The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953)

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The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms soundtrack

The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms
The American poster for The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms
Directed by Eugène Lourié
Producer(s) Jack Dietz,
Hal E. Chester,
Bernard W. Burton
Written by Lou Morheim,
Fred Freiberger,
Ray Bradbury,
Daniel James,
Eugène Lourié,
Robert Smith
Music by David Buttolph
Distributor Warner Bros.
Rating Not rated
Budget $210,000 (Estimated)
Box office $5,000,000
Running time 80 minutes
(1 hour, 20 minutes)
Aspect ratio 1.37:1
Yes, it could happen! For various authorities believe that, buried somewhere under the polar icecap, in a state of suspended animation, are the awesome creatures, the leviathans that roamed the Earth at the dawn of time and, under certain conditions, a nuclear explosion could free one from his icy tomb! Then, guided by instinct, The Beast would come back, back to the caverns of the deepest Atlantic where it was spawned! An armored giant, wreaking his prehistoric fury on modern man and his puny machines! Cities would be terrorized by the cruel intruder from the past; Populations crazed and panicked with fear by its destructive force! Granite and steel would crumble! Soldiers and their weapons would be powerless before the onslaught of The Beast! The Beast! The Beast! The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms!

— Trailer

The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms is a 1953 science fiction film produced by Warner Bros. Entertainment. It was based on the story "The Fog Horn" by Ray Bradbury. The movie was released to American theaters on June 13, 1953.


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Far north of the Arctic Circle, a nuclear bomb test, dubbed Operation Experiment, is conducted. Prophetically, right after the blast, physicist Thomas Nesbitt muses, "What the cumulative effects of all these atomic explosions and tests will be, only time will tell". Sure enough, the explosion awakens a huge fictional carnivorous dinosaur known as the Rhedosaurus, thawing it out of the ice where it had been hibernating for 100,000 years.

The monster starts making its way down the east coast of North America, sinking a fishing ketch off the Grand Banks, destroying another near Marquette, Canada, wrecking a lighthouse in Maine, and crushing buildings in Massachusetts. The monster eventually comes ashore in Manhattan, and after tearing through power-lines attacks the city. The monster's rampage causes the death of 180 people, injures 1,500 and does $300 million worth of damage.

Arriving on the scene, the military troops of Col. Jack Evans, blast a bazooka hole in the monsters throat and drive it back into the sea. Unfortunately, it bleeds all over the streets, unleashing a "horrible, virulent" prehistoric germ, which begins to contaminate the populace, causing even more fatalities. The germ precludes blowing the monster up or burning it, lest the contagion spread. Thus its decided to shoot a radioactive isotope into the monster's neck wound with hopes of burning the beast up from the inside, killing it.

When the beast comes ashore and attacks the Coney Island amusement park, military sharpshooter Corporal Stone takes the potent radioactive isotope launcher (its the only one of its kind outside of Oak Ridge so he can't miss), and climbs onboard a roller coaster. Riding the coaster to the top of the tracks so he can get to eye-level with the giant beast, he fires the isotope into the monsters wound. The creature lets out a horrible death scream and crashes to the ground dead.


Staff role on the left, staff member's name on the right.

  • Directed by   Eugène Lourié
  • Written by   Lou Morheim, Fred Freiberger, Ray Bradbury, Daniel James, Eugène Lourié, and Robert Smith
  • Produced by   Jack Dietz, Hal E. Chester, and Bernard W. Burton
  • Music by   David Buttolph
  • Cinematography by   John L. Russell
  • Edited by   Bernard W. Burton
  • Assistant directing by   Horace Hough
  • Special effects by   Willis Cook, Ray Harryhausen, George Lofgren, and Eugène Lourié


Actor's name on the left, character played on the right.

  • Paul Hubschmid   as   Professor Tom Nesbitt (as Paul Christian)
  • Paula Raymond   as   Dr. Lee Hunter
  • Cecil Kellaway   as   Dr. Thurgood Elson
  • Kenneth Tobey   as   Colonel Jack Evans
  • Donald Woods   as   Captain Phillip Jackson
  • Lee Van Cleef   as   Corporal Stone
  • Steve Broodie   as   Sergeant Loomis
  • Ross Elliott   as   Professor George Ritchie
  • Jack Pennick   as   Jacob Bowman
  • Ray Hyke   as   Sergeant Willistead
  • Paula Hill   as   Miss Ryan (as Mary Hill)
  • Micheal Fox   as   Emergency Room Doctor
  • Alvin Greenman   as   First Radar Man
  • Frank Ferguson   as   Dr. Morton
  • King Donovan   as   Dr. Ingersoll
  • Merv Griffin   as   Voice of Announcer and Bespectacled Man
  • Fred Aldrich   as   Radio Operator
  • James Best   as   Charlie - Radar Man
  • Edward Clark   as   Lighthouse Keeper
  • Loise Colombet   as   Nun / Nurse
  • Robert Easton   as   Deckhand
  • Roy Engel   as   Major Evans
  • Franklyn Farnum   as   Balletgoer
  • Bess Flowers   as   Balletgoer
  • Joe Gray   as   Longshoreman
  • Kenner G. Kemp   as   Police Officer with Rifle
  • Jimmy Lloyd   as   Soldier
  • Vivian Mason   as   Miss Ryan - Secretary
  • Vera Miles   as   Woman in Tailor
  • Steve Mitchell   as   Police Officer
  • Paul Picerni   as   Man in Trailer
  • Hugh Prosser   as   Doctor
  • William Woodson   as   Voice of Opening Narrator and Radio Announcer



Weapons, Vehicles, and Races

  • Douglas C-47 Skytrain


The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms was the first film to feature a giant monster awakened or brought about by an atomic bomb detonation and to attack a major city. Due to its financial success at the box office, it helped spawn the entire genre of "giant monster" films of the 1950s. Producers Jack Dietz and Hal E. Chester got the idea to combine the growing paranoia about nuclear weapons with the concept of a giant monster after the successful theatrical re-release of King Kong in 1952. In turn, this craze inspired the Godzilla series.

When the short story of the same title by Ray Bradbury was published in The Saturday Evening Post, Dietz and Chester were reminded by someone that both works share a similar theme of a prehistoric sea monster, and a lighthouse being destroyed. The producers who wished to share Bradbury's reputation and popularity, bought the right to Bradbury's story and changed the film's title. The movie was promoted as being "suggested" by a Ray Bradbury story. Bradbury would eventually change the title of his story to The Fog Horn when it was reprinted.

Creature effects were assigned to Ray Harryhausen, who had been working with Willis O'Brien, the man who created King Kong, for years. The monster of the film looked nothing like the Brontosaurus-type creature of the short story. A drawing of the creature was published along with the story in the The Saturday Evening Post.[1] At one point there were plans to have the Rhedosaurus snort flames, but this idea was dropped before production began due to budget restrictions. However, the concept was still used in the film's movie poster artwork.

Some early preproduction conceptual sketches of the Rhedosaurus showed that at one point it was to have a shelled head and at another point was to be a beaked dinosaur creature. [2]

While trying to identify the Rhedosaurus, Professor Tom Nesbitt goes through the dinosaur drawings of Charles R. Knight, a man whom Harryhausen claims as an inspiration. Incidentally, Knight died in 1953, the year the film was released.

The dinosaur skeleton in the museum sequence is artificial; it was obtained from storage at RKO Pictures where it had been constructed for Bringing up Baby (1938).

This movie had a production budget of $210,000. It grossed roughly $5 million at the Box Office. Original prints of the film were sepia toned.

The original music score was composed by Michel Michelet, but when Warner Bros. purchased the film they had a new score written by David Buttolph. Ray Harryhausen had been hoping that his film music hero Max Steiner would be able to write the music for the picture, as Steiner had written the landmark score for King Kong, and Steiner was under contract with Warner Bros. at the time. Unfortunately for Harryhausen, Steiner had too many commitments to allow him to do the film, but Buttolph ultimately composed one of his most memorable and powerful scores, setting much of the tone for giant monster music of the 1950's.


Main article: The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms/Gallery.


Main article: The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (Soundtrack).

Alternate Titles

  • The Monster from Beneath the Sea (Working title)
  • Panic in New York (Panik in New York; West Germany)
  • The Awakening of the Dinosaur (Il Risveglio del Dinosauro; Italy)
  • Atom Monster Appears (原子怪獣現わる; Japan)
  • The Monster of the Sea (El Monstruo del Mar; Mexico)
  • The Monster of Lost Time (Le Monstre des Temps Perdus; Belgium)
  • The Monster of Remote Times (El Monstruo de Tiempos Remotos; Spain)

Theatrical Releases

  • United States - June 13, 1953  [view poster]American poster
  • Brazil - August 28, 1953
  • West Germany - November 6, 1953  [view poster]German poster
  • Italy - January 1954  [view poster]Italian poster
  • Sweden - February 22, 1954
  • Finland - March 26, 1954
  • Denmark - March 29, 1954
  • France - July 9, 1954
  • Austria - July 16, 1954
  • Portugal - December 12, 1954
  • Japan - December 22, 1954
  • Turkey - January 1955
  • Mexico  [view poster]Mexican poster
  • Belgium  [view poster]Belgian poster
  • Spain  [view poster]Spanish poster
  • Greece
  • Netherlands
  • Poland
  • Turkey

Video Releases

Warner Home Video DVD (2003)[3]

  • Region: 1
  • Discs: 1
  • Audio: English (Dolby Digital 1.0), French (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Special Features: "The Rhedosaurus and the Rollercoaster: Making the Beast" featurette (6 minutes), "Harryhausen & Bradbury: An Unfathomable Friendship" featurette (17 minutes), trailers
  • Notes: This disc has also been packaged with Them!, World Without End, and Satellite in the Sky, or Them! by itself.

Warner Home Video Blu-ray (2015)

  • Region: A/1
  • Disc: 1
  • Audio: English (DTS-HD Master Audio Mono), French (Dolby Digital Mono), Spanish (Dolby Digital Mono)
  • Special Features: "The Rhedosaurus and the Rollercoaster: Making the Beast" featurette (6 minutes), "Harryhausen & Bradbury: An Unfathomable Friendship" featurette (17 minutes), trailer



The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms Trailer


This is a list of references for The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. These citations are used to identify the reliable sources on which this article is based. These references appear inside articles in the form of superscript numbers, which look like this: [1]

  1. Jeff Rovin. The Encyclopedia of Monsters. New York:Facts on File, 1989.
  2. [1]
  3. The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (2003) Warner Home Video

Warner Bros.