20 Million Miles To Earth Is A Must See For Any Lover Of Classic Cinema And Sci-Fi

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

The annual countdown to Halloween is on once again. With Halloween only a few more weeks away at the time of this review, everyone’s busy looking for a way to bring some frights and fun to their yearly celebrations. Mill Creek has given audiences two more wonderful options for their Halloween parties thanks to its release of the Ray Harryhausen Creature Double Feature. This new double dose of classic monster movies includes two of Ray Harryhausen’s great sci-fi/horror classics in the form of 20 Million Miles to Earth and It Came From Beneath The Sea. The second of the features will be discussed at a later date. For now, the focus will be solely on the first in the pair. 20 Million Miles To Earth is a wonderful watch not only for those Halloween parties this year, but for anyone that is a lover of classic cinema in general. The main aspect of this classic sci-fi flick that makes it work is its script. Yes, there’s at least one minor issue with the writing. That will be noted later. But by and large, the script for this movie is a big part of why audiences will love it. Just as important to the whole are the movie’s special effects. Compared to nearly every one of today’s way-over-the-top special effects blockbusters, the effects used in this piece are outstanding. And last but most definitely not least of all worth noting is the movie’s cast. The movie’s lead actors were no strangers to their crafts. They were quite versed as a matter of fact. The importance of this aspect will also be noted later. Suffice it to say that all three of these factors together make 20 Million Miles to Earth a must see whether at this year’s Halloween get together or any other time of the year by any lover of classic cinema. And together with its companion piece It Came From Beneath The Sea, it makes Mill Creek’s recently released Ray Harryhausen Creature Double Feature an absolute must see.

Mill Creek Entertainment’s recently released Ray Harryhausen Creature Double Feature is an absolute must see by any lover of classic cinema. While not the first time that the movies in this set have seen the light of day, they are very difficult to find on DVD or Blu-ray. So taking that into consideration, anyone with any love for the golden age of cinema will appreciate this double movie presentation. Looking specifically for now at the first of the features, 20 Million Miles to Earth, this movie works so well here for a number of reasons. One reason that it works so well is its writing. The story behind this movie was nothing new for the film industry when it debuted in June 1957. It sees an ever-growing lizard creature from Venus terrorizing the Sicilian countryside after having been released by a young boy named Pepe. The end result is the hunt and eventual killing of the unnamed creature. Legendary B-movie director Roger Corman had already churned out ten sci-fi classics when this movie debuted. And It Came From Beneath The Sea, the other film featured in this collection, had already debuted two years previous. Adding in to the believability of the story, the birth of the “space race” was only months away as Russia went on in October of that year to release Sputnik, the world’s first satellite. So it goes without saying that the fascination with worlds and beings other than our own was at an all-time high when this movie made its premiere. That makes the movie’s very plot so fun.

The plot behind 20 Million Miles to Earth, when set against the other B-movies of its era, is just as enjoyable as those churned out by fellow sci-fi legend Roger Corman and by Harryhausen himself. The plot is just one minute part of what makes this script work, too. The manner in which the movie’s writing team executed the story adds to the overall enjoyment. If not for young Pepe’s greed (he even tries to extort money from the American military officers when they come to investigate the crash), none of what happened might have happened. In turn there might not have been a story. One could argue that if not a child, then an adult might have done the same thing as Pepe. That’s true, too. So taking this aspect of the movie’s writing into consideration, one can’t help but wonder if the writers were trying to make a statement about the cost and danger of human nature a la 1951’s The Day The Earth Stood Still.   In the same vein, Col. Calder (played wonderfully here by William Hopper) makes a statement regarding the creature being docile unless provoked right before provoking the creature so as to capture it. That is so subtle but so powerful a statement about human nature, too. If Calder knew the creature was docile, why not try a peaceful means to corral it? Some might argue this to be a major plot hole. A more thoughtful analysis though, reveals that it could have been another lightly veiled commentary about the contradictory nature of humans in terms of their behaviors and thought processes. It’s really something to think about. It is that writing and commentary (intended or not) that along with the script makes 20 Million Miles to Earth such a wonderful watch.

The seemingly lightly veiled commentary aside, another reason that the script’s writing works so well is that the movie’s writing team even made certain to explain how the unnamed lizard creature managed to grow so fast. As was explained by one character, the Earth’s atmospheric make up was to blame for the creature’s growth. As long as it was breathing the air on Earth, it would keep growing every day. That most important of all of the story’s aspect is answered so quickly and easily. It’s one more way in which the movie’s writing team made sure to cover all of its bases when crafting the story. It’s the final part of the movie’s writing that makes the script (and the movie in whole) so enjoyable so many years after its premiere.

The writing that went into 20 Million Miles to Earth is a big reason for the movie’s success nearly sixty years after it debuted. That should be obvious by now. Another reason that the movie continues to be so beloved to this day is its special effects. Special effects have evolved so much throughout the history of the movie industry. While the special effects used in movies such as this might be considered simplistic by some, it is that simplicity that makes them so wonderful. The special effects of today’s major name blockbusters have completely jumped the shark for lack of better wording. They are almost entirely created via computer. Ray Harryhausen’s stop motion special effects in this movie (and others that he worked on) were done entirely by hand. Sure there was some movie magic incorporated along the way to help. But again in comparison to so many of today’s special effects extravaganzas, those effects are a product of their time. They are used as a part of the overall story rather than as the star of the film. Today’s action blockbusters are the polar opposite. That factor alone makes 20 Million Miles to Earth worth the watch. Together with its outstanding writing, the movie’s special effects make this movie even more of a must see for any lover of classic cinema and sci-fi.

The writing and the special effects that went into 20 Million Miles to Earth both play their own important role in the movie’s overall enjoyment and success. As important as both factors are to the whole presentation, there is still one more aspect worth noting in examining the movie. That final aspect is the movie’s lead cast. Anyone with any love of classic movies and television will appreciate the history lesson presented through just the movie’s cast. William Hopper leads the movie’s cast as Col. Robert Calder. Hopper is best known for his role of Private Detective Paul Drake in the classic courtroom drama Perry Mason. Drake was a major character in that series as he helped Mason solve a number of cases throughout the show’s run. Perry Mason, by the way, can still be seen today on Me-TV. He also starred opposite film legend James Dean in the 1955 hit drama Rebel Without A Cause. He starred alongside a then young Natalie Wood as the father to her Judy. On a side note, Jim Backus (Mr. Magoo, Gilligan’s Island) also starred in that movie. Adding to Hopper’s resume, 20 Million Miles to Earth wasn’t Hopper’s first creature feature. He starred in another well-known creature feature that premiered only months before this one. That movie, released by Universal Pictures, is called The Deadly Mantis. For those that haven’t seen that movie, imagine Godzilla with a giant, radioactive praying mantis in place of the giant, radioactive lizard. Yeah. And instead of taking place in Japan, the giant mantis thaws out in the North Pole and comes to America to cause all kinds of havoc. It’s still a great watch, regardless. These are just some of the pieces in which Hopper starred. It goes without saying that Hopper’s experience in both action and drama roles proved him to be a good choice for his role. His wasn’t the only good choice, either. Hopper’s co-stars Joan Taylor, Thomas Browne Henry, and John Zaremba starred together in another of Ray Harryhausen’s hits Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers in 1956. So they were both just as natural for their roles in this film, too. It was probably Zaremba’s work on these sci-fi favorites that led to his casting in the cult hit sci-fi series Time Tunnel. That series ran for only one year from 1966 – 1967. It is still a fan favorite to this day, though. The movie’s other cast members each starred in some of the movie industry’s biggest names, too. Arthur Space played the supporting role of Dr. Sharman in 20 Million Miles to Earth. Only months before, he starred alongside famed actor James Stewart in The Spirit of St. Louis as Donald Hall, the chief engineer of Ray Airlines. There are plenty of other actors whose resumes add plenty of credit to 20 Million Miles to Earth. But it would take far too long to note each one and their resume. Needless to say, one should have quite the clear picture by now of just how important the cast of 20 Million Miles to Earth was to the movie’s success. The cast’s collective experience shines through from start to finish here making it entirely clear once more just why this movie is still one of the greatest sci-fi/horror films in modern film history and why this movie was a wise addition to Mill Creek’s newly released Ray Harryhausen Creature Double Feature.

20 Million Miles to Earth is one of the greatest sci-fi flicks in modern movie history. So much went into the movie in such a small span of time. Its writing was simple yet so in-depth. The special effects headed up by screen legend Ray Harryhausen are so much better than those presented in today’s major blockbusters. Harryhausen’s special effects are part of the story rather than the star. They do so much to help advance the story. And last but not least of all is the movie’s cast. The cast—both the lead and supporting cast—came into the movie with quite the collective resume. That vast amount of experience shared between the movie’s cast shines through here from start to finish. It is the last touch in a movie that any lover of classic cinema and of sci-fi in whole must see at least once. Now that Halloween’s on its way again, that’s one more reason to pick up this new release from Mill Creek Entertainment. It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered online direct from Mill Creek Entertainment at http://www.millcreekent.com/20-million-miles-to-earth-it-came-from-beneath-the-sea-ray-harryhausen-double-feature.html. More information on this and other titles from Mill Creek Entertainment is available online at:

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Iron Sky A Modern Day Comedy Cult Classic B-Movie

Courtesy:  Entertainment One

Courtesy: Entertainment One

Iron Sky is hilarious.  In fact it’s so terrible that one can’t help but laugh at this triple threat of a farce.  On the surface it’s obviously a sci-fi spoof.  On another, having it be about Nazis living on the moon coming to invade Earth makes it also a spoof of the war movie genre.  And having a Sarah Palin look-alike as the President makes it a political spoof, too.  Put all of these spoofs together into one pot and this movie is sure to become a modern day cult classic.  Despite what director Timo Vuorensola notes in the director’s commentary, the spoof of all three genres is there, even if it was meant first and foremost to be nothing but a war comedy.

Iron Sky comes across as one of those movies that were it made in the heyday of science fiction, would have been one of the movies featured on the former Syfy channel series, Mystery Science Theater 3000.  The very concept of generations of Nazis living on the moon, planning an eventual attack on Earth is absolutely laughable in itself.  But then again, the very concept isn’t meant to be taken seriously.  For that matter, nothing in this movie is meant to be taken seriously.  Even Vuorensola notes in the “Making of” featurette that the movie was completed in thirty-seven days and that it wasn’t even intended to be the next movie that he made.  The first movie he made was a spoof of the Star Trek franchise.  On a side note, audiences will laugh hysterically at the short clips of that film.  But having completed this movie in such a short time and making it just as hilarious as so many classic sci-fi movies puts it right up there with the likes of B-movie master Roger Corman.

The political spoof side of Iron Sky is just as hilarious as the sci-fi and war movie spoofs thrown into this laugh-a-minute mish-mash of a movie.  The very fact that those behind the cameras would have a Sarah Palin like figure as the leader of the free world is just as funny as the concept of Nazis living on the moon, planning an Earth invasion.  The concept of a figure such as Mrs. Palin leading the country isn’t so much what’s funny.  Rather, it’s the spoof of the former Presidential candidate that is funny.  The president here is a total caricature of Palin that’s completely over the top.  Even funnier is what Vuorensola notes in the director’s commentary about her.  He notes that Palin originally wasn’t even the person that was going to be spoofed.  Rather, he says that his original plan was to use a spoof of *surprise surprise* Jenna Bush.  That comment alone is worth its share of laughs.  The randomness of her as an original choice makes both that choice and the latter that much funnier.  Again, there’s more comedy added to this movie and more proof of the value of bonus features and commentary for a movie’s home release.

The Palin caricature in this movie makes for so many laughs.  Add in the absurdity of her interactions with the world’s other leaders, and viewers can’t help but laugh at the story’s political commentary.  One glance at the news on any network today shows that while what’s shown here is a spoof, there is at least some reality in the leaders’ over the top immaturity and fighting.  During the huge space flight scenes, audience even see the President’s campaign manager on the bridge of her ship with monitors in the background flashing the word, “Vote” interchanging with images of the President.  Sure, jokes of that style are common in political movies.  But that it was so subtle is what makes it so funny.  Even before that, there is another subtlety that audiences will love if they catch it.  As the attack on Earth begins, the President and company are watching the news of the attack.  The crawl on the bottom of the screen reads something to the effect of the FDA had determined that nearly everything causes cancer.  Again, it’s that subtlety that makes this joke so funny.  Here’s this message about people’s health safety begin run against news of an attack on Earth.  It makes for so many laughs for those who manage to catch it.  Of course, there is so much more that viewers will catch and enjoy from this way over the top triple threat of a spoof. And in catching all of the other jokes and subtleties will leave any viewer agreeing that this movie is bound to become a modern comedy cult classic, albeit an underrated one.  But it’s bound to be a cult classic nonetheless for those who are open minded enough to appreciate its total absurdity.

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Corman’s Wasp Woman Is A Classic In Its Own Right

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

Our world is obsessed with youth.  The pressure to be young and attractive is even greater on women than it is on men.  This pressure seems to be even greater today than ever before.  Because it has been such a prominent topic for so long, it’s also been great fodder for movies.  One of the most notable movies that tackles that pressure is the 1992 movie, Death Becomes Her, starring Meryl Streep.  In that movie, Streep plays a woman who discovers a treatment that will keep her young and beautiful for eternity.  As funny as it was, it wasn’t the first movie to go after the pressure facing women.  One of the earliest is a B-movie headed by famed B-movie director Roger Corman call The Wasp Woman.

The Wasp Woman is one of Roger Corman’s best B-movies.  As cheesy as it was, it was also really great in its own right.  In this movie, beauty company head Janice Starlin becomes increasingly obsessed with her looks after a male member of her company’s board mentioned to her that the company’s sales were beginning to fall off because the company tried to use a face other than hers to market its products.  So hearing this, she enlists the aid of sort-of mad scientist Eric Zinthrop (Michael Mark), who is testing the effects of queen jelly from the queen wasp in rejuvenating subjects’ youth.  At first things seem to go okay.  But then things go horribly wrong, leading Starlin to become the hideous Wasp Woman.

The Wasp Woman outfit is cheesy beyond belief.  But that’s beside the point.  It’s not really what makes this flick so fun.  What makes the flick so fun is that whether or not it intentionally made commentary on the impact of the beauty industry and society as a whole, that commentary exists even in this totally funny B-flick that’s perfect for a Halloween party.  That the subject behind the story is very real, it makes suspension of disbelief that much easier.  And the ability to suspend one’s disbelief goes a long way toward making this movie one of Roger Corman’s greatest classics.

Now fans can watch this classic B-Flick any time they want as it’s been included in Mill Creek’s new 100 Greates Sci-Fi Classics double box set.  It’s available in stores and can be ordered online at http://www.millcreekent.com

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