20 Million Miles to Earth (1957)

20 Million Miles to Earth (1957), directed by Nathan Juran.

I loved this one as a kid. What's not to like? A giant spaceship crashes in the ocean and a kid picks up an alien egg case from which emerges a lizard-like creature which grows to gargantuan proportions, finally being hunted and killed on the walls of the Coliseum in Rome.

As an adult it's still fun, but now I tend to notice the ethnically colorful Sicilian fisherman who speak stilted English without contractions and the perfunctory romance subplot. As is usual with these creature flicks we sympathize with the alien visitor who didn't ask to be here and just wants to be left alone. Instead he is caged, attacked by a dog, pitchforked, shot, zapped with an electric net, charged by an elephant, rammed with a car, torched with a flamethrower (twice), bombed in the water and finally blasted with a bazooka.

You see several levels of image quality in a Harryhausen project: (1) direct photography, which shows quite good detail on the Blu-ray, (2) rear projection shots, which will never be as sharp or contrasty, (3) bits of stock footage from the studio, and (4) the Dynamation effects themselves, which are not realistic by today's standards, but are still weird and wonderful.

Available on Blu-ray. The angle button toggles between the b&w and colorized versions. It has a fond commentary track with Ray Harryhausen and three others. It's been so long that's he's forgotten many production details, but he really likes the colorization.

The story was originally set in Illinois but he wanted a vacation in Italy. The male lead was the only American actor to go on location. Everyone else stayed in Hollywood and worked with rear projection screens.