The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) Poster

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Rhedosaurus rampage as Harryhausen genius starts to work.
hitchcockthelegend30 April 2008
Nuclear testing out in the arctic rouses a prehistoric Rhedosaurs from its icy incarcerated sleep. It promptly lays waste to everything that gets in its path, and its next stop is New York City.

The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms stands as one of the most important of the 50s sci-fi/creature feature films that filled the screens during that particular decade. Notable for being the first picture where Ray Harryhausen had total control over the effects {and thus setting his career on an upward route}, it is also one of two pictures from 1953 that would be the first adaptations of the gifted writings of Ray Bradbury (the other being It Came from Outer Space).

Watching it now you can see just what a template movie it was to be for the genre, the perils of nuclear testing a vivid jolt of paranoia, the rugged alpha male, the svelt sexy strong lady, and of course the creature to terrify all who come into contact with it, yep it's safe to say that this picture has all the trademarks. The Rhedosaurus {completely made up name} is a wonderful creation from Harryhausen, a giant stalking lizard who sinks ships for fun, pulls down lighthouses, and has no problems about feasting on local police officers, it's safe to say that since being woken from his sleep he is in a very bad mood!. The ending is wonderful, as the giant beast finds himself cloaked in a roller-coaster with mankind fighting the good fight, a perfect finish to a hugely enjoyable picture. 8/10
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One of the All-Time Greats
Sargebri3 April 2003
This film is not only a great science fiction film, but it is also one of the most influential as well. Within a few years of its release, giant monster films began to pop up from every major studio. Everything from giant ants, tarantulas, praying mantises and gila monsters began to pop up all over the place. But, perhaps its biggest influence was felt in Japan. This film is often sighted as being the main inspiration for Gojira (Godzilla). This film is defintely a classic.
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50's monster action at its best.
chris_gaskin12331 January 2002
Ray Harryhausen's first solo effort at stop-motion resulted in one of the best monster movies of the 1950's.

This was the first of the many rampage films of the 1950's and was a great success at the box office. Ray's stop-motion Redosaurus is magnificent, considering the low budget.

One of the best scenes in this movie is where the Rhedosaurus eats the policeman. The acting is rather good and the cast includes Kenneth Tobey (The Thing From Another World) and an early appearance from Lee Van Cleef before he stared with the 'carrot' in It Conquered the World.

I enjoyed this movie and rate it 5 stars out of 5. Great stuff.
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Maybe the Best
Hitchcoc20 April 1999
I know my reviews are often based on my seeing these films for the first time in the fifties. Nevertheless, I was watching an old Charlton Heston flick based on Leinengin vs. the Ants. As the theater went dark, I saw the preview for "Beast." It was so exciting. The head of the giant rhedosaurus coming around the skyscrapers of New York, sent a chill down my nine year old spine. I couldn't wait to see this. I was not disappointed. The pacing is wonderful. The monster is not overexposed. His threatening presence is there throughout; we keep waiting for his head to break the water or push through ice. The scene at the lighthouse is part of the Bradbury story. It is a wonderful mix of awe. It sets the standard for the crowd running down the city streets screaming. Occasionally, if you look closely, you can see the smiles on the faces of the extra. Then there is that New York cop with his little pistol, challenging this thing that is a thousand times his size, giving his life to stupidity. I also like the bit where there is a witness whom everyone thinks is crazy. The amusement park conclusion is a terrific place to confront the creature. I watch this film about once a year and it still captivates me, like "Them" and "Tarantula." See it!
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"You know, being considered crazy has been quite the experience".
classicsoncall21 March 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this movie virtually back to back with "The Giant Behemoth" and I can't get over how much better this one was considering it came out six years earlier and both had the same director, Eugene Lourie. That's probably in large part due to Ray Harryhausen's animation work on this picture. One notable comparison to make is when the rhedosaurus here comes in contact with motor vehicles they actually look like real ones instead of the toy props trampled by the paleosaurus in the later picture. Very well done.

Actually the picture hooked me early on when in an opening sequence the scientists made reference to 'azimuth 63 degrees' during the atomic bomb blasts. Any sci-fi flick using the word azimuth automatically earns bonus points with me. The dinosaur didn't waste any time showing up either, that was a plus as well since many monster films try to whet your appetite with an extended build up and then tease it's appearance with quick shots or shadowy parts before the grand entrance. This beast was fully on display for a good part of the picture, which made it easy to notice that he had a singular dorsal instead of a bilateral, and you couldn't miss that cantilevric clavicle suspension. Yeah right.

You know what else was pretty cool? The film makers did a nice job of putting New York City on display with some great street scenes. Pepsi Cola was the beverage of choice on the Times Square billboard, while Clark Gable was appearing in 'Across the Wide Missouri" at one of the local theaters. Then just down the street Kirk Douglas was starring in "Detective Story" while Judy Garland was appearing in person at an All Star Show a couple of doors down. Kind of makes you wish you were around when this picture came out.

And so who do they get to bring down the prehistoric rhedosaurus? I never caught his character's name during the show but it was pretty cool to see Lee Van Cleef draw down on the monster and fire that radioactive isotope gizmo to stop him in his tracks. If you think about it though, the beast from twenty thousand fathoms went down fairly easily after taking out the roller coaster. I thought he'd at least get a crack at the Tilt a Whirl.
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This Was First
LeonLouisRicci2 June 2013
Influential in many ways. Seminal to say the least. This is the first Monster to be unleashed by the awakening awesomeness of the Atomic Bomb. This is Ray Harryhausen's first solo outing (he was Willis O'Brien's (King Kong) assistant on Mighty Joe Young (1949).

It has a crisp Black and White look and is a sharply defined matte of Monster and surroundings. From the early sets on the frozen tundra, to the depths of the Ocean, to the New York City Streets, to the Amusement Park finale, this is a beautiful low-budget Film.

There are some stiff Performances and some that are lively. It pulls few punches in its depressing display of Radioactive Paranoia. Some unforgettable Highlights include the eerie Lighthouse encounter, the viciously impressive looking Dinosaur wreaking havoc between Skyscrapers, and the Roller Coaster imprisonment and execution.

Note: Will all Godzilla and Toho fans please nod, bow, and applaud.
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Decent and Historically Important
gavin69429 April 2016
A ferocious dinosaur awakened by an Arctic atomic test terrorizes the North Atlantic and, ultimately, New York City.

When producers Dietz and Chester were negotiating with Bradbury to rewrite their screenplay, he reminded them that both works shared a similar theme of a prehistoric sea monster and a lighthouse being destroyed. The producers, who wished to share Bradbury's reputation and popularity, promptly bought the rights to his story and changed the film's title.

The film is worth watching because of the involvement of Bradbury and Ray Harryhausen, as well as having a supporting role from Lee Van Cleef. It may not be amazing, but the effects are rather good and it is a piece of 1950s science cheese that can be enjoyed if you just suspend disbelief for an hour.

Most interesting is the alleged influence this movie had on "Godzilla". This film is semi-forgotten, or at least not widely seen. But it had a dinosaur rise following an atomic blast and then destroy a city, trampling the army and electricity in its path. Sounds like Godzilla! And indeed, this was a primary influence on the Japanese monster film, which has since become one of the most culturally important films in horror / monster history. So maybe "Beast" needs to be respected just a little bit more.
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Superior F/X Sets This One Apart...
bsmith55529 September 2001
"The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms" is one of many "nuclear explosion thaws out the pre-historic monster" movies popular in the 1950's. What sets this film apart from other similarly themed films, are the superior special effects created by the legendary Ray Harryhausen.

His dinosaur is as good as you will see in any sci-fi movie. It moves without that jerky motion common in so many stop-motion monsters (i.e. King Kong). The "monster destroys the city" sequence is outstanding. There is also an excellent fight between an octopus and a shark that is very exciting. The best sequence takes place at the end of the film when the monster is cornered in an amusement park.

As in all such movies, the human actors are incidental to the plot. The German/Swiss actor Paul Christian (aka Hubschmid) plays the requisite scientist, Paula Raymond and Cecil Kellaway are the "dinosaur experts" and Kenneth Tobey and Donald Woods play the sceptical military types. There are also a number of recognizable "B" movie faces from the period such as Lee Van Cleef, Steve Brodie, Jack Pennick and James Best.

One of the best atomic monster movies from the 50s.
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A solid collaboration between the two Rays.
Hey_Sweden1 July 2014
Messrs. Harryhausen and Bradbury serve up a thoroughly enjoyable dinosaur epic with a reasonable amount of thrills and typically excellent effects work by Harryhausen. It's rather heavy on plot and dialogue for a while, so the less patient of viewers may get a little restless waiting for the next good bit of dinosaur action. However, whatever pacing issues there may be are compensated for with some wonderfully iconic shots & scenes. The lighthouse sequence in particular is a gem.

Based on the Saturday Evening Post short story "The Fog Horn" by Bradbury, this tells of an atomic test in the Arctic that unleashes a ferocious rhedosaurus from its icy tomb. It goes about doing just what you'd expect any monster to do in this type of tale, making its way to NYC for the grand finale. Nuclear physicist Tom Nesbitt (Paul Hubschmid), one of the first to glimpse the monster, must convince paleontologist Thurgood Elson (Cecil Kellaway) that he wasn't hallucinating, and also enlists the services of Jack Evans (Kenneth Tobey) in hunting down and destroying this beast.

The acting is engaging across the board, with Hubschmid very likable in the lead; Paula Raymond plays his leading lady (fortunately, hints of romance that might slow down the action further are kept to a bare minimum). Intrepid Tobey is once again terrific as the kind of hero you need in such a story, and Kellaway is delightful as the old pro who is willing to put vacation plans on hold in order to participate in a historic expedition. Donald Woods, Lee Van Cleef, Jack Pennick, Frank Ferguson, King Donovan, and an uncredited James Best can be seen among the top notch supporting cast.

The exciting amusement park finale is of course the best part, with expert marksman Van Cleef and Hubschmid taking on the beast from atop a roller coaster.

Good fun overall.

Seven out of 10.
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sferber8 August 2002
"The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms" is, quite simply, the best dinosaur-on-the-loose movie ever made. I would say "best monster-on-the-loose movie ever made" if it weren't for that King Kong guy (need we even say which version?). I loved "The Beast" when I was a little kid, and today--some 40 years later--the movie still knocks me out. Forty years ago I loved the fact that, unlike a lot of similar movies that followed in its wake, you don't have to wait a long time for the Beast to make its appearance. It shows up in the first 10 minutes of the film and makes regular appearances thereafter. The look of the creature is very realistic; one of Ray Harryhausen's greatest creations. There are so many terrific set pieces in this film that one doesn't know where to begin, but the attack on the lighthouse, beautifully done in silhouette; the initial sighting of the Beast from the bathysphere; the Beast's attack on lower Manhattan; and the grand finale at the Coney Island roller coaster are certainly all standouts. Music, acting and photography are all first rate, and the script is intelligent and moves along briskly and with purpose. But the main attraction of the movie is the Beasty himself, and every moment that he is on screen is riveting. This picture is a true classic; the inspiration for Godzilla and all the other thawed-out creatures that followed. I have seen this one over 50 times and never seem to get tired o f it. I have seen it several times on the big screen, at one of NYC's many revival theatres, and it is always greeted with cheers whenever the Beast theme begins during the opening whirlpool credits. The movie is well loved and remembered for good reason: It's the best in its class! By the way, it took me many, many years to figure out, but the Professor's last word in the diving bell is "cantileveric." 10/10
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Lee Van Cleef saves the world!
Nozze-Foto11 February 2002
This is the movie that introduced me to monster-on-the-loose pictures. Warner Brothers did not pioneer the genre; RKO started it off in 1951 with THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD. But it WAS Warner Brothers who began both the "radiation releases monster" and "radiation creates mutant monster" genre's with this film and THEM! two years later. I had never heard of Ray Harryhausen when I saw this for the first time at the tender age of 7 but I knew a scary monster when I saw it and this movie became an instant fave. Later I discovered Godzilla and could not figure out why that film had so much destruction and this one had so little. Later I learned about stop motion vs man-in-suit special effects. I also learned that Inoshiro Honda was using this film as a blueprint. Fantastic film! The first glimpse of the Beast is terrific! The destruction of the first ship is spellbinding! (That is Jack Pennick from many John Ford westerns as the shocked helmsman.) and the rampaging of The Beast through the streets of New York panicked me as a child. The only scene I did not (and still don't) care for is where the helpless blind man is knocked down and trampled by the fear crazed mob. The climax at Coney Island was amazing. I later found out the marksman in the end scenes is Lee Van Cleef who starred in so many spaghetti westerns. He actually saves the world in this movie. Well, maybe not the world, but New York anyway. I still watch this movie whenever I get a chance. When the film was new they tinted the underwater scenes where Cecil Kellaway is in the diving bell green. They did not restore the tinting to the video print and I think that was a mistake. Maybe when the movie gets to DVD they will do so. Don't miss your chance to discover this film. You will enjoy it.
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Forget about Jurassic Park...
Coventry6 August 2003
To hell with over-budgeted movies like Jurassic Park, Godzilla, Reign of Fire and God knows which others...Sure you can watch those with your mouth wide wide open wondering what great computer specialists are behind this but...where's the LOVE ??? If you're looking for charming monster films, turn back your clock towards the 50's. Without a doubt the greatest decade for movies like this. Tons of movies like this one were made back then but every single title was made with a lot of love. Them! , the Swarm and the Giant Spider Invasion are probably the best known ones. The Beast from 20.000 Fathoms handles about a ... dinosaur !!! A rethosaurus, aged one million years, comes to live again. It got frozen during the change of the eras and now, because of the enormous heat of a nuclear experiment, it's back . The creature ( about as big as a skyscraper ) goes directly into the ocean. He attacks a few boats and the people who claimed to have seen him are called crazy in the beginning...( can you blame them ? ). But, when our dinosaur sets foot in New York, the city faces the biggest terror it ever saw. The Beast is definitely not the best monster movie coming from the 50's, but still. If you admire the older days of cinema more as well, you'll love it a hell of a lot more than then nowadays stuff. The creature is well made, but it shouldn't move too much. The fight shown between the shark and the octopus is really impressive, that must be said. The ants in Them! were a lot more real, but hey, this fella is ten times as big. Lovely B-movie fun
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A 'Theseasaurus' visits NY
bkoganbing4 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms is a real science fiction pleaser in which Ray Harryhausen invents his own creature, a Theseasarus. Say it quickly and it sounds like a reference book. In fact Harryhausen liked this one so much he used it again in a few films. Check some of his future work out and see what I mean. He had many cousins.

Talk about global warming our military is conducting atomic tests in the Arctic Ocean and a hydrogen bomb blast awakens this creature from a long several million year slumber. Theseasaurus wakes up and heads for the only place where his fossils have been found, the Hudson Valley which is probably the Theseasaurus burial ground.

Scientist Paul Hubschmid sees the thing after it wakes up, but nobody believes him at first. As other incidents occur he gains some converts which include paleontologists Cecil Kellaway and Paula Raymond. The military also gets involved in the persons of Kenneth Tobey and Donald Woods.

It won't be easy to bring old Thesee down because when they do wound him contact with his blood is infecting anyone who comes near with some millions of years old germs which have died out and man has no immunity to. But our military is capable.

When I first saw The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms decades ago I was scared out of my wits when Cecil Kellaway and a navy yeoman go down in a diving bell to observe the creature and midst description, the bell is swallowed whole in one gulp. Looking at it now I think how stupid is this, to be absolutely helpless in that bell, why would you do it in the first place. Saying that though it still is one of the most frightening moments I've ever seen in any science fiction film.

Issues like global warming and cryogenic freezing are actually if superficially dealt with in The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. Even with its mythical dinosaur, the film still is marvelous fright entertainment.
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Classic 1950s Sci-Fi film
vtcavuoto9 September 2005
Beast from 20,000 Fathoms is based on a Ray Bradbury story. An atomic explosion unleashes a dinosaur( don't these atomic tests ALWAYS cause something to wake up?) in the Artic. A scientist witnesses the dinosaur but nobody believes him. A professor helps locate the beast and finally the beast is destroyed at Coney Island. I don't want to give too much away in case you want to view it. The acting is very good. Two of my favorite B-movie actors are in this: Kenneth Tobey and Cecil Kelloway. Ray Harryhausen's effects are terrific. Eugene Lourie does a good job directing. The pace of the film keeps the viewer interested. This was the inspiration for Godzilla(1954-Toho Studios). This is a classic B-movie from the 50s that you will enjoy.
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Probably the only science fiction film where you get not only a dinosaur, but a ballet!
mark.waltz2 May 2020
Warning: Spoilers
The Redosaurus is the Esther Williams of dinosaurs, being able to swim long distances like Esther did in "Dangerous When Wet". But unlike Esther just swimming the English channel, this creature comes all the way from the frozen Arctic, blasted out of its grave of many millenniums, and heading to New York City where ironically it's ancestors lived. The shoppers at the Fulton Street fish market are beyond horrified when this creature comes out of the East River and swallows a cop whole. This ridiculous police officer approaches the dinosaur with such arrogance that its quite rewarding to see this happen, and I couldn't help but think that the dinosaur was saying to itself, "Well I'll get you anyway pee-wee". Earlier in the film, scientists Paul Hubschmid and Cecil Kellaway are in a submarine in the middle of the ocean where they see a fight between a shark and an octopus, and the sudden arrival of the dinosaur. It is an amazing effect that still holds up today.

This is indeed as one of the great science fiction films of the 1950's (up there with "The Thing"and "Them" (among several others), certainly better than many other dinosaur films made around the same time. it is the true that magical touch of special effects guru Ray Harryhausen in his film debut that makes the spectacular because every situation is painstakingly planned out so the film does not look cheesy or having the special effects look like blue screen added in the background.

You got more than just a passing glimpse of the monster, and fortunately, the film is not overshadowed with subplots that distract from the creativity and slow the film down. The conclusion in an amusement park is exciting, especially as it is revealed that the monsters blood is contaminated and could spread disease which makes the film more suspenseful. it is obvious that they took some time to think about the entire film as a whole, and obviously with all the decisions workout in the film's best interest.
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A piece of sci-fi history.
G.Spider15 May 2001
The first true Harryhausen films, and it's a real landmark film, the first of the atomic age monster movies (and one which led to the creation of a certain Japanese monster).

Atomic tests in the arctic release a prehistoric beast which has been trapped in the ice for millions of years. In no time the mysterious creature is wrecking havoc, but sceptical scientists refuse to believe in the existence of such a thing.

In common with a lot of Harryhausen's creations, the Beast itself has a real character, is a believable animal rather than just a monster. The film is cleverly-written and the characters are well-thought-out. A first-rate tale.
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Still brings a tear to my eye
shugaron3162 October 2005
When I was a kid,I would cry every time I saw the ending of this movie.I couldn't help feeling sorry for the monster,dying alone in a world he never knew. Ray Harryhausen was at his best when he designed the Rhedosaurus. This was a monster with a personality,and dare I say it,charm? Every little movement of the beast almost made you think you were watching an actual living creature,and not some stop motion puppet,like the awful Giant Behemoth. My favorites: the beast sniffing at the lighthouse before he knocks it down;the way he playfully bats at the wrecked car he stepped on,when he turns his back and lashes his tail at the shotgun toting cops,even the way it squints its eyes in the sun.The death scene was well done,and the music,as the flaming roller coaster collapses behind the beast's dead body,still sends a chill up my spine. The worst part of the movie was the casting,especially the male and female leads. Paul Christian's accent is almost impossible to understand at times,and his acting is wooden.Paula Raymond may seem pretty by '50's standards,but I think she has a pronounced overbite and adenoids,the way her mouth is always hanging open! Her acting was also pretty limp.Cecil Kelloway was a delight,as usual,and Ken Tobey was unusually restrained,not trying to hit on Raymond,as he seemed to do in most of his movies. The funniest line in the movie was Kelloway asking Tobey:"What makes you think there are no flying saucers?"(A dig at Tobey's role in The Thing.)Still in all,this is timeless sci-fi classic that holds up well,even today.
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ferbs5426 June 2018
Warning: Spoilers
As I have mentioned elsewhere, it is a keynote of all the films that appear on my personal Top 100 Films list that they are capable of bearing up under repeated viewings with undiminished enjoyment. And indeed, of those 100 films, many of them have been seen by yours truly dozens of times, if not more, with just as much pleasure as when I saw each picture for the very first time. But of all those films, the one that I have probably sat down with the most is "The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms."

A bit of personal history here: When I was a kid, growing up in 1960s NYC, we only had perhaps a half dozen television stations to choose from. There were the big three, of course--CBS, NBC and ABC--in addition to two or three local stations, one of which was WOR, channel 9. As memory serves, WOR only had a single program that it showed repeatedly, all week long; a little something called "The Million Dollar Movie." Thus, what the station would do is select a film and play it over and over and over, all day long, for an entire week! Thus, if you happened to find a movie that you really liked a lot, you could conceivably watch it up to 30 or 40 times a week...which is precisely what this viewer tried to do, when it came to such films as "Hercules" (1958), "House on Haunted Hill" (1959) and yes, "The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms." As a kid, this last item was a particular favorite. Back then, I loved the fact that we didn't have to wait too long to see the monster in this film; it appears within the first 10 minutes and makes regular appearances thereafter. The film was a knockout for me back in the '60s, and it remains so to this day. I have now seen this picture not only on television, but on VHS, DVD and in the theater--many multiple times for each--and it never fails to awe. When seen theatrically, the film is always greeted with cheers whenever the Beast theme begins during the opening whirlpool credits. The Warner Bros. movie is well loved and remembered for good reason: It's the best in its class. This is, quite simply, the finest dinosaur-on-the-loose movie ever made; I would say "finest monster-on-the-loose movie ever made" if it weren't for that King Kong fella (need I even mention which version?). The picture is a true classic; the inspiration for the Japanese "Gojira" film the following year and all the other thawed-out creatures that followed. It is one of the true champs of 1950s sci-fi (one of my favorite film genres, by the way) and the granddaddy of the "radioactive-creature-on-the-loose" movie, leading to such films as "Them!" (1954, and another Warner Bros. hit), "Tarantula" (1955), "The Monster That Challenged the World," "The Deadly Mantis" and "Beginning of the End" (all from 1957) and so many others. It is, to be succinct, a seminal film.

"The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms" was initially released on June 13, 1953. Not surprisingly, it was a smash hit, bringing in around $5 million at the box office after having been put together for a mere $200,000 (not a "million dollar movie" by quite a long shot!). Based on a short story by Ray Bradbury, "The Fog Horn," which first appeared in a 1951 issue of "The Saturday Evening Post," the film was helmed by former art director/set decorator Eugene Lourie, who would go on--after this, his first film as a director--to bring in such lesser (although still terrific) baby-boomer dinosaur favorites as "The Giant Behemoth" (1959) and "Gorgo" (1961). As most of us know by now, the film opens in the desolate Arctic, where an A bomb test is being conducted. After the test is successfully carried out, Prof. Tom Nesbitt (appealingly played by Swiss actor Paul Christian, who sometimes went by the name Paul Hubschmid) goes to the blast area, Geiger counter in hand, to check on the results, only to discover that an enormous prehistoric monster, the (fictional) rhedosaurus, has been released by the explosion. The Beast promptly causes an avalanche of ice and snow to descend upon him, nearly killing the amazed professor. Back in the U.S., Nesbitt tries his darnedest to make the authorities believe what he has seen...with the expected results. Finally, in exasperation, he approaches one of the world's foremost paleontologists, Dr. Thurgood Elson (played with twinkly charm by the great character actor Cecil Kellaway), who works in (what I have always assumed to be) the Museum of Natural History, along with his pretty assistant, Lee Hunter (Paula Raymond). But even Dr. Elson is dubious about his claim, until the evidence begins to mount up, as the Beast slowly makes its way from the Arctic, on down the north Atlantic, and finally, into the heart of NYC.

There are so many outstanding set pieces in this wonderful film that it is difficult to know where to begin, but the Beast's attack on the lighthouse, beautifully done in silhouette, is surely one of them; a veritable work of cinematic art. Other remarkable sequences include the sighting of the Beast from a bathysphere (by the way, it took me many decades to figure this out, but the word that Dr. Elson uses, right before his demise in that bathysphere, is "cantileveric"); the Beast's attack on lower Manhattan (surely one of the most exciting sequences in the history of the sci-fi film); and the grand finale at what is supposed to be the Coney Island roller coaster, although this segment was in truth filmed in Long Beach, California (few moments in sci-fi are as thrilling as when sharpshooter Corporal Stone, played by the young Lee van Cleef, sights the gaping wound in the Beast's neck and fires a radioactive-isotope harpoon into it!). The music in the film (by one David Buttolph), the acting by one and all, and the noirish B&W photography are all first rate, and the script--cowritten by Lourie, Fred Freiberger, Louis Morheim and Robert Smith--is an intelligent one, moving along briskly and with purpose (the film clocks in at a superefficient 80 minutes).

But it is the Beast itself that is the star of this show, and for good reason. Brought to immortal life by the great stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen, here in control of his very first project, this is one monster that actually looks intimidatingly frightening, moves realistically, and has seeming life and personality. How horrifying it is when the Beast breaks the so-called "fourth wall" by looking directly into the camera and curling its upper lip in a malevolent sneer! Harryhausen had been mentored by no less a figure than Willis "King Kong" O'Brien, and had assisted him with the special effects in the 1949 film "Mighty Joe Young," but it was on "The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms" that Harryhausen was given full charge of technical effects for the first time, and his work here is among his very best. Harryhausen would of course go on to have a near-legendary career, and his "Dynamation" effects would figure largely in such beloved favorites as "Earth vs. the Flying Saucers" (1956),"The Black Scorpion" and "20 Million Years to Earth" (both from 1957), "Mysterious Island" (1961), "Jason and the Argonauts" (1963, and featuring that mind-boggling skeleton army!!!) and "Clash of the Titans" (1981), but I don't believe he ever bettered his work than in this, his first film as effects supervisor. To be sure, the look of the Beast is very realistic, and is one of Harryhausen's greatest creations. Every moment that the rhedosaurus is on screen is absolutely riveting, and not even the ILM crew working on the "Jurassic Park" films has ever made a prehistoric monster come to life more realistically. Truly a film for the ages, "The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms" is the perfect movie to watch with your favorite 8-year-old nephew, or to just enjoy for the 60th time by yourself. As for me, I can't wait to see it yet again. It's just THAT good....
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Hail, Hail Harryhausen! Sat.matinee/morning tv classic!
george.schmidt27 February 2003
THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953) **1/2 Better than average giant monster on the rampage flick about a dinosaur awakened by atomic testing in the Arctic with the usual death and destruction. Based on a short story by sci-fi author Ray Bradbury. Satisfactory stop-motion animation by special effects icon Ray Harryhausen and look sharp for Lee Van Cleef at the film's climax at Coney Island (!) **real trivia nugget: Van Cleef's future co-star Clint Eastwood also had a similar role in the '50s big bug run amok classic "Tarantula" where he was the pilot of the bomber plane that wipes out the awesome arachnid.
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Attack of the Rhedosaurus
clydestuff31 July 2004
If one is in need of a good laugh, there is no better place to start than by watching many of the creature features churned out in the fifties and sixties. Why else do we sit down to watch such perfectly awful schlock like The Giant Gila Monster or The Giant Claw? It is the total ineptitude of the film making process involved in putting those films onto celluloid that makes them endearing to us in their own special way. There were however, a few films of the era that somehow managed to rise above total mediocrity enough so that we can watch them simply because they are decent well made films. This is not to say they are any kind of spectacular cinematic achievement, but in comparison to the usual dreck of that era, they shine like the North Star.

The Beast from 20, 000 Fathoms is a giant dinosaur that has spent the last few million years as a perpetual frozen Popsicle. When some scientists start monkeying around with nuclear testing as they often did in these types of film, the beast does a quick thaw, and wakes up mighty darn hungry. When scientist Tom Nesbitt (Paul Christian) witnesses the creature, and his companion becomes dinosaur fodder, nobody believes him of course, attributing it to delusional traumatic distress, known more commonly in the fifties as hallucinations. Just as Tom is also about to chalk the whole thing up to delirium, he reads about a boat being attacked by a giant sea serpent. It is then that he enlists the aid of Paleontologist Professor Thurgood Elson (Cecil Kellaway), and his assistant Lee (Paula Raymond). The old professor says no dice, it just ain't happening. Lee, however, seems to be hot for Tom's heavy Swiss accent and has him look through some dinosaur mug shots to see if he can identify the beast. After a quick scene in which they let us know that if this film were being made in 2004, Tom and Lee would be looking at the pictures in the bedroom instead of just making eye contact, Tom identifies the beast as a Rhedosaurus. Lest you decide to go looking up what a Rhedosaurus is in the Dinosaur Almanac, I'll save you the trouble by telling you it's a complete figment of the imagination of the writers and animator Ray Harryhausen. From here the chase is on, and eventually the Rhedosaurus decides to homestead in New York City.

There are several reasons why Beast stands out as a cut above normal. Though the script contains the usual inane dialog one expects, the fact that Tom and Lee come up with a decent intelligent plan to prove its existence helps a great deal. There is also the fact that they actually give us a reason as to why the Rhedosaurus is moving down the Atlantic coast instead of making it all seem like random attacks. Foremost, and most importantly, the film works because of the animation of Harryhausen. Forced by a low budget to do all the work on animating the Rhedosaurus by himself, Harryhausen does a terrific job at bringing the beast to life, despite the fact that at times its size changes to fit the scene it happens to be in. After this film, Harryhausen did all of his animations working alone until Clash of the Titans where for the first time he required the help of assistants. It makes one almost regret the use of CGI in films today, as the animations by Harryhausen always had a certain kind of charm to them. Despite continually being saddled with low budgets (the entire budget for Beast was $200,000), Harryhausen could always be counted on to bring a certain amount of class to many of these films that would have otherwise ended up as just another vehicle for Mystery Science Theater. It should also be mentioned that Director Lourie who spent most of his career as an art director and production designer, does a terrific job in the Arctic Scenes, and especially in the New York scenes as soldiers following a trail of Rhedosaurus blood are overcome by radiation sickness.

There are of course the usual bits of silliness that seem to go with the territory. Professor Elson gives a running commentary as he discovers the Rhedosaurus while in a diving bell though he is quite oblivious to the fact that the creature has decided to make him today's appetizer. Likewise a New York policeman uselessly empties sidearm before experiencing his own private version of an esophagus water slide.

As for the acting, it's nothing terribly outstanding but still much better than what you usually get. Cecil Kellaway was always good in roles such as these and his presence alone will lift any film a notch or two. Some may complain about the woodenness of Christian and his Swiss accent, but I found his acting to be quite adequate and was actually glad of the accent as it seemed to add a little more to the character. As for Raymond, she's fine too but could have used a little help in the wardrobe department as one particular dress she wears is too hideous for any film of any decade. Other than that though, she's quite good.

Best of all, Beast is available on DVD and if you are inclined to revisit these old films this is one definitely worth a purchase. And believe it or not, the DVD also has a few extras on it, including previews of other Harryhausen films, an interview with Harryhausen, and a section where Harryhausen and Ray Bradbury reminisce about the good old days. While it may not seem like much, it is infinitely more than you usually get for these kinds of films.

Beast will never win any kind of the accolades reserved for films of obviously better quality, but for me it's just good enough that one can watch and enjoy simply because it is a step or two up from what you might expect. And if you're a step or two up I have no choice but to give you my grade which for Beast from 20,000 fathoms is a B.
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Special effects classic with a great script
rosco194715 January 2001
For 1953 - are you kidding? Nothing since King Kong in the early 1930`s came close to this one. My Dad took me to the old New York Paramount in Times Square to see this - I was six or seven. Like King Kong, even a seven year old knew that this animal was simply out of his element. A necessary but sad ending. This was a great time for a seven year old as "THEM", "WAR OF THE WORLDS" and "THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS" all came out within, I believe, two years of each other. You`ve got to see all three!!
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It's a Great Movie but Won't Be for Everyone
TheRedDeath3023 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I love classic horror films. I watch a lot of them, so I have grown an appreciation for them. I can tolerate older styles of acting and film making that I recognize a lot of newer fans will not appreciate. That doesn't make their tastes any better or worse than mine, just different. There are some classic movies that I would recommend to anyone and everyone. A movie like FRANKENSTEIN or THE THING is just so classic and timeless that anyone should love it. There are the bottom end classic horrors, like the Universal sequels that I would acknowledge are really for lovers of the genre only and wouldn't expect Joe Public to like, at all. This movie fits somewhere in the middle of those two categories. It is not going to be loved by everyone. That's okay. On the other hand, there is a lot that's really enjoyable about this movie that makes me believe it is not just for the drive-in junkies either.

Of course, what will always get talked about the most with this movie is the special effects. That may be a good or a bad thing. I cannot imagine my 17-year old nephew, for example, looking at this movie and thinking "those effects kick butt". For those who can appreciate the history of a genre, though. For those who can look at a movie like this and see the landmark effect that it had on things to come, there is a lot to love here.

The movie reminds me a great deal of THE THING at the beginning. A group of scientists at work in the arctic, testing weaponry. The massive explosions that they set off have the undesired effect of unlocking a prehistoric monster from its' frozen hibernation (we'll ask you to ignore what you know of cold-blooded physiology and the fact that the animal would never wake up again. That's not relevant if you suspend belief). Naturally, nobody believes the first person who sees the monster, even after leaves the arctic and sinks a ship. Seems nobody will believe our hero until the giant lizard shows up in the Big Apple ready to destroy some stuff.

The movie definitely shows its' 50sness (yes, I made up a word). We get a lot of scientific mumbo jumbo and scenes of theorizing that attempt to make the plot seem possible for the audience. Seemed every 50s film from CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON to MOLE PEOPLE shares this trait. It's the kind of a movie where military men will suddenly take orders from a random scientist and his involve his secretary girlfriend in their plans for no other reason than because they are the main stars of the movie.

None of that is important, though, if you can have some imagination. What is really important, here, are the effects. Harryhausen took what he learned from his early age, working on KING KONG, and applied it to created a monster that is far superior to most of what you'll see in 50s monster movies. The monster moves fairly believably. It looks great and it blends in with the background scenery as well as can be expected for its' era. The movie was a monumental impact on the creation of GOJIRA a year later and the entire kaiju genre. For us monster junkies, that in itself, makes this movie legendary.
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A decent monster movie.
13Funbags9 May 2017
Once again, atomic bomb testing has awakened an ancient monster.That's an extremely over used plot device but considering that this came out in 1953, there's a good possibility that this was the first movie to do it.Of course Ray Harryhausen's special effects are awesome.The beast is a rather generic looking lizard but the stop motion animation is top notch.My only problem with this movie is that the entire first half is just the first guy who saw the beast trying to convince other people that it really exists.But as soon he convinces the elderly scientist, you know what that old man is going to do.You should watch this and all Ray Harryhausen movies.
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The monster is great--but he's hardly in the movie!
preppy-312 March 2010
An atomic blast in the arctic awakens a prehistoric dinosaur. It makes it's way underwater down to the East Coast and attacks New York city. Prof. Tom Nesbitt (played by Swedish film actor Paul Christian), his obligatory love interest (Paula Raymond) and Prof. Thurgood Elson (Cecil Kellaway) try to figure out how to destroy it.

The first of the "giant creature awakened by an atom bomb" movie of the 1950s. It was a big hit but doesn't look too good today. The special effects are still impressive but the monster itself is hardly in the movie. Out of the 80 minute running time he's in maybe a grand total of 20! Still it isn't a total washout. I do like the fact that it's made clear that the monster is radioactive and that a drop of its blood could kill a human (this was totally ignored in later pictures). All the acting is good--Raymond plays a very strong intelligent woman (unusual for an 1950s film), old pro Kellaway gives his small role depth and Swedish actor Christian is tall, handsome and dynamic in his role (although I admit his accent was a little distracting). Also the monster itself is just great--one of the first jobs by the legendary Ray Harryhausen. Harryhausen somehow gave the monster a personality and I felt a little sad when the big guy got killed at the end (I really don't think that's a big plot spoiler). Still there's a LOT of time wasting dialogue that no actor could make interesting. I can only give this a 5. Look for a then unknown Lee Van Cleef and Kenneth Tobey (from "The Thing").
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Ray Harryhausen special
SnoopyStyle5 May 2017
The American military is on Operation Experiment in the high arctic. They denote a nuclear bomb which thaws out a gigantic dinosaur. Professor Tom Nesbitt encounters the beast but no one believes him. He is evacuated back home while the beast inevitably moves south. It leaves a trail of destruction and reaches New York City.

Everything screams 50's sci-fi B-movie. The story is nothing special. The acting is mostly stiff and so is the directing. That is everything except Ray Harryhausen's work. This is his early stop-motion model animation and it is exquisite. The giant lizard eating the NY policeman is a major signpost in the field of special effects. It is cutting edge work brilliantly done by a fledgling master.
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