20 Million Miles to Earth (1957) Review
I adore stop motion animation, monsters especially, and Ray Harryhausen is the unparalleled master of the armature realm and has a very rich legacy. (O'Brien --his mentor-- and Phil Tippet and the Brothers Quay are other masterful luminaries in this field.) Sadly, none of the movies in which Harryhausen's lovingly crafted effects appear are anywhere near as good as the stop motion creations contained within them...but 20 Million Miles to Earth is a piece that meets the monster more than halfway and is my favorite by far.
The story is not overcomplicated, as is the case with the muddled mythologies cut and pasted throughout Jason and the Argonauts, Clash of the Titans and (his second best feature) The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. This is a simple creature on the loose sci-fi-tinged monster movie-- one with a better than average script and superb stop motion beast.
Although this contains a little less stop motion than do the sword and sandal epics, the quality control in 20 Million Miles to Earth seems better, and the black and white image also helps blend the armature and living image more convincingly. Several sequences featuring the Ymir are harrowing, especially considering the date of this movie. This beast is aggressive and wonderfully designed.
Every time this rolls around in a revival house, I see and enjoy it.
(I saw a 35mm print of the movie at Film Forum, N.Y. and a 35mm print at the Museum of Modern Art)