The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953)

USA,
80m
35mm film, black and white, 1.37:1
mono, English

An American science fiction film directed by Eugene Lourie.

Plot Summary

A nuclear test in the Arctic awakens a prehistoric monster which goes on the rampage and attacks City.

Credits

Crew
Directed by: Eugene Lourie
© MCMLIII [1953] by Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Warner Bros. Pictures presents
Produced by: Hal Chester and Jack Dietz
Screen Play by: Lou Morheim and Fred Freiberger
Suggested by The Saturday Evening Post Story by: Ray Bradbury
Director of Photography: Jack Russell
Film Editor: Bernard W. Burton
Music by: David Buttolph
Sound by: Max Hutchinson
Costumes by: Berman's of Hollywood
Makeup Artist: Louis Phillippi
Technical Effects Created by: Ray Harryhausen
Special Effects by: Willis Cook

Cast
Paul Christian [real name: Paul Hubschmid] [Professor Tom Nesbitt]
Paula Raymond [Lee Hunter]
Cecil Kellaway [Professor Thurgood Elson]
Kenneth Tobey [Colonel Jack Evans]
Donald Woods [Captain Phil Jackson]
Lee Van Cleef [Corporal Stone]
Steve Brodie [Sergeant Loomis]
Ross Elliott [George Ritchie]
Jack Pennick [Jacob Bowman]
Ray Hyke [Sergeant Willistead]
Mary Hill [real name: Paula Hill] [Miss Ryan]
Michael Fox [ER doctor]
Alvin Greenman [first radar man]
Frank Ferguson [Dr Morton]
King Donovan [Dr Ingersoll]

Press

1953
Variety 17 June 1953
Producers have created a prehistoric monster that'll make “Kong” seem like a chimpanzee. It's a gigantic amphibious beast that towers above some of New York's highest buildings. The sight of the beast stalking through Gotham's downtown streets is awesome. Special credit should go to Ray Harryhousen for the socko technical effects, including the beast itself and the destruction of buildings as the monster causes a serious panic in lower Manhattan. […] Christian is firstrate as the determined scientist and Kellaway scores as the doubting professor. Miss Raymond appears too stiff and unconvincing as the professor's assistant and Christian's romantic vis-a-vis. Eugene Lourie's direction is excellent, resulting in the proper tension and suspense. Lou Morheim and Fred Freiberger's screenplay has a documentary flavor, which Jack Russell's camera captures expertly. Other technical credits are good. – from a review by Holl

Motion Picture Herald vol.191 no.12 (20 June 1953) p.1878
A prehistoric sea reptile running rampant in lower Manhattan and Coney Island, via some excellent special effects, provides the rip-snorting climax of this above average science-fiction feature […] As in so many science-fiction films, the real stars of “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms” are the special and technical effects men, in this case Willis Cook and Ray Harryhausen, who have put together as weird a monster as anyone need have to disturb his nightmares. The creature is several stories [sic] high, possesses a snake-like tongue and tremendous strength. When he starts charging around in the vicinity of the Coney Island Tilt-a-Whirl or rearing his head beneath the Brooklyn Bridge, you are there in graphic realism. The humans of the piece necessarily take a back seat to the monster, which, in science-fiction, is as it should be. – from a review by Vincent Canby

Monthly Film Bulletin vol.20 no.236 (September 1953) p.130
[O]ne can never take seriously the monster itself; for all the elaborate special effects, some quite ingenious, and the apparatus of horror that accompanies it – close-ups of slavering jaws, a roaring and howling noise – the creature, whether engaged in crushing motor cars with its paw, pushing its way through buildings or roaring and writhing in its death agony, appears all too obviously a rather implausible model. Other science fiction films (The Thing, The Man from Planet X) have experienced the same difficulty in actually showing their sinister creatures, and only War of the Worlds has avoided it by concentrating instead on ingeniously constructed machines. […] As usual in films of this type, the characters belong to the “B” picture world, though even here it is a little surprising to find Cecil Kellaway chuckling his way through the part of the world's greatest expert on prehistory. – from an uncredited review

References

Periodicals

  • Castle of Frankenstein no.7 p.6
  • Classic Images no.232 (October 1994) p.C28 – illustrated interview with Paula Raymond (Ray's way: interviews with the stars by Ray Nielsen)
  • The Film Daily vol.103 no.122 (24 June 1953) p.10 – review
  • Film Index no.36 (1976) p.325 – review
  • Filmfax no.62 (August/September 1997) pp.42-47 – illustrated interview with Paula Raymond (Beauty & The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms by Paul and Donna Parla)
  • Filmfax no.106 (April/June 2005) pp.62-66 – illustrated article (The Echoing Effect of Ray Bradbury's Dinosaur Mythos on American Pop Culture by Allen A. Debus)
  • The Hollywood Reporter vol.124 no.44 (17 June 1953) p.3 – review
  • Kine Weekly no.2407 (13 August 1953) p.13 – review
  • Monthly Film Bulletin vol.20 no.236 (September 1953) p.130 – credits, review (uncredited)
  • Motion Picture Herald vol.191 no.12 (20 June 1953) p.1878 – review (by Vincent Canby)
  • Nebula Science Fiction vol.1 no.2 (Spring 1953) p.95 – note (Scientifilm previews by Forrest J. Ackerman)
  • Premiere vol.17 no.5 (February 2004) pp.99 – DVD review (Home guide)
  • Sight and Sound vol.43 no.2 (Spring 1974) p.97 – interview with Ray Bradbury
  • Sight and Sound vol.14 no.5 (May 2004) p.82 – DVD review (Home movies: reviews by Matthew Leyland)
  • Supernatural no.1 (January 1969) p.30 – note (Round the cinema's zoo of horrors with Supernaturalist)
  • Today's Cinema vol.81 no.6819 (12 August 1953) p.9 – review
  • Variety 17 June 1953 – credits, review (by Holl)

Books

  • Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction by Phil Hardy (ed) p.137 – illustrated credits, review
  • Beasts and Behemoths: Prehistoric Creatures in the Movies by Roy Kinnard pp.62-66 – illustrated article
  • BFI Screen Guides: 100 Science Fiction Films by Barry Keith Grant pp.17-18 – illustrated review
  • The Dinosaur Filmography by Mark E. Berry pp.28-37 – illustrated credits, synopsis
  • English Gothic: A Century of Horror Cinema by Jonathan Rigby p.90
  • Escape Velocity by Bradley Schauer pp.48, 66, 80-81, 87, 92
  • Heroes, Monsters and Values: Science Fiction Films of the 1970s p.58
  • Horror and Science Fiction Films: A Checklist by Donald C. Willis p.39 – credits
  • Horror and Science Fiction Films II by Donald C. Willis p.24-25 – credits
  • Horrorshows: The A-Z of Horror in Film, TV, Radio and Theatre by Gene Wright p.109-110 – credits, review
  • Introduction to Japanese Horror Film by Colette Balmain p.32
  • The Liverpool Companion to World Science Fiction Film by Sonja Fritsche (ed.) pp.69-85; 89-103 – article (On the monstrous planet, or how Godzilla took a Roman holiday by Takayuki Tatsumi, translated by Seth Jacobowitz)
  • Nuclear Movies: A Filmography by Mick Broderick p.44 – credits
  • by Walt Lee p.27 – credits
  • Science Fiction in the Movies: An A-Z by Roy Pickard p.7 – credits, note
  • The Stop-motion Filmography by Neil Pettigrew pp.60-68 – illustrated article
  • Variety Science-Fiction Movies by Julian Brown (ed.) p.19 – credits, review