Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms

The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms; fantasy, USA, 1953; D: Eugene Lourie, S: Paul Christian, Paula Raymond, Cecil Kellaway

During a military experiment in which an atomic bomb is detonated in the Arctic area, a giant dinosaur is awakened from ice. One scientist who spots him dies, while another, Thomas Nesbit, is injured and sent to a psychiatric ward in New York. However, when ships get destroyed and reports about a giant lizard emerge, Thomas' testimony gains on weight. The lizard shows up in New York and starts destroying the city. Using a radioactive isotope, a sharpshooter shoots and kills the creature in the amusement park.

One of the early works of stop-motion special effects legend Ray Harryhausen, Eugene Lourie's cult fantasy B-movie "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms" is a 'guilty pleasure', a cheesy, trashy but fun monster movie. It gains weight thanks to the relevant ecological messages about how an atomic bomb detonation awakened a giant monster lizard from ice, i.e. a warning about careless and heavy handed nuclear weapons testing back in those times and its consequences that will come back in one way or another, and as such it even inspired the legendary "Godzilla" movie(s) a year later. The sole storyline and artistic execution are pale and stiff, though, from the fact that the first 57 minutes are bland - empty walks, conventional dialogues - and only the last 22 minutes, where the lizard is walking across the streets of New York and wrecking havoc (in one scene, when the police opens fire on it, it breaks the walls of a building and exits to the street on the other side), engage the viewers, with a few notable exceptions (Thomas browsing through illustrated pictures of dinosaurs in order to "identify" the one he saw on the Arctic). The ending is especially shaky, featuring the old cliche that the only solution when a monster shows up in a city, is its murder, which leaves a bitter taste in the viewers' heads.


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