ reviews

 

My Top 5 Dinosaur Movies, other than Jurassic Park.

one million years BC pic 8

My Top 5 Dinosaur World Movies, other than Jurassic Park

In preparation for Jurassic World, you may want to catch up on the genre of Dinosaur films. For this list I am speaking of dinosaur worlds, not just single dinosaurs that have been awakened in modern times for the purpose of a film. Dinosaur worlds include; Islands, continents, planets, prehistoric times, underground caverns, etc. I’m also talking about real dinosaurs for the most part, animals that once roamed the earth, not fictional beasts created for sci-fi films.

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5) Planet of Dinosaurs (1977)
We got some beautifully crafted dinosaurs in this film. One of the final forays into stop-motion dinosaur extravaganzas, it is a cult favorite for dinosaur fans. The script and plot ain’t so great but the bevy of fantastic creatures make it worth a viewing.
Dinosaurs: Stegosaurus, Allosaurus, Rhedosaurus, Ceratopsian, Brontosaurus, Tyrannosaurus, Kentrosaurus, Allosaurus, and Struthiomimus

planet of dinosaurs dvd planet of dinosaurs pic 23

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4) The Land that Time Forgot (1978)

The dinosaurs in this film aren’t perfect but this film gets the nod for variety of species and prehistoric beasts. The dinos were scale rod-puppets which made interaction with humans minimal, the giant pterodactyl that carries off the caveman being the exception. A good story penned by Edgar Rice Burroughs lands this in the Top 5. Extra points for the awesome movie poster!
Dinosaurs: Mosasaurus, Plesiosaur, Diplodocus, Pterodactyl, two Allosaurus, two Styracosaurus, Ichthyostega,  Triceratops,  Ceratosaurus

the land that time forgot - poster the land that time forgot pic 19

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3) When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970)
With Victoria Vetri running around in a dino hide bikini, it would be hard to take notice of the dinosaurs. However, these dinos are noticed because of their fabulous renditions in stop-motion artistry. The stop-motion dinos were the work of Jim Danforth. There’s not a lot of dinos in the film but they are top notch-Danforth’s work in this film rivals the greats, Harryhausen and O’Brien.
Dinosaurs: Plesiosaur, Chasmosaurus, Rhamphorhynchus, A carnivorous dinosaur based on the Scelidosaurus, (and it’s baby). 

when-dinosaurs-ruled-the-earth-movie-poster-1970 When Dinosaurs ruled the earth pic 6

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2) King Kong (1933)
This is the first mega dinosaur-land presented to the public at a time when most people didn’t have a clear picture of what dinosaurs looked like and were just discovering these creatures. The T. Rex is a fast moving, active beast as described by Charles R. Knight, not the slow sluggish reptiles other scientists were in favor of portraying. The film made Willis O’Brien the father of stop-motion special effects and giant monsters, influencing future directors and filmmakers, Ray Harryhausen, Ishiro Honda, Peter Jackson, Steven Speilberg, and Tim Burton, to name a few. Marcel Delgado built O’Brien’s models and was largely responsible for capturing the look O’Brien wanted for the dinos (and Kong).
Dinosaurs: Pteranodon, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Brontosaurus, Stegosaurus, Styracosaurus (edited out), Elasmosaurus and although he’s not a dino, King Kong

King Kong posterkong

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1) One Million Years BC (1966)
Although given moderate praise through the years, this film contains some of Ray Harryhausen’s most impressive dinosaurs. I think the special effects were overshadowed by Raquel Welch and her fur bikini – (the original furkini, accept no substitutes!). But take a look at the beautiful renditions of the Triceratops and Brontosaurus and you’ll see some master craftsmanship. I’d like to mention that the models were sculpted by Arthur G. Hayward with direction from Ray and designed from Ray’s artwork.
Dinosaurs: Archelon, Brontosaurus, Allosaurus, Ceratosaurus, Triceratops, Pteranodon, Rhamphorhynchus

one-million-years-bc_thumb one million years BC pic 12

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Honorable Mentions:
Valley of Gwangi (1969)
Once again Harryhausen applies his talents to prehistoric beasts with great success.

Valley of Gwangi poster Valley-Of-Gwangi

 

Dinosaurs (2000)
Despite being a Disney film with talking dinos, it has some great scenes and dino imagery.

dinosaur 2000 poster dinosaur 2000 pic 1

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OK, want to see some more dino pics? Here ya’ go!

Because this post is about Dinosaurs, I’m going to refrain from posting yet another pic of Raquel in her fur bikini. But if you really want to see one look here!

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Rare Dinosaur films and where to find them

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Rare and obscure Dinosaur films and where to find them

This post is for those interested in special FX, stop-motion animation, and for dinosaur film enthusiasts. The films here would probably not be considered highly entertaining in this day and age without the enjoyment of nostalgia and cinema history. Although some of these can be found on Youtube, my quest was to own copies. You never know when they will be pulled from Youtube because of some copyright dispute.

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The Animal World (1966) – Documentary
The Animal World is a documentary by Irwin Allen (famous for his 1970’s disaster movies, The Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure) attempting to show the scope of animal evolution from the beginning of time to date. It is all live footage except for a ten minute sequence in the beginning showcasing Dinosaurs. They hired Willis O’Brien for the project who then handed off much of the work to his underling (at the time), Ray Harryhausen. This ten minute sequence featured a Stegosaurus, two Ceratosaurus, a Brontosaurus, a T. Rex and a Triceratops. It is the highlight of the film with some wonderful bloody dino battles and an extinction meteor-hit/volcano sequence. I had originally seen these Dinosaurs on a View Master 3d viewer, because the film itself was rarely played on TV, nor was it easy to get in later years on VHS. Amazingly you can find the entire Harryhausen/O’Brien Dinosaur sequence in the dvd special features of The Black Scorpion.

The animal world dinos small 3 The animal world dinos - harryhausen

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Journey to the Beginning of Time (1955) (1966 US) – Documentary
The 1st time I ever saw this may have been either in school during a science class, or on one of the early educational public broadcast stations, like the ones Sesame Street plays on. Three boys leave the Museum of Natural History, get on a raft and as they float downstream they go back in time. Along the shore we see eras going from the Ice Age to the Age of Dinosaurs as the boys enter periods of misadventure trying to find their way home. This is a hard to get Czeck-made film but I found it on VHS after considerable searching. Hunt for VHS version on Ebay and I-Offer.

journey-to-the-beginning-of-time-poster journey to the beginning of time pic 14

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The Lost World (1925)
The full-length silent movie can be found on the special features DVD of The Lost World (1960) (Irwin Allen). This was Willis Obrien’s first feature film based on the Sir Author Conan Doyle classic adventure. In the end, the crew brings a Brontosaurus back to London.  The beast goes on a rampage through the streets. This definitely feels like a precursor of things to come. Eight Years later, O’Brien would lead his greatest beast into the streets of NYC for the epic film, King Kong (1933).

The Lost World 1925 - pic 5 the-lost-world-movie-poster-1925

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The Ghost of Slumber Mountain (1919)
This is another early Willis O’Brien film, a short (approx. 20 minutes). It demonstrates Obie honing his skills at creating/animating dinosaurs while telling an entertaining story (for the time). A man tells his nephews a tale from when he was a boy. There was a mountain top that, if you climbed it, you could see the events of prehistoric times. It has quite a few dinosaurs in it and you can notice the progression of Obie’s rising talents by watching this great little film and comparing it to future movies. It is a silent film so it wouldn’t be to everyone’s liking, but there were aspects I enjoyed. I kinda’ enjoy most things with Dinosaurs, though. You can find the movie in the special features of Planet of Dinosaurs.

ghost of slumber mountain pic 2

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Dinosaurs, The Terrible Lizards (1970) – Wah Chang’s, – Documentary
The Terrible Lizards is a docu-film showing the life of dinosaurs, created and produced by Wah Chung. It was most likely a very good documentary at the time but now seems more applicable to children‘s viewing. A lot of the science is now dated but the visuals are interesting. Another interesting aspect about the film is one of the models was later used as the star dinosaur in the 1970’s children show, Land of The Lost (1974) (Grumpy). Wah Chang worked visual and special fx on a multitude of sci-fi movies including, Planet of the Apes (1968), The Time Machine (1960), Jack the Giant Killer (1962) and Star Trek (TV Series), and of course, the Land of the Lost TV series (1970‘s). He was also an un-credited puppet designer in both, The Black Scorpion and Tarantula. I hope to on day get a better quality version but for now, you can see the whole “Dinosaurs” documentary here on Youtube:

Gallery 1: The Animal World

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Gallery 2: Journey to the Beginning of Time (1966)

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Gallery 3: The Lost World (1925)

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Gallery 4: The Ghost of Slumber Mountain (1919)

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Gallery 5:  Dinosaurs, the Terrible Lizards (1970)

The Top 5 Women in Dinosaur and Fantasy films from Yesteryear

My Top 5 Women in Dinosaur and Fantasy films from Yesteryear

(films 25 years and older)

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5) Jane Seymour – Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger – as Farah
If playing chess with an intelligent Mandrill isn’t enough, she comes face to face with a troglodyte, a giant walrus, and a saber tooth tiger.

4) Victoria Vetri – When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth – as Sanna
She escapes being sacrificed to the sun god, clashes with the dark-haired tribe, and eventually makes friends with a dinosaur, all while just barely keeping her tighter-than-a-glove bikini top on. (note: in the uncut version, the bikini top does come off.)

3) Caroline Munro – The Golden Voyage of Sinbad – as Margiana
The tattooed eye on her hand calls forth the great Cyclops centaur for a battle of good vs. evil. A handful of 1970’s Hammer horror films playing alongside Lee and Cushing and even bigger roles in At the Earth’s Core (Amicus) and Star Crash clinch the spot for her.

2) Fay Wray – King Kong – as Anne Darrow
She is the ultimate damsel in distress, taken by force, but enduring and surviving a savage world.

1) Raquel Welch – One Million Years BC – as Loana
It was the fur bikini that entranced the world. A young Raquel Welch becomes a star despite not a single word of dialogue in the film.

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Honorable mentions:

Jessica Lange – King Kong (1976) – as Dwan

King Kong 76

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Barbara Bach – Caveman (1981) – Lana

caveman promo cropped

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Tanya Roberts – Sheena, Queen of the Jungle (1984) – as Sheena

Sheena-Queen of the Jungle-1984

recommended by Bubbawheat, http://flightstightsandmovienights.com/

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Martine Beswick, also from One Million Years BC (1966)

martin beswick

suggested by Alharron

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Your suggestions for honorable mentions are welcome.

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Also check out:
My Top 5 Women in Sci-Fi flicks of yesteryear

I will be doing a Top Five Women in Horror flicks of Yesteryear soon…

20 Million Miles To Earth – Ymir – Model Kit

Ymir model pic 1

20 Million Miles To Earth – Ymir – Model Kit

This is the Geometric, Ymir model kit. It’s a fantastic kit with excellent detail.

Ymir model pic 3

It was fun painting the kit because the skin detail really worked well with dry brushing techniques. I started with a dark green base coat and worked with lighter greens and finally yellow for highlights.

Ymir model early stages pic 9

It didn’t come with a base so I made a custom base for it.

I made the title placard with clay. I printed out the movie title image and pasted it on.

ymir CU 2

 

And don’t forget to watch the video inspired by this kit: Monsters on the Mantle

Monster Wars – Model on the Mantle

Monster Wars – Episode One
Monster Model on the Mantle

Ok, so here’s a short video I posted on youtube. Any married man that has his guy toys should be able to relate to this. The wives’ never want our guy things in the general expanse of the home; they think they should stay relegated to the man cave or specially cordoned room. See what happens when I try to expand my influence into the rest of the house…

The video gets a little shaky in the middle. I didn’t want the wife to know I was recording. I’ll post some better pics of this model at a later date.

The model is Ymir, 20 Million Miles to Earth by Geometric

Model Kits – Aurora Prehistoric Scenes – Giant Bird

Aurora Giant Bird pic 2

Aurora Prehistoric Scenes

Giant Bird – Phorohacos

I bought this kit ‘new’ and complete in the box. It was originally released in the early 1970’s in the second wave of Aurora Prehistoric Scenes kits. It was never re-released so any that you may see on the market would be original Aurora product. This one cost me a bit more than others because of its new (unused) condition.

Aurora Giant Bird pic 4

The only problem in building, which I remember from when I was a kid, was getting the body top (back) in place. It never seemed to fit exactly right. This prompted me to use super glue to build the kit so that piece would dry in a minute and not ‘pop’ off or move to a crooked position while drying overnight.

Aurora Giant Bird pic 6

I always liked this kit because it was the same giant bird as in the Schneer/Harryhausen feature, Mysterious Island (1961). I built it as instructed with no modifications.

mysterious Island - giant bird

Be sure to check out all my other Aurora Prehistoric Scenes build-ups:

Allosaurus, Cro-magnon Man, Cro-Magnon WomanNeanderthal Man, Sabertooth Tiger,

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