The movie turned up on TCM the other night, and I couldn't resist taking a look. The plot is typically goofy. A U.S. spaceship returns from Venus and crashes off the coast of Sicily. Nobody notices but a few humble fisherfolk, who manage to rescue three of the crew, including Our Hero, played by stalwart William Hopper. The spaceship sinks, but wouldn't you know that a cylinder containing a tiny specimen of Venusian life washes up on the beach, where a boy finds it. He takes the specimen to a zoologist, who's intrigued by it, and who's surprised when it has a rapid growth spurt.
The Venusian life form, the Ymir, gets really big, really fast. The earth's atmosphere seems to be good for it, whereas the Venusian atmosphere is poisonous to humans. So we need to study the Ymir and find out what's different about it if we want the riches of Venus, which we do.
The Ymir is destructive because it's lost and puzzled and provoked (naturally the first reaction of everyone is to kill it). They don't kill it, however, and it's captured and taken to Rome, where it escapes, fights an elephant, and gets to mess up some landmarks. Its last stand is at the Coliseum. What do we learn from all of this? Here are the movie's final lines: "Why is it always, always so costly for Man to move from the present to the future?"
The Ymir was a Ray Harryhausen creation, and it's great, certainly worth seeing the movie for. And the movie itself is quite an interesting time capsule. 1957 really was a different world from 2017. Only two people, a general and a doctor, are sent from the U.S. to the site of the spaceship crash. Nobody outside the little Sicilian fishing village even knows about the crash, apparently. There are no reporters, no other officials, nobody. In fact the mission was a big secret, and when an Italian diplomat is informed of it, he thinks the mission was to Venice (hilarity was rampant in the '50s). I have a feeling an audience of people under 40 would find the movie an artifact as puzzling as something from the time of Homer. I loved it in 1957, though, and I retain some of that affection even now.