The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953)
|Eugène Lourié's dinosaur trilogy|
- For the titular monster, see the Rhedosaurus.
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!
The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms is a 1953 science fiction giant monster film directed by Eugène Lourié and written by Lou Morheim, Fred Freiberger, and Robert Smith based on Ray Bradbury's 1951 short story "The Fog Horn," with stop motion effects by Ray Harryhausen. Produced by Mutual Pictures of California, it was released to American theaters.by Warner Bros. Pictures on June 13, 1953.
A nuclear bomb is set off in the Arctic as a test. Tom Nesbitt and George Ritchie go on patrol near the area of the blast. Suddenly, a giant prehistoric monster creates an avalanche, injuring Nesbitt and killing Ritchie. After waking up in a New York hospital, Nesbitt tells his story, only to be dismissed as crazy. After searching around for someone who believes him, Nesbitt ends up meeting paleontologist Thurgood Elson and his assistant, Lee Hunter. Elson doesn't believe Nesbitt, but Hunter isn't so quick to dismiss him. She visits Nesbitt with drawings of every known dinosaur. After a lot of flipping through pictures, Nesbitt recognizes the one he saw, the Rhedosaurus. After a lot of trouble, he meets a survivor of a shipwreck who claims to have been attacked by a monster. When handed several of the dinosaur pictures, the survivor identifies the Rhedosaurus as the creature he saw. With this proof, Nesbitt goes back to Professor Elson, who is convinced and warns Colonel Jack Evans of the danger. As disaster after disaster occurs, Elson connects the dots and determines that the Rhedosaurus is coming to New York. Being very enthusiastic on the subject, Elson has a scientific expedition set up to find the monster. He also insists on going down in a bathysphere to see the Rhedosaurus up close. He gets his wish; the Rhedosaurus attacks the bathysphere offscreen, killing Elson. It doesn't take long before the beast finally reaches New York and goes on a rampage. The army is sent in to deal with the pest and manages to injure it. As the soldiers follow the trail of blood left behind by the Rhedosaurus, they start to collapse one by one. It is revealed that the Rhedosaurus's blood contains an unknown disease, meaning conventional weaponry is no longer an option. Nesbitt then gets the idea to shoot a radioactive isotope into the monster's wound, killing it without making a mess. The military then escorts Nesbitt and sharpshooter Corporal Stone to the amusement park where the Rhedosaurus is lurking. The two men then ride the roller coaster up to where Stone can get a clear shot. Stone pulls the trigger and scores a direct hit in the wound. The Rhedosaurus, now enraged with pain, starts thrashing around and starts a fire. The two men watch in horror as their ride starts rolling down the track without them. Thanks to quick thinking, they are able to make their way to safety, as they watch the Rhedosaurus's final moments.
Staff role on the left, staff member's name on the right.
- Directed by Eugène Lourié
- Written by Lou Morheim, Fred Freiberger; Robert Smith (uncredited)
- Based on "The Fog Horn" by Ray Bradbury
- Produced by Jack Dietz, Hal E. Chester
- Associate producer Bernard W. Burton
- Music by David Buttolph
- Cinematography by John L. Russell
- Edited by Bernard W. Burton
- 1st assistant director Horace Hough
- Special effects by Willis Cook
- Technical effects created by Ray Harryhausen
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 announcer (voice) / 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 Ms. 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 narrator (voice) / radio announcer (voice)
- Shusei Nakamura as Professor Tom Nesbitt
- Noriko Ohara as Dr. Lee Hunter
- Toshiro Hayano as Dr. Thurgood Elson
- Akira Kimura as Colonel Jack Evans
- Kyoji Kobayashi as narrator (voice) / radio announcer (voice)
Weapons, vehicles, and races
- Douglas C-47 Skytrain
Following the wild success of a 1952 re-release of King Kong, Mutual Films founders Jack Dietz and Hal E. Chester decided to make a giant monster movie of their own. It was the first in the genre to connect a monster's emergence with nuclear testing. No less than five writers worked on the script, which was originally titled The Monster from Beneath the Sea. First-time director Eugène Lourié and blacklisted screenwriter Daniel James wrote one version, Louis Morheim and Robert Smith's names appear on the shooting script, and onscreen credit ultimately went to Morheim and Fred Freiberger. Upon reading a version of the script, famed science fiction author Ray Bradbury noted the resemblance to his 1951 short story "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms", specifically the scene where the Rhedosaurus attacks a lighthouse. Mutual Films soon bought the rights to the story from him, changing the film's title to reflect its new "inspiration." Bradbury later retitled his story "The Fog Horn."
Eugène Lourié shot on-location in New York City over the course of a weekend, filming scenes on Wall Street and at the Fulton Fish Market. The Cyclone Racer in Long Beach, California stood in for the Coney Island roller coaster featured in the climax. The Rhedosaurus was a stop-motion model animated by Ray Harryhausen, in his first feature-length assignment since Mighty Joe Young (1949). The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms marked the debut of his Dynamation technique (though he had yet to give it that name), in which a stop motion character would move between a live action background and foreground, with the former achieved through rear projection and the latter composited in later.
- Main article: The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms/Gallery.
- Main article: The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms/Soundtrack.
- 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)
- The Atomic Monster Appears (原子怪獣現わるJapan) Genshi Kaijū Arawaru,
- The Monster of the Sea (El Monstruo del Mar; Mexico; O Monstro do Mar; Brazil)
- The Monster of Lost Time (Le Monstre des Temps Perdus; Belgium; O Monstro dos Tempos Perdidos; Portugal)
- The Monster of Remote Times (El Monstruo de Tiempos Remotos; Spain)
- United States - June 13, 1953 [view poster]
- Brazil - August 28, 1953 [view poster]
- Italy - October 24, 1953 [view poster]
- West Germany - November 6, 1953 [view poster]
- Sweden - February 22, 1954
- Finland - March 26, 1954
- Denmark - March 29, 1954 [view poster]
- France - July 9, 1954 [view poster]
- Austria - July 16, 1954
- Portugal - December 13, 1954
- Japan - December 22, 1954 [view poster]
- Turkey - January 1955
- Australia [view poster]
- Mexico [view poster]
- Belgium [view poster]
- Spain [view poster]
Warner Bros. purchased the rights to The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms from Mutual Films for $410,000 and received a sizable return on its investment. Saturation booking and the then-novel practice of running ads on television led to $2.25 million in box office returns by the end of 1953 and up to $5 million total. The film's success inspired Warner Bros. to make its own atomic monster film the following year, Them! (the first of the "big bug" films, a subgenre spawned from the "monster on the loose" films, as they came to be called), and led to a decade of imitators, including one who would far eclipse the Rhedosaurus' fame: Godzilla.
Influence on Godzilla
Though The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms had not yet been released in Japan when Toho producer Tomoyuki Tanaka came up with the idea for Godzilla, he was aware of its success in the States, even titling his initial story proposal The Giant Monster from 20,000 Miles Under the Sea. Shigeru Kayama's treatment included a scene where Godzilla attacked a lighthouse, although Ishiro Honda and Takeo Murata removed it in their revisions. Like the Rhedosaurus, Godzilla was a dinosaur roused by nuclear testing who sank fishing vessels before coming ashore in a major city. But, while the Rhedosaurus posed a threat primarily due to the ancient disease he spread, Godzilla's menace stemmed from his impossible size, destructive atomic breath, and immunity to modern weapons. Godzilla also contained a far more pointed anti-nuclear message than The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.
- Region: 1
- Discs: 1
- Audio: English (Dolby Digital 1.0), French (Dolby Digital 1.0)
- Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
- 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 with Them! by itself.
Warner Home Video Blu-ray (2015)
- Region: A/1
- Discs: 1
- Audio: English (DTS-HD Master Audio Mono), French (Dolby Digital Mono), Spanish (Dolby Digital Mono)
- Subtitles: English, French, Japanese, Spanish
- Special features: "The Rhedosaurus and the Rollercoaster: Making the Beast" featurette (6 minutes), "Harryhausen & Bradbury: An Unfathomable Friendship" featurette (17 minutes), 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: 
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