Wednesday, August 12, 2009
The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953)
THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS features legendary effects master Ray Harryhausen in his first project where he was able to work with complete control of the animation. He designed The Beast from a sketch done by lifelong friend Ray Bradbury, who wrote the original story. This is a gem of the creature feature era.
THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS starts out in the arctic, where a team of scientists are testing atomic bombs where they unknowingly release The Beast from 100 million years of frozen slumber. A pair of scientists who are out to get readings have encounters with the beast and come within inches of losing their lives at the top of the world. When the team gets back to the USA the try to tell their tale of the monster they saw, but are ignored as the doctors say it was simply hallucinations due to the shock of being injured.
Its only when a series of boats are attacked and sunk and a lighthouse is totally destroyed (in one of the most perfect sequence in monster movie history) in the oceans and bays leading on a path to New York City that some specialists begin to take notice that it is possible THE BEAST could be real. When the scientists from the arctic and surviving crew from the boats all pick out the same drawing of THE BEAST that they set out on an expedition to find this prehistoric monster.
When The Beast is discovered in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean he flees and takes to the land of downtown New York City and his terror reigns in the Big Apple. The Beast shows just how big he is, taking down apartment buildings with ease and squashing cars like bugs. The police and military have no answer as their ordinary bullets have no effect. It isn't until The Beast is wounded that they formulate a plan to launch an atomic isotope into the wound to bring down The Beast once and for all. The climax takes place on Coney Island in the amusement park, where The Beast is tearing apart the roller coaster ride. The fantastic climax atop the roller coaster is a showdown between man and beast and is certainly one for the ages.
THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS was a private production made for around $200,000 but the quality of filmmaking on display here makes you think it cost 10x that much. Eugene Laurie's excellent direction matched with Ray Harryhausen's legendary creation and animation were a recipe for success. The photography is gorgeous and the story is intense.
THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS is a perfect example of why the phrase "they just don't make them like they used to" exists.
Quick shout out here- check out Films That Witness Madness- a great site from a great guy that knows his shit. Its all about horror and exploitation and I can't praise it enough.