Plot – A ferocious dinosaur awakened by an Arctic atomic test terrorises the North Atlantic and, ultimately, New York City – The Beast From 20000 Fathoms.
Director – Eugène Lourié
Released – 1953
Playing on the fears raised from the destruction caused during WWII along with the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, from the late 1940s through till the end of the 1950s, films depicting the carnage caused at the hands of giant monsters became all the rage.
Cities all over Europe, North America and Japan saw creatures emerge and cause great annihilation. The most famous of which being Godzilla (1954) and The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, both of which chose to avoid placing a man in a monster suit, instead making excellent use of the advances in stop-motion since The Ghost of Slumber Mountain (1918) and King Kong” (1933).
For The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, special effects legend Ray Harryhausen created the Rhedosaurus, which was no mean feat given the limitations of the day. His stop-motion animation is leaps and bounds more advanced than that of King Kong, with the creature’s movements during the attack on the city a lot more adventurous than what was previously thought possible, knocking down buildings, crushing a car with its feet and even finding time toy with items before tossing it around and moving on. Helping the audience to feel sympathetic to the beast, something that becomes a trademark of Harryhausen’s works.
When it comes to the plot, there isn’t many twists or surprises to be found, though Lourié does devote a good amount of the film to the human element, giving time to progress the plot and build suspense, with the film centring around a scientist wanting to prove the existence of the monster, a palaeontologist, a love interest and a few military men, all of which were performed admirably, though sometimes the sensibilities of the time seems a little stilted compared to the emotion shown in modern-day creature features such as Godzilla and Kong: Skull Island.
Overall, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms continues to be one of the best Creature Features, that although a little formulaic in places, is nevertheless an enjoyable and charming piece of cinema, while also marking a milestone in both stop-motion and horror movie history.