20 Million Miles to Earth (review by Doug Smith)
Ahhh, the fifties … back when you could basically convince anyone that anything could happen, even man traveling to Venus and bringing back a dangerous, vegetarian creature with an evil moustache. “20 Million Miles to Earth” is a perfect example. Nathan Juran, the director of this fine (?) piece of cinema, also brought us such gems as “The Deadly Mantis” and “Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman.” Why he was so obsessed with big things, I know not, and, quite frankly, I think I want to keep it that way.
The movie opens in a fishing village in Sicily, where, of course, some sweaty, hairy Italian guys are out fishing. What else is there to do in a fishing village? Anyway, just as they’re reeling in their nets, a giant, broken-off pencil tip crash lands in the water. Most of the boats get the hell out of there, but one, containing two men and a little boy named Pepe – who, for some unknown reason, desperately wants to own a cowboy hat – stays to investigate. They row on over to the wreck and the men hop in it and look around, finding two slightly alive people. They toss ’em over their sweaty, disgustingly hairy Italian shoulders and bring them to the boat, just as the pencil tip begins to slowly sink into the water.
Meanwhile, back at NASA, Bruce Willis is in training to become an astronaut and … no, wait … it isn’t really NASA and there’s just some lumpy, government guys wondering what happened to the pencil tip rocket they sent to Venus. Just as the movie grinds to a screeching halt, the plot police phone the scientists and tell them where the ship went down.
Back to Italy, where Pepe finds a translucent Venusian turd with a nougat filling, sealed in Tupperware. He takes it to Dr. Leonardo, the village scientist, and sells it to him for 200 lira, which is probably about two bucks in American money. He examines the lump of gelatinous goo, as his daughter, Marisa, who’s a doctor-in-training, tends to the astronauts found in the ship. The commander, Col. Robert Calder, comes to and proceeds to boss the girl around in the typical fifties style. Being the rocket scientist that he is (get it?), he quickens his shipmate’s death by yelling at him and bouncing him around. Marisa finally gives him a tranq big enough to knock King Kong off the Empire State Building, and he goes to sleep.
When Marisa gets home, she discovers the nougat center of the turd has hatched, revealing a slab of animated clay, shaped to look like a monster. Dr. Leonardo throws it in a cage for the night and wakes up the next morning to find it nearly doubled in size. He takes it to Rome, in order to study it further.
That same day, the government guys arrive to talk to Col. Robert Calder, who tells them of the creature he brought back from Venus. They alert the local authorities and assemble a team of divers. Now, I have to pause this summary, in order to give you a warning … FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE SCREEN WHEN THE DIVERS ARE ON IT! There. Now then, Pepe overhears the goings on and tells the government guys he sold the thing to Dr. Leonardo. See how all my incoherent, unintelligible ramblings come together?
The government guys go after Leonardo and Marisa, who are halfway to Rome. The creature predictably breaks out of the cage it’s being kept in and takes off on a romp through the country, happening across a farm. It goes into the barn, where there’s apparently some guy just off camera hurling chickens at it. It then proceeds to kill a dog. Men, fine. Women, okay. But when an innocent dog is killed, damn it, that’s when I get pissed off. The government guys arrive as Farmer Julio is investigating his barn, and attempt an oh-so-intelligent course of action. Col. Calder grabs a pole and starts poking at the monster, trying to get it into a cage. That’ll work. Wait, no, it won’t. The plan backfires and the monster tackles farmer Julio better than Reggie White on steroids and gets away.
The next plan they try is a little more elaborate, involving an electric net, paratroopers and sulfer, which is a big part of the beast’s diet. And it actually works! Well, kind of. They capture it and bring it to Rome for studying, until it breaks loose again. They eventually blow it away, along with most of the Coliseum. Damn Americans.
This movie was actually kind of fun, save for the five second scene of the divers in upsettingly tight shorts. If you’re looking for some good, ol’ fashioned nightmare fuel, that would be it. Other than that, it was okay. I give it three yaks.