Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, The (1953)

“Two people don’t share the same hallucination!”

beast-from-20000-fathoms-poster

Synopsis:
While conducting nuclear research in the Arctic Circle, a scientist (Paul Christian) is nearly killed by a giant prehistoric monster but struggles to get his story believed by either the military (led by Kenneth Tobey) or a top scientist (Cecil Kellaway). Kellaway’s beautiful assistant (Paula Raymond) is convinced Christian’s story may be true, and helps him corroborate it by meeting with a sea captain (Donald Woods) who also saw the beast — but can the radioactive, 100-million-year-old Rhedosaurus, steadily heading south, be stopped before it destroys New York City?

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary writes, the appearance of “cinema’s first monster unleashed by atomic explosions” — very loosely based on (or inspired by) a short story by Ray Bradbury — is a “minor horror movie”, but “boasts exciting special effects by Ray Harryhausen, who had absolute control for the first time in his career”. The opening sequences set in the Arctic Circle are eerily riveting, with blizzard conditions accentuating the sense of hidden menace — but Peary rightfully points out that “far too much of [the screenplay] is spent finding evidence to support Christian’s claim that the monster exists”. And while Christian and Raymond (a “rare smart woman in fifties SF”) might be a “pleasing couple”, their budding relationship is too inevitable and cliched for modern audiences to appreciate. However, this is all just filler before the final, high-octane portion of the film kicks into gear, as “the monster attacks a lighthouse” (the cinematographic effects are quite stunning during this sequence), “scientist Cecil Kellaway takes a diving bell to the ocean floor in search of the monster”, and “the beast romps through New York City”, with a “lively climax in an amusement park”.

Note: Be sure to read TCM’s article for interesting background info on how the widespread re-release of King Kong (1933) in 1952 sparked the creation of Beast…, which itself eventually led to the Godzilla franchise.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • The exciting opening sequence in the Arctic Circle
    beast-arctic-opening
  • Impressive early Harryhausen special effects
    beast-rhedosaurus
  • The climactic finale
    beast-finale

Must See?
Yes, for its historical relevance and exciting action sequences.

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One Response to “Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, The (1953)”

  1. As part of the series featuring Harryhausen’s work this, alas, runs more along the lines of ’20 Million Miles to Earth’, as opposed to the superior ‘Earth vs. the Flying Saucers’.

    Therefore, it’s not really must-see unless you’re a die-hard Harryhausen fan. Yes, his work is commendable but the film itself, although not *as* terrible as ’20 Million Miles…’ is still rather tedious. And talky. Very talky. Much too talky.

    There’s enough exposition for a Russian novel. Cripes. If there had been more respect for Harryhauasen’s remarkable contribution, there would have been a better script. But apparently the producers thought the effects would carry and save the film.

    Not in my opinion.

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