KLAATU YOU (48)
November 25, 2020
One in a weekly series of enthusiastic posts, contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of our favorite pre-Star Wars science fiction movies.
THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS | d. EUGÈNE LOURIÉ | 1953
On February 1, 1950, atomic experts in Washington predicted that, by later that year, the United States would produce and test the world’s first hydrogen superbomb. While this weapon would be a relatively “crude” one to start, with only two to ten times the explosive power of the day’s best plutonium bomb, more “refined” models, it was optimistically noted, would be able to “fry” the earth’s largest cities “in a flash.” Said Mayor Shinzo Hamai, of Hiroshima, Japan, “We can only pray that neither the old atomic bomb, nor the new hydrogen will ever be used again.” Said Professor A.M. Low, president of the British Institute of Engineering, “Only a half-wit could believe the H-bomb could be banned. You might as well try to ban influenza.”
The testing took a bit longer than expected and the first hydrogen bomb wasn’t detonated until November 1, 1952, on Eniwetok Atoll, in the Marshall Islands.
Seven months later, in June 1953, Warner Brothers brought The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms into movie theaters nationwide. The premise is simple: the U.S. is conducting a thermonuclear test in the Arctic and, from beneath the terrifying beauty of the mushroom cloud, their emerges Rhedosaurus, a large dinosaur, previously frozen in a state of suspended animation. Upset and restless, the “monster,” as arrogant humans will call it, makes its way to New York City and, ultimately, Coney Island.
Despite the limits of its B+ movie budget, Beast was one of the best pictures of 1953 and would have made an ideal triple-feature that year with its Cold War espionage coeval, Pickup On South Street, and the peerless Coney Island adventure film, Little Fugitive. But Beast is also something else, and as a parable of atomic terror, it ranks as one of the essential films of an era whose apotheosis will arrive a decade later with the twined annihilations of Dr. Strangelove and Fail-Safe.
Credit for this remarkable accomplishment can be given to many persons, including the picture’s Russian-born French émigré director and production designer Eugène Lourié. That Beast was “suggested by” a 1951 Ray Bradbury short story, “The Fog Horn,” is a bit misleading in that the science-fiction author’s tale about a reawakened dinosaur isn’t at all about atomic weapons. Still, the idea planted a seed which Bradbury’s friend, Ray Harryhausen, brilliantly realized in what was the special effects genius’ first fully credited film. To highlight any one example of his invention is, here, to give too much away, but suffice it say that in scene after scene after remarkable stop-motion animation scene, Harryhausen makes the coming apocalypse a wonder to behold.
KLAATU YOU: INTRODUCTION by Josh Glenn | Matthew De Abaitua on ZARDOZ | Miranda Mellis on METROPOLIS | Rob Wringham on THE INVISIBLE MAN | Michael Grasso on THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN | Gordon Dahlquist on 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY | Erik Davis on DARK STAR | Carlo Rotella on THE OMEGA MAN | Madeline Ashby on KISS ME DEADLY | Adam McGovern on SILENT RUNNING | Michael Lewy on THIS ISLAND EARTH | Josh Glenn on WILD IN THE STREETS | Mimi Lipson on BARBARELLA vs. SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS | Vanessa Berry on THE FLY | Lynn Peril on ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN | Peggy Nelson on SOLARIS | Adrienne Crew on LOGAN’S RUN | Ramona Lyons on THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH | Kio Stark on THE STEPFORD WIVES | Dan Fox on FANTASTIC PLANET | Chris Lanier on IKARIE XB-1 | Devin McKinney on IDAHO TRANSFER | Mark Kingwell on THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO | Luc Sante on THE TENTH VICTIM | William Nericcio on DEATH RACE 2000 | Rob Walker on CAPRICORN ONE | Gary Panter on ANGRY RED PLANET | David Levine on THE STEPFORD WIVES | Karinne Keithley Syers on ALPHAVILLE | Carolyn Kellogg on IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE | Sara Ryan on ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN | Lisa Jane Persky on PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE | Adam Harrison Levy on BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES | Gerald Peary on CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON | Susannah Breslin on A CLOCKWORK ORANGE | Seth on WAR OF THE WORLDS | James Hannaham on GOJIRA/GODZILLA | Lydia Millet on VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED | Matthew Daniel on FANTASTIC VOYAGE | Shawn Wolfe on ROLLERBALL | Erin M. Routson on WESTWORLD | Marc Weidenbaum on COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT | Neil LaBute on 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA | Vicente Lozano on DAY OF THE DOLPHIN | Tom Roston on SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE | Katya Apekina on A BOY AND HIS DOG | Chelsey Johnson on THE BLOB | Heather Kapplow on SPACE IS THE PLACE | Brian Berger on THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS | Anthony Miller on THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL.
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