20 Million Miles to Earth (a.k.a. The Beast from Space) is a 1957 American black-and-white science fiction giant monster film, produced by Charles H. Schneer's Morningside Productions for Columbia Pictures, directed by Nathan H. Juran, that stars William Hopper, Joan Taylor, and Frank Puglia. The screenplay was written by Bob Williams and Christopher Knopf from an original treatment by Charlott Knight. As with several other Schneer-Columbia collaborations, the film was developed to showcase the stop-motion animation of Ray Harryhausen.
Calder's spacecraft carried a sealed metal container bearing an unborn Venusian species. As police divers begin to search for it, McIntosh offers a reward for the capsule's recovery, prompting Pepe to lead them to the empty container. When Pepe tells them that he sold the mass to Dr. Leonardo, McIntosh and Calder pursue him.
That night, Leonardo discovers that the creature has grown to human size. Soon after, it breaks out of the cage and flees. Confused, the beast blunders onto a nearby farm, terrorizing the animals. The creature eats sulfur and rips open several bags it discovers. While feeding, the creature encounters the farm dog and kills it, alerting the farmer. Calder and the others reach the barn, trapping the beast inside. Calder explains that the creature is not dangerous unless provoked. However, he immediately provokes it by trying to prod the creature into a cage, and it injures the farmer when he stabs it with a pitchfork. After the creature breaks out of the barn and disappears into the countryside, the police commissario insists that it be destroyed.
After the Italian government grants Calder permission to capture the creature, he devises a plan to ensnare it in a giant electric net dropped from a helicopter. The Italian police conduct their own pursuit, shooting at it with flamethrowers. Aware that sulfur is the creature's food of choice, Calder uses it as bait, luring the creature to a secluded site and subduing it with an electric jolt from the net. Later, at the American Embassy in Rome, McIntosh briefs the press corps and allows three reporters to view the creature, which has been placed in the Rome Zoo. There, Calder explains that the creature is being sedated with a continuous electric shock so it can be studied. Marisa, who is aiding her uncle, begins flirting with Calder. Suddenly, electrical equipment shorts out and the creature awakens.
Now huge, the creature battles an elephant and sends the panicked patrons scurrying. Taking their fight to the streets of Rome, the two destroy cars and damage buildings. The creature finally kills the elephant and continues its rampage. Calder tracks the beast to the River Tiber, where it submerges. Grenades are lobbed into the river, and it surfaces. It heads for the Colosseum and destroys an ancient temple, killing many soldiers. As the creature disappears into the ruins, Calder charges after it with a group of bazooka-carrying soldiers, driving it to the top of the structure. Calder scores a direct bazooka hit, then fires a second time and scores another critical hit, and the creature plunges to its death. A relieved Marisa runs into Calder's arms.
20 Million Miles to Earth was in production in Rome, Italy in September 1956, using only William Hopper of the main cast, and in the U.S. from October 30 to November 9 of that year. Rome was chosen as the location for filming because Harryhausen wanted to vacation there. The working title of the film was The Giant Ymir, and it has also been released as The Beast from Space. All references to the name Ymir were removed from the released version of the film, as Harryhausen was concerned that audiences might confuse it with the Arabic title "Emir".
Ray Harryhausen wanted the film to be shot in color, but the filmmakers were not given a budget large enough to accommodate color film. In 2007, five years after the death of the film's director, Harryhausen worked with restoration and colorization company Legend Films to create a colorized version of the film. That version, along with the original theatrical black-and-white version, was released as part of a 50th Anniversary Edition of the film on July 31, 2007.
There are minor differences between the two versions. One example: the black-and-white version begins in "A Fishing Village in Sicily", not Sperlonga, Italy.
It was the first of three collaborations between Harryhausen, Schneer and Nathan Juran. Juran only directed the American sequences - Schneer and Harryhausen directed the Italian ones.
20 Million Miles to Earth has an 80% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on ten reviews. Marco Lanzagorta of PopMatters gave the film nine out of ten stars, calling it "required viewing for those interested in modern cinema."
Time Out wrote, "Don't worry about the dotty script or cardboard performances - just sit back and watch this gelatinous blob in action"; while the Radio Times called it "one of animation master Ray Harryhausen's best fantasy films, and his own personal favourite. The snake-tailed giant Ymir monster is also one of Harryhausen's finest creations: it has a well-defined personality and manages to evoke sympathy for its bewildered plight. The Ymir's fight with an elephant and the Roman locations - especially the climactic Colosseum battle - add unique touches to this minor classic."
The four-issue comic book mini-series 20 Million Miles More (2008), released by TidalWave Productions as part of their Ray Harryhausen Signature Series, picked up the story 50 years after the events of the film. A preview of the first issue was included on the 50th Anniversary DVD release of the film.