Saturday, 7 March 2015

March Monsters: The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953)

The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953)
Director: Eugène Lourié
Starring: Paul Hubschmid, Paula Raymond, and Cecil Kellaway
Running Time: 80 min

  I'm kind of excited about seeing this film because it has a couple things going for it. For one, it is a screenplay based on one of science fiction's greatest writer's Ray Bradbury and the other is that the stop-motion special effects were done by Ray Harryhausen, who was a pioneer, an innovator and is a true legend in his field.  Also, it's about a giant lizard rampaging through New York, how can a person not love that?

  Way up north in the Arctic circle, the American military is testing nuclear bombs and collecting the data.  After one such test called, "Operation Experiment", Prof. Tom Nesbitt and his team forge out into the wintery wasteland to gather their information from the Geiger counters right before a blizzard.  Tom splits up with his partner to get the work done faster, but quickly has to race back after him because he hears gun shots fire.  When he reaches his partner, he finds that there has been an accident and his partner has fallen into a ravine.  He is also mumbling some nonsense about a dinosaur and has broken leg.  Tom tries to help him but just as he is securing his partner's leg, he sees a giant dinosaur like creature wandering above the snow drifts.  Unfortunately, the weigh of the dinosaur causes a avalanche and Tom must leave his wounded companion in the snowy torrent to save himself.  Just able to make it to safety, Tom passes out and he rescued by the rest of his crew.
  When he wakes up, he tries to convince everybody that he saw a dinosaur and not a big purple one!  But nobody believes him and they think that he's losing his mind.  After a few days, Tom gives up this notion about the dinosaur, so he can keep his government job and he doesn't get sent to an asylum.  However, he's not the only one seeing this creature now because there are reports of something destroying a fishing boats in Grand Banks and Marquette, Canada, as well as a lighthouse in Maine, which is the final straw! No monster are messing with Maine!
  Tom heads down to New York to see paleontologist Thurgood Elson and his hot assistant Lee Hunter.  After some convincing and an evening of playing "pick the dinosaur" with Lee, Tom finally convinces Elson to get on board to help stop this monster menace.  Can they stop this dinosaur before it surfaces again and storms through another city or will this creature crash through America laying waste to everything in it's path?


  I really dug this film and the special effects are quite brilliant for it's time.  This was a first in many ways, not only for Ray Harryhausen and his team because this was their first creature movie but this was also the first live action film that a had a giant monster awakened as a result of the atomic testing.  Shortly after this, "Them" was released, then a little film called "Gojira" or "Godzilla", which opened the door to countless others after that.
  This also was long time art director, Eugène Lourié first time directing and he was able to seamlessly blend Harryhausen's creature into various live action scenes. He must have really enjoyed this experience because he made two other creature features, "The Giant Behemoth" and "Gorgo", before going back to work as an art director.


  The story is good but it is a little slow.  Like most films from the 50's, it takes it's time and builds the suspense.  This isn't a quick cut, action explosion type film that we're more familiar with now and some people may find the story dry.  However if you're patient, the monster scenes are quite enjoyable and it's a pretty fun ride overall.
  Also, Paul Hubschmid (Funeral in Berlin, The Tomb of Love), who plays Prof. Tom Nesbitt is suppose to be from New York but his accent keeps giving him away that he's not.  Before you go bananas, like I did wondering what the accent is, he's Swiss.  It doesn't take away for the role, but I found it mildly irritating and amusing trying to decipher where he's really from.


  This movie is great and anyone who loves classic monsters films will dig this too.  Although the story is a little slow, the stop-animation is brilliant and the ending is awesome!  So, if you're looking to unearth a film from the recesses of time, blast into this film and awaken the B-film loving creature inside you!

  

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