The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms: They couldn't believe their eyes! They couldn't escape the terror! And neither will you!
Before ‘Godzilla’ There Was ‘The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms’
From Film School Rejects
Do you remember your first dinosaur? The Jurassic Park T-rex? The titular Brontosaurus from Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend? The Valley of Gwangi‘s eponymous Allosaurus? I can’t name mine. They’ve always been with me. I was born, and they were there, haunting every childish thought that wasn’t devoted to Star Wars. The knowledge that there was a lost race of gargantuan reptiles that rampaged across our planet 243 million years ago (give or take a Wikipedia edit) was as stupendous as much as it was traumatizing.
You’re telling me that there was this gargantuan Argentinosaurus that stumbled about Earth, snacking on trees, and now it’s absolutely, totally, utterly gone? Does that mean humanity could one day be gone? No way! Their extinction hinted at my extinction and my compulsion to memorize every genus was a hope that one day some unknown entity would return the favor to my family and me. Devoting myself to dinosaur literature, comics, and cinema was a pledge to a forgotten society. I was not alone in this endeavor. Dino-fiction is a passion for hundreds of artists, and their work gave me the hope that there would be others to chronicle my legend one day.
A-bomb panic rapidly hatched dozens upon dozens of b movie monsters, and The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms was the créme de la mer. Based loosely on the Ray Bradbury short story of the same name (later to be retitled “The Fog Horn”), the basic gist concerns the catastrophic release of a prehistoric fictional Rhedosaurus after a nuclear warhead explodes during a test on the Arctic circle. The beast awakens from a historic hunger ready to feast on fishing boats and lighthouses, making his way to the all-you-can-eat buffet that is New York City. Scientists and soldiers must battle their contradictory philosophies and hash a plan that ends the Rhedosaurus’ berserker frenzy in the middle of an amusement park.
From City Pages
Crafted by FX pioneer Willis O’Brien, the titular character in 1933’s King Kong embodies the enduring appeal of stop-motion animation, a rudimentary but revered cinematic craft in which inanimate objects are adjusted ever-so-slightly between frames to create the illusion of movement. In utilizing the technique, director Merian C. Cooper not only populated an entire island with supersized beasts, but imbued Kong with a wide emotional range. Inspired by O’Brien, Ray Harryhausen took stop-motion methods even further, cleverly transposing his strikingly designed dinosaurs and mythological terrors into action-packed sequences, as memorably displayed in The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958). Showing that stop-motion techniques still had teeth, director Joe Dante’s Piranha (1978) even manages to make time amid the frenzied feeding of genetically modified killer fish to showcase an animated mutation, courtesy of Phil Tippett, whose adorable ugliness serves as yet another fine tribute to an indelible form of cinematic artistry.
A Tribute to the Legendary Ray Harryhausen: Master of Illusion
The most honest magicians never use the word “magic” – they’re illusionists; they make believable that which can’t possibly be, and that’s what Harryhausen was: a master illusionist who made us believe that his table-top constructions of fabric and clay and metal were massive, mighty creatures out of legend, out of fantasy, out of our nightmares. He was a master of stop-motion animation; moving his creations a fraction of an inch per frame to create the illusion of flying saucers toppling the Washington Monument (Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, 1956), a tremendous octopus threatening the Golden Gate Bridge (It Came from Beneath the Sea, 1955), or an impossible prehistory of cavemen battling dinosaurs (One Million Years B.C., 1966). When he passed, a generation of filmmakers who’d grown up watching his work at movie house matinees and Saturday night monster movie TV slots saluted him, acknowledging how his work had inspired them. We’re talking the likes of James Cameron and Tim Burton. George Lucas said, “Without Ray Harryhausen, there would likely have been no Star Wars.”
Born, fittingly enough, in the movie capital of the world – Los Angeles – Harryhausen became enamored of the possibilities of stop-motion when he was just a 13-year-old kid, sitting enthralled through King Kong (1933) over and over. Harryhausen reached out to the genius behind Kong, the legendary stop-motion pioneer Willis O’Brien, and eventually found work as O’Brien’s technician on Mighty Joe Young (1949).
Harryhausen had already been experimenting at home with stop-motion, but possibly one of the greatest lessons he learned from his apprenticeship with O’Brien was that it took more than good animation techniques to bring their little creatures to life; they had to have character.
Famous Monsters of Filmland #50 July 1968 Warren Publishing Grade VF
Basil Gorgo cover.
What makes this issue cool:
Feature on the giant bug epic Tarantula. The Bela Lugosi horror "Devil Bat". A feature on makeup artist Ben Nye who created Hollywood's best B-movie monster makeup. Cover Story: Gorgo The Gargantuan. The British finally got into the giant monster movie business in the early 1960s. Why let the Japanese and American chaps have all the fun. The Basil Gogos cover painting of Gorgo is reprinted from issue #11. "Horror of Dracula" comic book feature.
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11 Deep Facts About The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms
From Mental Floss
In 1953, horror fans watched with glee as a giant, city-stomping reptile arose from the depths of the ocean. And no, its name wasn’t “Godzilla.” This particular brute was called the Rhedosaurus, and it was introduced to the world in one of the most influential science fiction films ever made: The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms.
The film was a monster at the box office, too, ushering in the “creature feature” craze that gripped the 1950s. Furthermore, the film heralded the arrival of special effects visionary Ray Harryhausen, whose mesmerizing handiwork changed an entire industry forever. Grab your scuba gear and let’s pay tribute to the colossal classic.
It all started with a roar. One night, while he was living near Santa Monica Bay, legendary sci-fi author Ray Bradbury was awakened from his sleep by a blaring foghorn. Moved by the mournful bellow, he quickly got to work on a short story about a lovelorn sea monster. Called The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (later retitled The Foghorn), it was published in The Saturday Evening Post on June 23, 1951.
BC’s Tales of the Pacific | ‘The Fog Horn,’ part 1
Out there in the cold water, far from land, we waited every night for the coming of the fog, and it came, and we oiled the brass machinery and lit the fog light up in the stone tower. Feeling like two birds in the gray sky, McDunn and I sent the light touching out, red, then white, then red again, to eye the lonely ships. And if they did not see our light, then there was always our Voice, the great deep cry of our Fog Horn shuddering through the rags of mist to startle the gulls away like decks of scattered cards and make the waves turn high and foam. “It’s a lonely life, but you’re used to it now, aren’t you?” asked McDunn.
“Yes,” I said. “You’re a good talker, thank the Lord.”
“Well, it’s your turn on land tomorrow,” he said, smiling, “to dance the ladies and drink gin.”
“What do you think, McDunn, when I leave you out here alone?”
“On the mysteries of the sea.” McDunn lit his pipe. It was a quarter past seven of a cold November evening, the heat on, the light switching its tail in two hundred directions, the Fog Horn bumbling in the high throat of the tower. There wasn’t a town for a hundred miles down the coast, just a road which came lonely through dead country to the sea, with few cars on it, a stretch of two miles of cold water out to our rock, and rare few ships.
“The mysteries of the sea’ said McDunn thoughtfully.”You know, the ocean’s the biggest damned snowflake ever? It rolls and swells a thousand shapes and colors, no two alike. Strange. One night, years ago, I was here alone, when all the fish of the sea surfaced out there. Something made them swim in and lie in the bay, sort of trembling and staring up at the tower light going red, white, red, white across them so I could see their funny eyes. I fumed cold. They were like a big peacock’s tail, moving out there until midnight. Then, without so much as a sound, they slipped away, the million of them was gone. I kind of think maybe, in some sort of way, they came all those miles to worship. Strange. But think how the tower must look to them, standing seventy feet above the water, the God-light flashing out from it, and the tower declaring itself with a monster voice. They never came back, those fish, but don’t you think for a while they thought they were in the Presence?”
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