The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms

Starring: Paul Christian, Paula Raymond and Cecil Kellaway
Warner Home Video
RRP 12.99
Certificate: PG
Available now

An atomic bomb tested in the Arctic frees a gigantic dinosaur from the icy tomb that has encased it for 100 million years. An ice fall kills all witnesses except one, Professor Tom Nesbitt who returns to New York with the fantastic story. No one will believe his tale, but the truth is revealed when the beast emerges from the ocean and lays waste to Manhattan. Can the Professor come up with a plan to save the city before it's too late?...

Based partly on a short story by Ray Bradbury, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms marked the start of the special effects career of Ray Harryhausen (more famous for his work - especially the skeleton warriors scene - on Jason and the Argonauts).

The story builds suspense convincingly, and the movie's showdown at Coney Island is well realised - if a little crude by today's standards. Even for it's time, 1953's The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms was a low budget movie and to be honest the fact that it is half as good as it is is a mystery.

It was due to the lack of a serious budget that led Harryhausen to experiment with a new technique for inserting his monsters into real-world backgrounds called split-screen. The origins of split-screen, a system of rear projection onto overlapping screens, lay in the stop-motion photography invented by movie pioneer Willis O'Brien, used most famously in King Kong.

Sadly, no real restoration has been attempted on this release. There are plenty of hairs, scratches and dropout on the negative, which is a shame.

Extras on the disc are nothing stunning, but are worth watching, and include The Rhedosaurus and the Rollercoaster: Making the Beast featurette and Harryhausen And Bradbury: An Unfathomable Friendship featurette. There is also an Easter Egg which is easy to find... and not really worth the effort.

This is certainly a movie worth watching, but whether it's worth buying is questionable - you might be better off waiting until it's on TV again.

Nick Smithson

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