20 Million Miles to Earth

Now we’re getting to real genius, despite the film business being filled with very, very clever people (and some real bozos) real genius is hard to come by and personally I’d put (and I’m far from alone in this) Ray Harryhausen as one of the true geniuses to have ever worked in motion pictures.

I’m choosing 20 Million Miles to Earth as (maybe) a lesser known work by this master of visual effects. The film was made in 1957 and shot in black and white, it’s since been colourised but I’d try to avoid watching that. The film has a simple plot about a spaceship returning from a secret mission to Venus and bringing with a small pod which turns into a larger creature after the ship crash lands in Italy.

The script is simple, the acting straightforward, the direction solid – it moves at a quick pace and feels like a good, decent attempt at 50s sci-fi – what makes this film stand out from the hundreds of other similar movies? The visual effects! They’re amazing for the time, and that’s thanks to Ray, who has the creature growing – fighting humans, growing more – fighting elephants and then finally taking the army on from the top of the Coliseum in Rome.

There are various Ray Harryhausen box sets available; if I were you I’d buy them all. The guy was a great artist and he looms high over all the visual effects in films to this day.

The trailer is below…


Matthew Cooper has been a script writer for hire for over 20 years. He’s written for most of the UK soaps, including writing award winning episodes of Emmerdale, Eastenders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs. Matthew was winner of the first ever Lloyds Bank Channel Four Film Challenge, the Oscar Moore Screenplay Prize and has been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal Television Society nominated as a script writer. You can find some of his broadcast credits on the IMDb. You can get in touch with Matthew on matcoop23@yahoo.co.uk