My heart belongs to the beast

I think this is the movie that made me fall in love with monster movies. There are many creature features that are on my list of favorites and I enjoy watching them over and over, but if I were on a desert island and was allowed only one movie to watch it would be this one. I’m sure that Ray Harryhausen’s talent had a lot to do with it. Or perhaps the fact that the Rhedosaurus is, if not actually then technically, a dinosaur. It could even be that the genius of Ray Bradbury played a part. Whatever the reason(s) “The Beast” is firmly planted in my soul and all other dinosaur movies must measure up.

The beast is awakened from a cryogenic state in the Arctic by a man made atomic explosion. (This is the third way monsters are “made” so to speak.) He works his way to New York City munching on people all the way down. Professor Tom Nesbitt (Paul Hubschmid) and Col. Jack Evans (Kenneth Tobey) must come up with a way to stop the beast. Love interest, and paleontologist, Lee Hunter (Paula Raymond) and her boss paleontologist Professor Thurgood Elson (Cecil Kellaway) help to identify the Rhedosaurus and its habits.

Highlights are of course the lighthouse sequence, the rampage in the streets of New York City and the Coney Island fire. At first Nesbitt has difficulty convincing people that it really exists. Everyone finally believes that the “monster does exist” when it is in their face eating the population of New York. It’s a classic plot. One that has been copied for over 60 years.

"The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms" was released in 1953 and was directed by Eugene Lourie. The Rhedosaurus makes a cameo appearance in the 1978 film "Planet of Dinosaurs". The movie was inspired by the release of "King Kong" and was the first movie to feature a giant monster awakened by an atomic bomb. It is said to have inspired "Godzilla".

While visiting Harryhausen on set Ray Bradbury was given a copy of the script and was asked if he could do some re-writes to it. While reading the script Bradbury realized that the lighthouse sequence was based on his own story written for "The Saturday Evening Post" titled "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms". The next day he received a telegram offering to buy the film rights to his story.

You could name at least 50 movies that are on everyone’s list of the best monster movies ever. But in my book you need to put “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms” first on that list.

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