“The world’s been here for millions of years. Man’s been walking upright for a comparatively short time. Mentally we’re still crawling.” Truer words could not have been spoken in The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) by Professor Tom Nesbitt, Paul Hubschmid of Funeral in Berlin (1966) and are still relevant today even if you have been living under a rock in or in the “Land of the Lost.”
As a result of an arctic nuclear test, “Operation Experiment,” a 30-foot tall carnivorous dinosaur, thawed out and ventures its way down the east coast of North America. Carnivorous carnage ensues while enroute to its original spawning ground, New York City (I wonder if it still smells the same?). Nesbitt, the only witness to the beast’s awakening and existence, is not believed, even when he identifies it as a “Rhedosaurus” to paleontologist Thurgood Elson, portrayed by Cecil Kellaway of Harvey (1950). Before you know it, Elson is gobbled whole during a deep sea diving excursion to search for the terrible lizard. Soon thereafter, Barney on human growth hormones emerges from the sea and unleashes mayhem upon Manhattan until Nesbitt devises a plan to terminate the Mesozoic madman.
The US Army is called in and responds to the dinodisaster with an electrified barricade and then a bazooka blast to the throat renders the creature weak which drives it to retreat back into the ocean. Unfortunately, it bleeds out over the streets of New York unleashing a prehistoric contagion, which infects the populace, causing even more fatalities. Now what to do? Three things will save the day.
Radioactive Isotope ✓
Coney Island Amusement Park ✓
Lee Van Cleef, of For a Few Dollars More (1965), as a sniper ✓
The Beast was directed by Eugene Lourie of Gorgo (1961) and was originally based on a short story by legendary Ray Bradbury, published by The Saturday Evening Post in 1951, and later anthologized as The Fog Horn. The film had a meager budget of $210,000, and in turn was a huge success due to the special visual effects of visceral visionary, Ray Harryhausen of Clash of the Titans (1981). One of the more memorable scenes is the octopus/shark fight sequence, which is highly enjoyable to watch and reminiscent in hilarity to the shark/zombie underwater showdown from Fulci’s Zombie (1979) or when Adam West blew up a shark with Bat Shark Repellant after it bit down on his leg in Batman: The Movie (1966). The “Coney Island Amusement Park” in the film is actually The Long Beach Amusement Park in where I would vacation in the summer as a boy with my family and frequent the boardwalk arcades to play Bally Midway’s smash hit Rampage (what an epiphany about universal connection I just encountered).
The Beast which was inspired by the successful 1952 re-release of King Kong (1933) was the first film to feature a giant creature as a consequence to mankind’s carelessness with the development of nuclear activity. Due to the film’s success, Japanese filmmaker Tomoyuki Tanaka would follow suit by filming and releasing his own take, Godzilla (1954). The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms was one of the first successfully in the sci-fi subgenre of “big monsters” which would inspire a generation of creature features (and directors like Joe Dante and John Landis to name a few) that became staples in all little kids’ lives during the 50’s and 60’s. Today, The Beast has been nominated in AFI’s Top 10 Sci-Fi Films and homage was paid in the release of successful monster movie, Cloverfield (2008) which borrowed heavily from The Beast and other similar fare to attract a new audience.
So give The Beast a view, and as an extra treat, there is uncredited cameo by a young James Best, Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane of The Dukes of Hazzard. Why do I share all of this info with you? “Because I love you, you love me…”