Culture Magazine

Movie Review – 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957)

By Manofyesterday

Director: Nathan Juran

Stars: William Hopper, Joan Taylor, Frank Puglia, John Zaremba, Thomas Browne Henry

A monster movie, woo! So after the first manned mission to Venus the craft has come back and crashed into the Sicilian sea. Only two have survived from a crew of 17, and one of them dies soon after being rescued. However, a capsule with a specimen from Venus washed ashore and was found by a young boy. Upon hearing of the crash, the US military rush to Italy and they all work together to try and find this creature, which they want to study in the hope that it will give them more information so they can survive on another expedition to Venus. 

There’s a lot to like about this creature feature. It’s set in Italy, which is a bit different, and the backdrop of Rome makes a nice change from the usual skyscraper-laden backgrounds. Although part of me suspects that Italy was chosen just so they could have a character mistake ‘Venus’ for ‘Venice’. But I liked that they used Venus as well, since usually everyone goes to Mars. I also loved that the main characters were very insistent that they didn’t want to kill the creature, they just wanted to study it (although, I don’t really think they put much forethought into it, after all, what were they going to do with it once they were done studying it?). 

The creature design was cool, although it was basically a dinosaur with a mustache. I liked how it grew throughout the film and the explanations given for its biology. It’s not hard science, but some of the things they said made sense, I was watching an episode of Cosmos recently and it was saying about how insects used to grow much larger because there was more oxygen in the atmosphere, and this is the reason why the creature grows larger than it did on Venus. 

But ultimately it wasn’t one of the better films. It had all that going for it but the climax wasn’t very tense and they didn’t really seem to have a well-thought out plan of how to contain the creature. Plus, the creature itself wasn’t given much personality. It was tragic because it was supplanted from its natural environment and dumped on Earth, but it wasn’t given as much pathos as the greats. There wasn’t much in the way of social commentary either. The last line, which seemed to want to sum up the film, said, “Why is it always so costly for man to move from the present to the future?” and this struck me as very small-minded. You just took a specimen from its home environment, imprisoned it to study it and then when it gets loose it attacks Rome! It didn’t cost you anything, it cost the monster its life. 

So it’s not bad. It has a few things going for it but it doesn’t hit the emotional notes I was hoping for. It began with promise but ended with disappointment.

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