Thursday, December 19, 2013

20 Million Miles To Earth (50th Anniversary Edition) (2010)

20 Million Miles To EarthI've just finished watching this 2 disc *COLORIZED* & B&W 50TH ANNIVERSARY SET, released July 31, 2007. I, like many other RAY HARRYHAUSEN fans already have the originally released SINGLE DISC DVD's of his movies (in that case the cover for 20MMTE has the Ymir image over orange "rings"). Is this worth an upgrade? How's the colorization? I'll try to cover this reviewer's opinions on that.

COLORIZATION: THE *MAIN* reason to get this IMHO is to see what a "sanctioned" colorization of an RH B&W film looks like. FOR THE RECORD: Typically, I am more of a "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" kinda guy. In this case, even with RH's blessings, I didn't think 20M *needed* coloring, but I sure wasn't going to argue if the option to get a B&W print of the film was in the same DVD release, which it is. It should be noted here, that while watching this in color, if for any reason you feel too jarred by the whole process, you can switch to the original B&W print SEAMLESSLY via the "ANGLE" button on your remote (so called "CHROMACHOICE")....pretty cool, and this function should be made available on ANY future colorized/re-edited film if ya ask me. I spent the first part of the movie tinkering with this to see the differences. RH has green lit and is totally part of this coloring thing so that is cool. Someone pointed out and asked why is it OK for RH to tinker with his old stuff and not GEORGE LUCAS (RH said if they had the budget, these B&W films would've been in color)....well....HERE, they give us the option of EITHER to watch. Something LUCAS did not originally do, yet insisted with the revisions, that those were THE PRINTS TO WATCH. HERE, it is like watching an old master revisit an old project and watching him tinker with it, yet we still can control how we "percieve" the film (i.e. the way it was, or way it could've been....for those who must hold onto those precious childhood memories EXACTLY as they were...cuz you know you were sitting at home watching these on a DIGITAL WS TV back;-).

HOW'S THE COLOR?: If you saw the TURNER COLORIZED 1933 KING KONG and were horrified at the PINK TYRANNOSAURUS, then fear not. According to Legend Films, the process is now refined, new system etc etc, and those old school colorization horrors are no more. But the proof is in the viewing. YES, the process is MUCH, MUCH BETTER. I've picked up a number of LEGEND FILMS's other colorized releases (CARNIVAL OF SOULS, HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILLS, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD etc) because the colorization was decent and had the (pretty darn good) B&W masters on them as well. HERE, it is the BEST I've seen the process. Of course, when talking colorization, the film, no matter how good the technology, STILL LOOKS LIKE THE OLD TINTED PHOTOS YOU USED TO SEE IN OLD MAGAZINES & ADS. But then, that is what you get, tinting B&W, so it is essentially part of the look. Growing up on old school stuff, this tinting thing was cool to me so seeing a film this way was never such a big shock to me as it is to some. But again, so long as the option to see the original is there. IF this is what to expect in future RH films, I'll certainly pick up the rest. The colors feel more lush....flesh looks MORE LIKE FLESH, it's still somewhat flat, but there's a richness not present in other colorized films I've seen, and sorry to the purists, the YMIR (the monster) is just cool to see in color finally even if his fins and other lighter details appear a little flat & dulled. I always wondered as a kid what he looked like in color. Many old lobby cards were tinted so this just keeps in line with those, so it works AS A VIEWING OPTION to me.

THE B&W PRINT: Honestly, if you have the original DVD release of this, you may want to rent this first to see if this film is important enough for you to upgrade. THERE ARE DIFFERENCES, i.e. this release appears to have the best of the two DVD released prints, it feels cleaner, BUT, I think those details/plusses will be lost if you have a regular TV to watch this on. I am using a HD WIDESCREEN/LCD and upsampling via HDMI (a glamorous version of "standard" lol!;-) so I can't tell you what the differences would be in standard viewing, but I can't see them being all THAT different to warrant an upgrade, UNLESS like myself you want to see the novelty of colorization at work. The original (orange cover) release had a really good print on it to begin with so I never felt this was needing an upgrade.

BOTH FILM VERSIONS ARE ASPECT RATIO1.85:1 ANAMORPHIC. Remastered in HI-DEF. 165min. total. Apparently this was sourced from a different/better source print from Columbia/Sony vaults. SF's are WS.

SPECIAL FEATURES: GONE from before are the HARRYHAUSEN CHRONICLES thankfully, which was on nearly every d@mn RH DVD. Nice the first time, but 5 DVD's in, it was tired. HERE, there's the commentary track which is cool in some parts, but it starts feeling like a plug for the colorization process and fan worship....hearing RH proclaim how the colorization just brings the movie to life repeatedly was a little bothersome, since it is cool/interesting, but hey, it's still a colorization of an originally B&W film, no matter WHOM sanctions the process....but this is RH's film, so I gotta give a little room here. And though I think RH has gone from cult fan favorite to (much deserved) mainstream praise, as another reviewer stated, this praise has started to turn into overkill when having to listen to it, as is the case here. The commentary is riddled with praising of the emotive qualities of the animation work (which is deserved) but after hearing this over and over, the praise just becomes more kissy-kissy feeling than genuine. But then, many RH fans have thought highly of his work already and recognized these qualities so it's like preaching to the choir, so having it beaten into our heads for a whole discs worth of SPECIAL FEATURES becomes a little tedious.

The MAIN SPECIAL FEATURE is 'REMEMBERING 20MMTE"......which was pretty cool to watch a feature just on the film. It was also nice to hear TERRY GILLIUM (Director whose name I can't rememeber how to spell right this second), but hearing him actually say the main reason to watch an RH film was the animation since most of the acting was! I almost can't believe they left that in, but how true! TIM BURTON'S segment was cool the first several minutes.....nice to see him be just a fanboy. But that got long. I also noticed here, that much of the RH features are starting to become retellings of the same stories I've heard over and over. I'm not really complaining, but rehashing is rehashing....and I understand some people aren't buying every d@mn disc like some of us are (*ahem*ahem*). TIM BURTON's piece was welcome though. The JOAN TAYLOR INTERVIEW was a little long considering it is not focused TOTALLY on RH (understandably), though interesting to hear her film background. AND WOW....SHE IS STILL A BEAUTY. Her endcap praise of RH was very nice and shows what a long way in terms of respect RH has come since he started. It's almost odd to hear people didn't really have a clue about what he was doing and the craftsmanship this one man show was up to back in the day.

DAVID SCHECTER's FILM MUSIC UNSUNG HERO piece on the composer whose long name escapes me, but the guy who scored this and other B-movies, mostly the monster theme scores was surprisingly interesting to me since I almost passed on viewing it. That provided some excellent bits of info on the scoring process. But it became waaaaay too much info for me after awhile, my brain started losing places to save all this trivia.

COLORIZATION FEATURE: Interesting to see the process described, though that felt a little self congratulatory, falling into the OK, I GET IT, COLORIZATION HAS COME A LONG WAY category of overkill ideas to pound into the viewer's heads. But still.....interesting to watch, and RH is in this.

OVERALL: This was worth an upgrade for me. The coloring was as excellent as could be, and I won't scream about touching an old B&W film, since the option for watching either is here. You can be sure if LEGEND releases KING KONG colored (their way) I'll pick it up. The praise of RH seems a bit redundant (but AGAIN, this is from someone who's felt he's had this a long time coming and doesn't need to be brought up to speed), but it seems now like every release is trying to catch the rest of the world up with RH's greatness as a creator, so it sometimes is hard to watch as a true diehard RH fan who doesn't need to be told this. The technical stuff is informative.....the old stories etc etc.....but I have to wonder how the next colored releases will fare in terms of content (EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCCERS, IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA) since the process (both animation AND colorization are described in depth here). ALSO, the old there really any fresh info to be gleaned at this point? And where are the deleted scenes....even millisecond animation cutting room floor tidbits...anything. Guess we'll see.

But THANKS TO SONY/LEGEND for making an overall, really good DVD release of this film. I'm certainly NOT complaining that I snuck away at lunch yesterday to pick this up:-) !!! IF I just discovered RH, this would be an excellent package. It still holds up well for us least this one. Hope this helps some of you out there!

PS: And BTW: AMAZON so far seems to have the best price if you can wait and order online.

PSS: And since I believe Amazon's reviews are PRODUCT REVIEWS, my stars are based on my feelings toward this as a package. THE FILM ITSELF IS MORE LIKE A 3.75/4 (sorry....the acting is fabulously atrocious in parts).

This is the type of film I love. Good story,good effects and a GREAT monster THE YMIR to boot. This is what hollywood needs to do is go back look at films like this and realize that its substance to a movie not CGI effects that tell and make a story. Im 24 and have a old school style when it comes to sci-fi/horror which I TRULY LOVE. If you are a monster fan or a sci-fi/horror movie collector this is a must see and have movie either for the first time or for your movie collection. To me this is one of Harryhausens best creature designs and the creature himself has substance that makes you want to root for him. For the sci-fi lover in you rent this or buy this but whatever you do see this masterpiece from the golden-age of science fiction. Bring back the old school!

Buy 20 Million Miles To Earth (50th Anniversary Edition) (2010) Now

The disc will contain full frame (1.33:1) and anamorphic (1.85:1) digitally-restored versions of the film, as well as a newly-colorized edition supervised by Harryhausen himself. "

Bonus features including audio commentary by Ray Harryhausen, visual effects artists Dennis Muren and Phil Tippett, and producer Arnold Kunert; Remembering 20 Million Miles to Earth, wherein Harryhausen and others discuss the film's production and influence; Tim Burton Sits Down with Ray Harryhausen; The Joan Taylor Interview; Colorization; a video discussion of 20 Million Miles to Earth's 1957 marketing and advertising campaign by producer Arnold Kunert; Mischa Bakaleinikoff: Film Music's Unsung Hero; Colorization featurette and an elaborate still and production art gallery.

Read Best Reviews of 20 Million Miles To Earth (50th Anniversary Edition) (2010) Here

Released in June 1957, "20 Million Miles to Earth" is an important film in the canon of visual effects genius Ray Harryhausen. It was the last of the black and white science-fiction films he worked on during the 50s. It was also the first film based on one of his own ideas. It set the stage for his color fantasy films triumphs that would follow.

Harryhausen had originally developed a story about the frost giant Ymir from Norse mythology. He then changed the creature to a cyclops-satyr mix from another planet who rampages on modern Earth, but still kept the name Ymir. (The Cyclops-satyr would later show up in "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.") When the film finally went before the cameras, the Ymir had become a humanoid-reptilian beast from Venus. Brought to Earth in a crashed rocket, the Ymir emerges as only a few inches high, but starts growing rapidly in the Earth's atmosphere. Originally peaceful, the Ymir is provoked into violence by frightened humans. The movie climaxes in Rome when the captive Ymir bursts loose and starts smashing famous monuments in the Eternal City.

The parallels to King Kong are obvious, and Harryhausen intended the Ymir to also be a sympathetic, misunderstood creature. He succeeded grandly: "20 Millions Miles to Earth" is Harryhausen's best early film. The direction from Nathan Juran and the human actors are perfunctory and clichéd, but the effects are still stunning today, and the Ymir is a superb actor. Designed along human lines, but with dinosaur features, the Ymir elicits strong emotions and exudes tremendous personality. The scene of it hatching from its `pod' (made of gelatin) and exploring the strange world around it for the first time is one of the high points of Harryhausen's career, and a sequence of which he rightly feels great pride. The scene of the full-sized, fifteen-foot Ymir wrestling an elephant (also animated) is also a stunning piece of work.

(Harryhausen's love of the Ymir extended to late in his career. In his last film, "The Clash of the Titans," he used the Ymir as the basis for the design of the multiple-armed monster the Kraken -the heads and bodies are almost the same.)

The DVD presents the film in widescreen format for the first time since its theatrical release. The image is crystal clear and lets Harryhausen's work shine. There are a few extras. "The Harryhausen Chronicles," a lengthy documentary, does an excellent overview of the man's career. This same documentary appears on most of Columbia's Harryhausen DVDs, so if you're a fan of the animator you've probably seen this before. Also included is a vintage featurette about the animation process, called "This is Dynamation." It was made for the release of "The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad," so it actually has nothing to do with "20 Million Miles to Earth."

This is a must-have DVD for any Harryhausen fan and any admirer of 50s science fiction. It's one of the highlights of giant monster cinema.

Want 20 Million Miles To Earth (50th Anniversary Edition) (2010) Discount?

Ray Harryhausen's genius as an artist, sculptor and animator is shown off to great effect in the classic but nearly forgotten 1957 black and white monster movie "20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH" available for the first time in a digitally mastered DVD.

The story may be trite and the screenplay not particularly noteworthy, but the illusion of life given the Ymir, a reptilian biped creature brought unwillingly from Venus to earth as an egg, is truly astonishing, and sometimes grotesquely beautiful. Even more amazingly, we respond to the Ymir as a living, breathing creature. Just knowing it's not an actor in a monster suit nor a drawn cartoon adds immeasurably to the effect. After it hatches, the small gestures as it rubs its eyes and reacts to light in the increasingly hostile earthly environment make it particularly endearing. In fact, we are inclined to root for this alien beast as it fights to survive while traveling from a tiny Sicilian fishing village to Rome where, of course, it wreaks havoc as a now understandably angry behemoth with very destructive proclivities. The black and white photography, no doubt a result of budget concerns, is especially dynamic and appropriately moody with scenes richly shadowed. This new edition includes nice wide and full screen transfers as well as trailers and featurettes.

Ray Harryhausen's life was inexorably changed when, as a teen, he saw "King Kong" (1933) at Grauman's Chinese theater in Hollywood. The life-like puppet animation of the great ape by Willis O'Brien so captured his fancy that Ray went home and immediately attempted to duplicate the effects, making dinosuar models and animating them -at 24 moves for every second of finished film -within his own detailed miniature sets and hand-painted backgrounds.

His early efforts were quite good and his parents encouraged Ray to continue with his hobby which, in fact, was becoming more of an obsession. He even cut up one of his mother's fur coats to make a lifelike pelt for one of his creations -and was not reprimanded. In 1938, at a science fiction club, he met another teen named Ray -Ray Bradbury -who had similar interests. They encouraged each other and became life-long friends. Harryhausen went to art school near Los Angeles. The quality of his designs and miniatures greatly improved and soon he was invited by his idol, Willis O'Brien, to work on the stop-motion ape movie "Mighty Joe Young."

In the age of eye-popping, super photorealistic computer generated animation, there's still something uniquely enthralling about seeing the interaction of fantastical three dimensional creatures with human actors. Maybe it's the hands-on-touch of these clay, fur and metal-armatured creations that gives them the illusion of life in a way that CGI can never achieve. Even the tiny flaws and mistakes -like the uneven movement of fur and sometimes even the fleeting fingerprints of the animators -add an element of emotional realism that is hard to describe in words alone. The mind knows the puppet is not alive but the eye and heart appreciate the art to such a degree that one is filled with astonishment and affection at this hand-crafted art. This is something much more than merely the willing suspension of disbelief that all the story-telling arts demand. And no man did it better than Ray Harryhausen. He has referred to the craft as "playing God by molding life from clay." And maybe that's the truer subtext of the metaphor to which we respond with such delight and wonder.

Columbia/Tristar also distributes on DVD Harryhausen's "Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger," "The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad," "The Golden Voyage of Sinbad" and "Jason and the Argonauts" the latter with the incredible fighting skeletons, perhaps Harryhausen's most widely praised sequence.

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