Friday, August 01, 2014


What I watched on my summer holidays in Italy, three Harryhausens and a macaroni war epic:

It Came From Beneath the Sea: Giant octopus monsterflick. At first I was hopeful that it would be a kind of American Gojira, since at first we're told that this gigantism is the result of nuclear testing; however, by the climax of the film they've changed their minds and it's apparently a normal thing. The government naturally wants to destroy it, and what's surprising is that the scientists all have no problem with this-- no Gojira-style moralising where one scientist wants to kill it with fire and the other one argues that it has a perfect right to live. The giant tentacles are cool but there's not enough of them.

Earth Versus the Flying Saucers: A strange one this-- a 1950s America where everyone is on a military footing, and yet the Soviet Union doesn't seem to exist (apart from a brief bit of stock footage when the aliens broadcast their ultimatum to the people of Earth). In the real world, satellites going missing and strange flying craft sighted would be enough to set off Bay of Pigs six years too early, but here, they're unproblematically down to the aliens. Again, we have scientists who are remarkably incurious about the extraterrestrials, agreeing with the military that they have to be destroyed and not even considering the ethical ramifications of this.

20 Million Miles to Earth: Arguably the most nuanced and interesting of the three Harryhausen films, in which the Americans have somehow managed to conduct a secret mission to Venus, and bring back one of the natives, who promptly escapes after the spaceship crashes off the Sicilian coast and goes on a rampage which culminates in the destruction of the Coliseum and the zoological gardens in Borgia Park. Somehow none of this sparks any kind of international incident-- possibly this takes place in the same Sovietless universe as the previous film, but even then you'd think that there'd be a few sharp telegrams flying between Rome and Washington at least. One's sympathies are firmly with the Venusian, though the humans are a little more interestingly characterised this time, and for once neither the scientists nor the military are out to kill it with fire (the Italian police are, but that's another story).
Eagles Over London: An Italian film about the Battle of Britain, well, sort of. It takes such hilarious liberties with history (apparently there was an American in charge of the RAF, the Battle of Britain was fought in a single night using the entire British air force, there was an army of German agents infiltrating every single British installation...) that one can't help but love it. Also a nicely sobering reminder about the liberties we take with other people's histories.

Movie count for 2014: 40