Beast From 20,000 Fathoms

Beast From 20,000 Fathoms

4.5 4

Cast: Eugène Lourié, Paul Christian, Paula Raymond, Cecil Kellaway


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Easily the most enjoyable dinosaur-on-the-loose movie ever made, Eugène Lourié and Ray Harryhausen's The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953) was also one of the most influential, helping to spawn Toho's Gojira/Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1954) and two subsequent Lourié-directed efforts, the The Giant Behemoth (1959) and Gorgo (1961)See more details below


Easily the most enjoyable dinosaur-on-the-loose movie ever made, Eugène Lourié and Ray Harryhausen's The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953) was also one of the most influential, helping to spawn Toho's Gojira/Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1954) and two subsequent Lourié-directed efforts, the The Giant Behemoth (1959) and Gorgo (1961). The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, however, was different from the rest because no one had made a movie like it since King Kong, 20 years earlier; and unlike Kong, which was the work of a major studio, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms was made independently, completely as a speculative effort, and then sold to Warner Bros. as a finished film. It went on to become the highest-grossing movie issued by the studio in 1953, and paved the way for Warner Bros.' own production of Them! (1954), directed by Gordon Douglas, which incorporated the earlier movie's use of atomic testing as the basis for the horrific events that follow. The Warner DVD is the probably the best presentation that this movie has had outside of a theater, transferred (full-frame, 1.33:1) about as sharply as one could wish. Moreover, the audio has a clarity and volume level that bring out subtleties in David Buttolph's score, as in the scene in which one doomed scientist trudges up an icy slope ten minutes into the movie. There's a haunting, other-worldly quality to the shots of the rhedosaurus, struggling and bellowing amid the arctic wastes in which it has found itself, suddenly reawakened by the atomic blast, that comes through better here than anywhere except in a theater. You can see the sweat on Paul Christian's skin in a medium shot as he ponders his condition in the hospital, his character having just been assured that he has hallucinated the whole incident with the dinosaur. There is a momentary instance of some brief corrected-frame damage in a non-special effects sequence at 32 minutes in, but generally, this is a superb transfer. In the attack on the lighthouse at 44 minutes in, you can even see the water glisten off the skin on the dinosaur in what is otherwise a silhouette in the moonlight. The care taken in the transfer pays off in the scenes set in New York City, as the rhedosaurus comes ashore -- there is more detail in these scenes than has ever been visible before, and one can only marvel all the more at the methods used to make these scenes work. The denouement in the night-shrouded wreckage at Coney Island is even more visually impressive; the image is at least twice as crisp as that of the laserdisc -- so sharp, that you can make out the faces behind the masks of the radiation-protection gear being worn. The chaptering is extremely generous -- it goes through 18 chapter markers before the dinosaur even reaches New York. The bonus features are also impressive, much more so than those that were included on the Them! DVD. The highlights are the short featurette "The Rhedosaurus and the Rollercoaster: The Making of the Beast," in which Ray Harryhausen walks us through the movie, its pre-production, its shooting, and how various scenes were devised; and "Harryhausen and Bradbury: An Unfathomable Friendship," in which Ray Harryhausen and Ray Bradbury sit in front of an audience reminiscing about their 50-year friendship and their connection with The Rocket Society (whose membership included Henry Kuttner), as well as their collaboration on The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. Bradbury does most of the talking and he is very funny as he recalls many little, otherwise lost, incidents in a friendship of half a century, culminating with Bradbury presenting Harryhausen with his Academy Award. The studio has also included the trailer to this and three other related features. The trailer from The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms is still a compact marvel of suspense promotion; The Black Scorpion trailer relies on references to The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms and Them!, without as much coherency; and The Valley of Gwangi has a surprisingly impressive trailer, given that it was a failure at the box office -- had the trailer been shown widely enough it might have lured people in (Warner Bros. had undergone a management change prior to release, and there was no interest in promoting the work of the prior administration). And for good measure, the studio has also included the promotional trailer for the Clash of the Titans, which, through various acquisitions over the decades, Warner now owns as well. All of the special features are very easy to access through a multi-layered menu that's simple to maneuver around and which opens automatically on startup. An optional French-dubbed track and English, French, and Spanish subtitles are also included.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
The first of the "atomic monster" flicks (which reached their apex of popularity with the globally successful Godzilla), The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms lays the groundwork for many of the films that followed in its wake. There's the hero with an incredible story that finds few takers, the atomic explosion that causes a gigantic mutation, the wanton destruction of a significant portion of a city and, of course, the female laboratory assistant that ends up as the hero's true love. It's been done countless times, and so Beast isn't as fresh as it was in 1953; but the film still has an air of simplicity and innocence about its plotting that is rather beguiling. It's all nonsense, of course, but it good clean fun nonsense, and it still is quite engaging. The legendary Ray Harryhausen cut his solo teeth on Beast and while audience used to computer-generated special effects will find them a bit less than realistic, they still make an impact. They also are surprisingly dramatic, one of Harryhausen's strong points: his monsters may lumber, but they lumber in individual ways, with twitches or pauses or small twists that give them a sense of genuine behavior and character. As the hero, Paul Christian is fine, if unspectacular, and the same can be said of Paula Raymond as his paramour. But Kenneth Tobey is solid, and Lee Van Cleef and, especially, Cecil Kellaway, quite good.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Warner Home Video
Region Code:
[Dolby Digital Mono]

Special Features

Closed Caption; Two commemorative 50th-anniversary documentaries: "The Rhedosaurus and The Roller Coaster: Making the Beast" and "Harryhausen & Bradbury: An Unfathomable Friendship"; Giant monsters trailer gallery featuring this film, The Black Scorpion, Clash of the Titans, and The Valley of Gwangi; Production notes

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Paul Christian Tom Nesbitt
Paula Raymond Lee Hunter
Cecil Kellaway Prof. Thurgood Elson
Kenneth Tobey Col. Jack Evans
Donald Woods Capt. Phil Jackson
Jack Pennick Jacob Bowman
Lee Van Cleef Corporal Stone
Steve Brodie Sgt. Loomis
Ross Elliott George Ritchie
Ray Hyke Sgt. Willistead
Mary Hill Miss Nelson
Michael Fox Doctor
Frank Ferguson Dr. Morton
King Donovan Dr. Ingersoll
James Best Radar Man
Alvin Greenman First Radar Man
Paul Hubschmid Tom Nesbitt

Technical Credits
Eugène Lourié Director,Production Designer,Screenwriter
Edward Boyle Set Decoration/Design
Bernard W. Burton Co-producer,Editor
David Buttolph Score Composer
Hal E. Chester Co-producer
Willis Cook Special Effects
Jack Dietz Producer
Fred Freiberger Screenwriter
Ray Harryhausen Special Effects
Horace Hough Asst. Director
Lou Morheim Screenwriter
Jack Russell Cinematographer
John L. Russell Cinematographer
Robert Smith Screenwriter
Ray Bradbury Source Author

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Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Credits [1:15]
2. X-Day [2:44]
3. Something Strange [2:55]
4. Giant in the Snow [3:38]
5. Avalanche [3:47]
6. "The Monster!" [2:24]
7. No Sound Like That [3:09]
8. Sea Serpent [2:33]
9. Back to Life? [3:58]
10. An Ally [4:00]
11. Captain's Hang-Up [3:37]
12. An Eyewitness [3:17]
13. The Rhedosaurus [5:14]
14. The Lighthouse [1:55]
15. Following the Arctic Current [4:33]
16. Dr. Elson's Dive [3:06]
17. Undersea Combat [1:51]
18. Death of a Scientist [3:00]
19. Streets of New York [5:05]
20. No Man's Land [3:58]
21. Germ Carrier [4:02]
22. Coney Island [2:47]
23. Ride to the Top [2:54]
24. Inferno [2:51]
25. Death Throes [:56]


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