The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms

Written by Barney Buckley

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  • Paul Christian as Professor Tom Nesbitt
  • Paula Raymond as Lee Hunter
  • Cecil Kellaway as Dr. Thurgood Elson
  • Kenneth Tobey as Colonel Jack Evans
  • Donald Woods as Captain Phil Jackson
  • Ross Elliott as George Ritchie
  • Steve Brodie as Sgt. Loomis
  • Jack Pennick as Jacob Bowman
  • Michael Fox as ER doctor
  • Lee Van Cleef as Corporal Jason Stone
  • Frank Ferguson as Dr. Morton
  • King Donovan as Dr. Ingersoll
  • James Best as Charlie, radar operator

Information Based on the Movie


This is an American black-and-white science fiction monster film. It was produced by Warner Bros. The film itself is a stop motion animation special effects that are done by Ray Harryhausen. This film is based off of the original screenplay that was done by Ray Bradbury based on a short story called “The Fog Horn” specifically the scene where a lighthouse does get destroyed by a creature known as the Rhedosaurus.

A short plot synopsis based on this is a fictional dinosaur known as the Rhedosaurus is released from his frozen hibernation by the use of an atomic bomb in the Arctic Circle. This is very similar to the original Gamera movie that came out in 1965 were planes fly over and drop bombs and release the mighty Terrapin.

The Beast from Twenty Thousand Fathoms is the very first fell that features an atomic monster which did help inspire the Japanese movie from the Toho Motion Picture Company known as Godzilla: King of the Monsters in this movie came out in 1954 the very next year.

Plot Synopsis

The film the story out in the further regions of the north of the Arctic Circle.

Their scientists are conducting nuclear bomb testings and it was the “Operation Experiments”

it would be soon after that physicist Thomas Nesbitt mutters these famous words “what the cumulative effects of all these atomic explosions and tests will be, only time will tell.”

No sooner did he say that that they suddenly realize that the explosion did in fact awoken a gigantic dinosaur that is roughly 3 high and 100 feet long and it is in fact a carnivorous dinosaur known as the Rhedosaurus.

The Rhedosaurus was actually thawing out in the ice and had been suspended in animation for quite a long time.

It seems that Nesbitt was the only surviving member to what had happened when they release the Rhedosaurus. Nesbitt is dismissed as being crazy or delirious despite what he had seen. We all know that the Rhedosaurus did escape from the Arctic Circle and now heading towards North America.

It does managed to destroy a fishing boat off of the Grand Banks As Well as destroying yet another fishing boat off of Marquette Canada.


He is also seeing destroying a lighthouse that is located in Maine. He would eventually makes his way towards Manhattan and this is very similar to Godzilla 1998 and that is why a lot of fans assume this would literally be a remake of this film. There are some elements that are a Godzilla 1998 that come from this film.

Nesbitt would eventually gain allies in paleontologists Thurgood Elson and his young assistant Lee Hunter after they discover there was a surviving fishermen offer one of the boats he is seen going through a collection of drawings and he picks out the Rhedosaurus and that is exactly what Nesbitt saw to.

They figure out according to some mapping where the Rhedosaurus might show up. With the skepticism of the military officers it is then that Elson proposes that the Rhedosaurus would be returning to the Hudson River area.

The reason he would say this is because there has been discovery of fossils of other Rhedosaurus as there were actually found in that area.

Prof. Elson is suddenly killed after his bell is swallowed by the Rhedosaurus. The beast would eventually come ashore in Manhattan. In a newspaper clipping it is said that the beast when it came ashore killed almost 180 people with 1500 people injured with a total estimated damage of $300 million.

The military troops would eventually show off and it is led by none other than Col. Jack Evans tries to stop the Rhedosaurus with an electrified barricade. They then tried to blast the Rhedosaurus with a bazooka and it does when directly into the throat of the Rhedosaurus and by doing this they are hoping it would drive the Rhedosaurus back into the sea.


Unfortunately when they did this the Rhedosaurus’s blood had bled all over the streets of Manhattan and unleashed a horrible virulent prehistoric contagion which does eventually began to in fact wipe out the populace.

They go back to the drawing board and decide to create a radioactive isotope and then shoot it into the Rhedosaurus is injured and hopes that it would burn from the inside out killing all of the contagion.

The Rhedosaurus would eventually come back into Manhattan as he makes his way towards Coney Island Amusement Park and the military sharpshooter known as Cpl. Stone takes a rifle grenade loaded with the radioactive isotope and climbs aboard a roller coaster and rides the roller coaster to the top of the tracks.

This is where he can get an eye level of the Rhedosaurus and he does managed to fire the isotope directly into the Rhedosaurus’s neck which was wounded when they fire the original was and released all the contagion.

By doing this the creature let out a horrible scream and thrashed about setting the park on fire and eventually the Rhedosaurus would collapse and eventually died.

The Production of the Beast from Twenty Thousand Fathoms


The film had a production cost of $200,000 which was quite expensive for 1953. $2.25 million at the North American box office door in his first year of release. However it did end up grossing more than $5 million.

The original prints of the film shows that the Rhedosaurus was actually a sepia tone color.

The original title for this film was announced in trades as “The Monster from beneath the Sea”.

During the Pre-Production it as brought to Jack Dietz and Hal E. Chester by Ray Harryhausen that Ray Bradberry had written a short story called “The Beast from Twenty Thousand Fathoms” that was just published by The Saturday Evening Post in 1951 (it was later changed to what is called “The Fog Horn”. There was a similar sequence that appeared in the draft of the script for “the Monster from beneath the Sea”. Ray Harryhausen brought this to their attention and the producers who wish to share Bradberry’s reputation and popularity, probably bought the rights to his story and changed the film’s title to match that of the title story. Ray Bradberry’s name was used extensively in the promotional campaign and was given credit when they read “Suggested by the Saturday Evening Post Story” by Ray Bradbury was also added to the end credits of the film.

The original musical score was composed by Michel Michelet , about one Warner Bros. purchased the film they had a new score written by David Buttolph. Ray Harryhausen was hoping that his film music hero Max Steiner would be able to write the music for the film. Max Steiner was the composer who wrote the landmark score for the original King Kong movie that came out in 1933. Max Steiner was also contracted on the Warner Bros. at that time. Unfortunately for Ray Harryhausen Max Steiner had too many commitments that would allow him to score the film. However Buutolph had created one of the most memorable and powerful scores, setting much of the tome for this giant monster film from 1953.

There were early pre-production conceptual sketches of the beast and they do show at one point it was to have a shelled head and and another given point you was supposed to have a beak as well. However because Ray Harryhausen was assigned to the special effects and the creation of the creature he had been working with Willis O’Brien who had done and created King Kong in 1933 for many years and the monster of the film looks nothing like the Brontosaurus-type creature of the short story. The creature in the film does resemble a lot like a Tyrannosaurus rex-type prehistoric predator. There was a drawing of the creature that was published along with the story in The Saturday Evening Post. There was at one point plans to have the Rhedosaurus snort flames (LOL) however this idea was dropped just before production began due to budgetary restrictions. The concept, however, was still used for the film’s poster artwork. And it also later depicted the Rhedosaurus with nuclear flame breath this one also inspire the film from Japan known as Godzilla: King of the Monsters.


There is a scene within the film that does attempt to identify the Rhedosaurus, Prof. Tom Nesbitt rifles through dinosaur drawings by Charles R Knight a man whom Ray Harryhausen claims as an inspiration and also did some of the dinosaur work in the movie King Kong 1933.

The dinosaur skeleton in the museum sequence is artificial; it was obtained from storage at RKO pictures where it had been constructed for their classic comedy “Bringing up Baby” which came out in 1938.

The climatic roller coaster live action scenes were actually filmed on location at The Pike which is located in Long Beach California and it does feature the Cyclone Racer entrance ramp, ticket booth, loading platform, and views of the structure from the beach. There was also a split-Matte, in camera special-effects that was done by Ray Harryhausen that would effectively combine the live action of the actors and the roller coaster background footage from this particular amusement park.

Reception and Legacy of This Film


The Beast from Twenty Thousand Fathoms was a live action film that was very inspirational and it also included a giant monster that was awakened and brought about by the atomic bomb detonation as we all know how the film goes is also the inspiration to the Toho Motion Picture Company’s first classic Godzilla film called Godzilla: King of the Monsters which came out the very next year in 1954. It would literally be 16 months afte Bordeaux r the release of this film. This film also inspired other films that would eventually turn into a craze and this would include such films as Them! That would come out the following year and that is based on giant ants. It also inspired to British films that was helmed by the director Eugene Lourie directed this film The Beast from Twenty Thousand Fathoms and he also directed another film that would come out in 1959 known as “Behemoth, the Sea Monster”. Later in the United States it would be retitled as “The Giant Behemoth” as well as another famous English sci-fi giant monster movie known as “Gorgo”.

Another film that came out in 2008 known as Cloverfield this film also involves a giant monster terrorizing the New York City area and it does insert a frame from the film The Beast from Twenty Thousand Fathoms along with frames from movies like King Kong and Them!. These were incorporated into the hand-held camera footage used throughout the entire film.

The Beast from Twenty Thousand Fathoms was nominated for AFI’S Top 10 Science Fiction Films List.

The Beast from Twenty Thousand Fathoms also appeared in the film Gremlins 2.

Interesting Facts and Trivia about the Beast from Twenty Thousand Fathoms


As we all know the Rhedosaurus went through several different designs before the final concept was used in the film. As I mentioned before this particular early concept would have had him fitted with pointy ears, a sharp beak, and webbed, human -like hands. There was also another design that Ray Harryhausen had described as sort of a roundhead and he was unhappy with this particular design and he would eventually replace it with a new stall modeling after the Tyrannosaurus rex. As we know the monster was given a distinctive, four-leg stance to prevent it from looking like a typical carnivorous dinosaur.

Here is another piece of trivia in the name Rhedosaurus the first two letters in the name do spell out the name of Ray Harryhausen. Ray Harryhausen also mentions in a quote “I don’t know where his name came from,” he told Empire in 2012. “People say it’s based on my initials, but I don’t think it is.”

The Rhedosaurus also makes an appearance in the film “Planet of the Dinosaurs” is where Lee led the Tyrannosaurus rex across the Bering land, this is where we see a Rhedosaurus suddenly appear from behind a rock. The large dinosaur did in fact hiss at the man and then we see the Tyrannosaurus rex approaching the Rhedosaurus does in fact face in and being is one of the only dinosaurs that was large enough to challenge the tyrants that you dinosaur snarled at each other and snapped its jaws at each other. However the Tyrannosaurus rex would not be deterred. Lunging it grips the smaller dinosaur by the neck tore from the rock the Rhedosaurus was struggling to free itself but it was in May as the Tyrannosaurus rex drops it to the ground and closed its powerful drawls around the Rhedosaurus’s had crushing the skull.

Another interesting fact about this movie is that it as I mentioned before inspired Tomoyuki Tanaka to go ahead and create the film that came out in 1954 known as Godzilla: King of the Monsters.

This film also inspired by the success of the 1950 to re-release all King Kong (1933) was the first film to feature a giant creature that was awakened or mutated by a nuclear bomb.


Some film aficionados might recognize Alvin Greenman, the first character to speak after the narrator, and the first to notice the beast on on the radar. Six years earlier he played Alfred, the Macys Janitor in Miracle on 34th Street (1947). TV aficionados though might recognize the second character to speak. Playing the part of Charlie is actor James Best, best remembered for his role as Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane from The Dukes of Hazzard (1979).

Deleted Scene: The 2003 DVD release reveals one shot of the Rhedasaurus that was omitted from the final film. That shot can be found in the trailer for The Black Scorpion (1957) (in special features) about 1/2 through the preview. (Spoiler: The Beast is walking, breast high, toward screen right. The background shows 2 buildings; one of them with fire escapes. Superimposed title card states, “You’ve thrilled to the terror of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.”

Warner Brothers bought the film from producers Hal E. Chester and ‘Jack Deitz’ for $450,000.

When the radio announcer is reading the news about the monster’s rampage through New York, various shots of the city are shown, mostly with panicked citizens in the street. When the announcer mentions the situation at Times Square, the accompanying footage shows the Palace Theater, whose marquee reads “Judy Garland – Live and in Person.”

During the octopus/shark sequence, some of the footage was obviously shot in an aquarium, because some of the octopus’ suckers are gripping the glass.

In its original release prints of the film were processed in sepia tone. Some prints also had the underwater sequences tinted green.

(at around 38 mins) Prof. Elson (Cecil Kellaway) reads an article about a 1797 professor who was fired for claiming that he had seen leprechauns remove a tree. He continues “Today it’s monsters instead of leprechauns”. Tom Nesbitt (Paul Christian) then enters and asks “How certain are you there were no leprechauns?” Cecil Kellaway played a leprechaun in the 1948 film “The Luck of the Irish”.


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