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Beast from 20,000 Fathoms

From the video box: Deep in the Arctic Circle, a hardy band of scientists conducts an atom bomb test. Their fearsome experiment disturbs the sleep of a giant rhedosaurus encased in ice for over 100-million years and sends it southward on a rampage of destruction and death! (1953, b&w)

Mark says: I always get a warm feeling while watching this movie. Ironic, considering the opening scene is set at the North Pole.

I think it has something to do with the familiarity of the story: A prehistoric beast is unleashed on the world while scientists conduct an A-bomb test. The beast eventually makes its way to a major city (in this case, New York City) and wreaks havoc.

It’s certainly a tale you’ve heard before, but this is the first of the genre. In fact, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms inspired a Japanese production entitled, Gojira, which you may recognize by its American title, Godzilla, King of the Monsters.

This was also the first time stop-motion master Ray Harryhausen (Earth vs the Flying Saucers, Jason and the Argonauts) had solo control over a project. Though some may argue this is not one of Harryhausen’s best efforts, I have to counter that the beast, though not completely believable, is incredibly entertaining to watch. You definitely get a sense of the love Mr. Harryhausen put into the creature, adding to the warmth I mentioned above.

The male lead is played by Swiss actor, Paul Christian, in the role of Professor Tom Nesbitt. Prof. Nesbitt is labeled insane for believing in the prehistoric monster he saw while overseeing the A-bomb test at the Arctic Circle.

Prof. Nesbitt’s one ally is female lead, Paula Raymond (Blood of Dracula’s Castle) in the role of paleontologist, Lee Hunter. Together, they convince renowned scientist Prof. Thurgood Elson (Cecil Kellaway – you may remember him as Dr. Chumley in the Jimmy Stewart classic, Harvey) that the creature exists.

Though the two leads aren’t well-known in a sci-fi, B-movie sense, many of the other cast members are memorable fixtures of the genre. They include Kenneth Tobey (The Thing from Another World), Lee Van Cleef (It Conquered the World), Ross Elliott (The Crawling Hand), James Best (The Killer Shrews), and King Donovan (Invasion of the Body Snatchers). It’s like sitting around with a bunch of old friends. No wonder I get such a warm feeling when watching this film.

Of course, it is the beast that delivers most in terms of entertainment value. How can you forget a scene like a rhedosaurus stomping down the streets of NYC? Classic stuff.

I recommend watching The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms while huddled up with your significant other on a cold winter night. Popcorn is optional.

Based on a story by Ray Bradbury and directed by Eugène Lourié.

Scene to watch for: Mr. Rhedeosaurus makes an afternoon snack out of a NYC police officer.

Line to listen for: “Sorry I can’t offer you anything, but everything around here is radioactive.”

Bonus: A page featuring movie stills from the film.

Fun fact: The voice of the off-screen radio announcer is none other than Merv Griffin.

Mark’s Rating: ! ! ! ! out of 5.

IMDB Link

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5 Comments

  1. great job reviewing this beloved classic!

  2. Thanks, John. Right now I’m wondering why I didn’t give the film my highest ranking? Still, it’s a classic in every sense of the word.

  3. you are very welcome kind sir. john

  4. The greatest “monster on the loose” movie ever made. Thanks for your fun review, Mark. Oh…you might want to mention that one of the last words of the professor in the diving bell is “cantileveric.” It took me four decades to figure that out!

  5. I had nightmares as a child from this movie…my all time favorite!


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