And then, of course, you've got your misidentified cryptids of the vein of a creature believed to be extinct who suddenly shows up again alive and well. A few noteworthy examples of these "Lazarus Toxons" include the La Palma Giant Lizard, the La Gomera Giant Lizard and the El Hierro Giant Lizard! Yep, all giant lizards once believed to be extinct who are now walking around, applying for Discover Cards and contributing to the whole Sub-Prime Mortgage Fiasco. Lizards are not known for their financial stability and forethought, mistakenly believed extinct or not.
While none of those three "Giant Lizards" is quite the size of that crazy, carrion eating Komodo, even that weirdo isn't a fraction of the size of the subject of our weird reptile review tonight! I'm talking about that quadrupedal predator with the forked tongue, long, dragging tail, lizard spines and scales and a undinosaurian skull it would take a three inch shell to penetrate... the Rhedosaurus, aka: The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms! Yeah, THAT GUY!
If you're thinking that maybe you missed one of Dr. Moreland's paleontology classes in which the smiling Rhedosaurus was discussed, dissected and discoursed, rest assured this is a fictional giant monster, much more Dragon than Dinosaur. The story may strike you as somewhat familiar, considering that this Monstrosity of the theropods was awakened by an Atomic Bomb only to first terrorize the ocean-going ships and finally to walk gingerly up to New York City and demolish everything it can and eat everybody it can before the final climactic fade to credits.
Sound a lot like Godzilla? Of course it does. From its high-pitched and terrifying scream to the very origin, to the havoc it wreaks to the very electrical wires they both trip on it's an obvious rip-off, right? Sure, except for the fact that The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms was released in 1953, a full year before 1954's Gojira and was inspired by an earlier article by Ray Bradbury. In fact, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms did a lot to inspire Gojira, which, in turn, went on to inspire Gorgo, Gamera, Cloverfield and a butt-load of others. However, let's not forget the first giant cryptid unleashed upon New York City was twenty full years earlier with 1933's King Kong! Take that you Sea Monster Lizard Jackasses! Mammals rule! MAMMALS RULE!
But on to the goof-ball mammals responsible for this mess. No, not writers Fred Freiberger, Louis Morheim, Robert Smith or Eugène Lourié (who also directed). I mean the Arctic Circle Operation who are sent to Experiment with atomic detonation around Santa Claus' house (Dick Move!). The fact that this experimental operation has been dubbed "Operation Experiment" shows just how poorly planned out the whole shebang really is! As this geek squad of the Polar Ice Cap (not unlike that of The Thing from Another World) soon finds out, this nuclear detonation has cracked and melted the ice and awakened a long-hibernating Terrible Lizard who is more than a little pissed off at the lack of a snooze bar. Terrible morning breath, too.
At first, the main problem is that only one member of the kooky crew actually witnesses "The Animal". Professor Tom Nesbitt (Paul Hubschmid) swears up and down that a hideous and scaly beast crawled out of the stinking Ice Hole to wreak havoc on the world, while pretty much everybody else in the world is pointing at him behind his back, laughing and making sounds not unlike that of a Cuckoo clock! That is until the hundred million year old monster arises from the sea and attacks a fishing vessel. Then those sailors alone would believe the guy. That is until the same great-granddaddy of Godzilla pops up and destroys another ship... then a light house around Maine... hey then JUST THOSE PEOPLE MIGHT BELIEVE HIM!
Okay, so he's crazy as a germophobe in a food fight! Or he would be if he wasn't right. Paleontologist Dr. Lee Hunter (Paula Raymond) is the only (credible) person out there to believe his ass, but when the big-ass BEAST from twenty-thousand fathoms finally belly-flops up on Manhattan Island, makes a total ass of himself and starts to even smash up the Coney Island Roller Coaster, there aren't that many people out there who can keep saying "Monster, what Monster?" Even Hunter's boss Professor Thurgood Elson (Cecil Kellaway) has to put away his "I'm Skeptical" t-shirt. Trust me, folks, it's way worse than what that Brontosaurus did to London in The Lost World! Trust me, this is just the ice burg's tip!
Oh, what, too many spoilers? Hell, look at the poster! That alone tells you more than I just did. Further, while many of these plot devices have been copied for the many followers of this film, it's hard to miss that same familiar formula that will help make this film into something of a predictable piece of Science Fiction Film history. When the US Military, represented largely by Colonel Jack Evans (Kenneth Tobey) and Corporal Stone (Lee Van Cleef) arrive, we can all say "Yeah, I wondered when they were going to show up!"
That said, there are those plot points that, themselves, were borrowed from decades-older predecessors like The Lost World and King Kong! The main difference, the one that was so often borrowed and revised, is the addition of the "Atom Age" catalyst that kept people on the nail-biting edge throughout the cold war!
Still, it's hard to deny the success of this film and its influence. It was both a financial success and the first domino in a series of big, radioactive creature features like Behemoth the Sea Monster and Them! This is largely a credit to the excellent miniatures, convincing matting and the brilliant stop-motion animated title character by Ray Harryhausen! When CGI Dinosaurs like those seen in Jurassic Park and later films are compared to the hand-placed puppets of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, sure they don't appear to be in the same ball park. But look at this film and what they did with what they had. The underwater sequences, the composite effects and the lashing tail of the Beast itself are incredible. The matching of the miniature Roller Coaster to the real life track the live action parts were filmed at alone is striking enough to warrant a second or third look!
Let's not forget that this is an early 1950s Sci-Fi Monster Flick with cold war paranoia, sanctimonious dialogue and a somewhat formulaic plot, complete with narration and overacting. Still, this is among the first of its kind with technical brilliance for the time and an exiting story, not to mention a phenomenal finale. The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms may not be the best monster movie ever made, but it's worth Three and one half Stars out of Five if its worth a nickel! Now, if you'll excuse me, the Loch Ness Monster is calling me from the street. For some weird reason she wants "Tree Fiddy", whatever that is!
How's THIS for an Ice Breaker?
CLICK HERE for More Reviews!!!