The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms

The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms

Startlingly low-budget post-war monster flick famous for its Ray Harryhausen creature effects.  Military atomic testing in the Arctic unleashes an ancient dinosaur from hibernation. A physicist (Paul Hubschmid), the only witness to the monster, can’t get anyone to believe him that it exists. Soon enough, the beast emerges on the East Coast and proceeds to devour a few fishing vessels before stomping most of Manhattan flat to the ground. The physicist partners with an anthropologist (or archaeologist or dinosaurist–I can’t remember) to stop the carnage.

Ok, full disclosure: I had half an eye on this one. The acting is wooden, the pacing slow, and the plot a precursor to Godzilla, which is probably the most famous (and better) monster movie to emerge from the ashes of WWII (also with its unsubtle analogy of atomic bombs and radiation). The only reason to watch this one, really, is to see Ray Harryhausen’s early and spectacular animation effects. He creates a creature of full ferocity, as it hammers and stamps its way through buildings, on top of cars; it even trounces about an amusement park. The closing scene, as our heroes decide the only way to get to the beast (whom they need to inject with a radioactive isotope) is by roller coaster, is uproariously funny–and not in a good way. All harmless fun, I suppose, and remarkably campy; but that doesn’t make it a very good film. Call me moderately disappointed.

1953; starring Paul Hubschmid, Paula Raymond; directed by Eugène Lourié; 80 min; not rated; in English.