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Monday, March 02, 2015

Once More --- What's a Ymir??

It's a Cleveland-Shattering Double-Thrill Bill for 1957!

Twenty or Five or Miles or Years --- Let's Call the Whole Thing Off

Ray Harryhausen free of the yoke that was producer Sam Katzman, this a leap-up from the last two Columbia sci-fi's revolved around stop-motion to be rechristened "Dynamation." The Venus-bred monster is Kong-like but in no way cuddly; there's generous helping of him, with footage in between the usual wait for more off Ray's table-top. Set in Italy, so no skyscrapers topple, but it's maybe as good watching coliseums give way under ever increased weight of the so-called "Ymir" (but who called him that? I didn't hear anyone in the movie use the name). It was real tribute to Harryhausen that Hollywood built narratives around promise of his puppets; without them these shows would be nothing. What grabbed me this time was the Ymir hoist-up of stop-motion people, RH animating them in the monster's grip. Violence is kept to a minimum by Harryhausen, it understood that kids and teens were his majority public. Note was taken and applied to a next, The Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad, latter tailored specifically for youth and thereby collecting best-ever rentals for Columbia. Re-branding of RH creations enabled a fresh cycle of fantasies that sustained right into the eighties, a remarkable run that brought several generations of FX-followers into Ray's net. Added disclosure: Since 1968, I've confused this title with Hammer's Five Million Years To Earth (have others?). Just had to again confirm both to prevent Twenty displaced by Five, or Miles corrupted to Years ... and/or vice versa.

7 Comments:

Blogger Bill O said...

Think everyone's made that title switch. Ironic, since the films are polar opposites, the Quatermass weak on sfx, but rich in adult ideas.

9:37 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Dan Mercer was right there for a 20 Million Miles' 1957 playdate in Levittown, PA:


I still remember seeing "20 Million Miles to Earth" when it first came out, but at a Saturday kiddie matinee showing. If that was its only appearance at the theater, I wonder how many of its bookings then were made on that limited a basis? Since I was a little boy fascinated by dinosaurs, the pathos I'd come to associate with King Kong wasn't a matter of interest to me, but the idea of a space ship come back all the way from Venus, floating in the sea with all its mysteries just glimpsed before it disappeared, or the monster, curious and aggressive and then larger and increasingly dangerous, or the elephant fighting it to the death: all these were marvelous.

It was of course a very different time from today. My father drove my mother and me to the Levittown Shopping Center in our 1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk and dropped us off. She bought me a ticket and then went on her way shopping. I couldn't have imagined doing that with my son, when he was growing up in the 90s. A couple of hours later, she was waiting for me when the show let out. And as I was leaving, an usher gave me a handbill for the attraction the following Saturday, "Kronos."

I surely wanted to come back for that and, indeed, that's just what I did.

6:29 PM  
Blogger Dave K said...

One of my favorites. Think Harryhausen had gone on record as dubbing this critter 'Ymir' early in pre-production when first sketches had him looking a lot more mythological, less reptilian. Ray stuck with the name, so did fans even though it's nowhere in the script.

RH's one-man-band approach delivered a lot of first class footage on those tiny budgets (and even those color multi-monster bashes like JASON and the SINBADS didn't really cost much, relatively... only CLASH OF THE TITANS had big time money behind it) HE designed the characters. HE sculpted the characters. HE animated the characters. And he devised and executed the clever 'reality sandwich' technique which used painted glass mattes and double exposures to reduce the need for a lot of extra miniatures and expensive post production.

And damn he was so good at it all! Great looking monster may not be cuddly, but don't you love the way the little thingee rubs his eyes right after hatching?

Both of those 'MILLION' titles are kinda confusing since neither seems appropriate to the story at hand!

12:40 PM  
Blogger phil smoot said...

I really like "20 Million Miles to Earth" — Not a lot of waiting for the monster as it pops up often. My only trouble with the title is that Venus is never closer than about 24 million miles to earth. As for the movie 5 Million Years to Earth, I've trained myself to call it by its British title "Quatermass and the Pit."

10:22 PM  
Blogger Mike Cline said...

I saw the Columbia combo of 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH and THE 27th DAY at my local hardtop when first released. I went with my older cousin Sammy. Loved 20 MILLION, bored with 27th DAY. A couple of months later, we played the same combo at one of our drive-ins. I watched 20 MILLION again, then went to sleep during 27th DAY.

9:54 AM  
Blogger Bill O said...

Btw, people have made a good living ripping off of Quatermass And The Pit. It's the basis for the best seller Chariots of The Gods, still in print after fifty years.The whole "ancient astronauts" sub-genre.

12:24 AM  
Blogger rnigma said...

I don't know how true this is, but I heard that "The Giant Claw" was supposed to have Harryhausen's effects; at least that's what the actors were told. But I guess Sam Katzman could no longer afford Ray so he used another FX team, who built a ludicrous puppet monster that looked like a plucked turkey.

2:04 PM  

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