The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (原子怪獣現る,   Genshi kaiju arawaru, lit. atomic monster appears'?) is a 1953 science fiction film produced by Warner Bros. Entertainment. It was based on the story "The Fog Horn" by Ray Bradbury. The movie was released to American theaters on June 13, 1953.

Plot Synopsis

Far north of the Arctic Circle, a nuclear bomb test, dubbed Operation Experiment, is conducted. Prophetically, right after the blast, physicist Thomas Nesbitt muses, "What the cumulative effects of all these atomic explosions and tests will be, only time will tell." Sure enough, the explosion awakens a huge fictional carnivorous dinosaur known as the Rhedosaurus, thawing it out of the ice where it had been hibernating for 100,000 years.

The monster starts making its way down the east coast of North America, sinking a fishing ketch off the Grand Banks, destroying another near Marquette, Canada, wrecking a lighthouse in Maine, and crushing buildings in Massachusetts. The monster eventually comes ashore in Manhattan, tearing through power lines and attacking the city. The monster's rampage causes the death of 180 people, injures 1,500 and does $300 million worth of damage in the biggest disaster New York had ever seen.

Arriving on the scene, the military troops of Col. Jack Evans blast a bazooka hole in the monsters throat and drive it back into the sea. Unfortunately, it bleeds all over the streets unleashing a "horrible, virulent" prehistoric germ. It begins to contaminate the soldiers who have come into contact with it, causing more fatalities. The germ precludes blowing the monster up or burning it, lest the disease spreads. Nesbitt comes up with the idea to shoot a radioactive isotope into the monster's neck wound, burning it up from the inside and killing it without spreading the disease.

The beast returns ashore and attacks the Coney Island amusement park. Military sharpshooter Corporal Stone climbs aboard a roller coaster with the potent radioactive isotope launcher to get onto eye level with the beast. He fires the isotope into the monster's wound, and with a final scream it crashes to the ground, dead.


Staff role on the left, staff member's name on the right.

  • Directed by Eugène Lourié
  • Written by Lou Morheim, Fred Freiberger, Ray Bradbury, Daniel James, Eugène Lourié, and Robert Smith
  • Produced by Jack Dietz, Hal E. Chester, and Bernard W. Burton
  • Music by David Buttolph
  • Cinematography by John L. Russell
  • Edited by Bernard W. Burton
  • Assistant directing by Horace Hough
  • Special effects by Willis Cook, Ray Harryhausen, George Lofgren, and Eugène Lourié


Actor's name on the left, character played on the right.

  • Paul Hubschmid as Professor Tom Nesbitt (as Paul Christian)
  • Paula Raymond as Dr. Lee Hunter
  • Cecil Kellaway as Dr. Thurgood Elson
  • Kenneth Tobey as Colonel Jack Evans
  • Donald Woods as Captain Phillip Jackson
  • Lee Van Cleef as Corporal Stone
  • Steve Broodie as Sergeant Loomis
  • Ross Elliott as Professor George Ritchie
  • Jack Pennick as Jacob Bowman
  • Ray Hyke as Sergeant Willistead
  • Paula Hill as Miss Ryan (as Mary Hill)
  • Micheal Fox as Emergency Room Doctor
  • Alvin Greenman as First Radar Man
  • Frank Ferguson as Dr. Morton
  • King Donovan as Dr. Ingersoll
  • Merv Griffin as Voice of Announcer and Bespectacled Man
  • Fred Aldrich as Radio Operator
  • James Best as Charlie - Radar Man
  • Edward Clark as Lighthouse Keeper
  • Loise Colombet as Nun / Nurse
  • Robert Easton as Deckhand
  • Roy Engel as Major Evans
  • Franklyn Farnum as Balletgoer
  • Bess Flowers as Balletgoer
  • Joe Gray as Longshoreman
  • Kenner G. Kemp as Police Officer with Rifle
  • Jimmy Lloyd as Soldier
  • Vivian Mason as Miss Ryan - Secretary
  • Vera Miles as Woman in Tailor
  • Steve Mitchell as Police Officer
  • Paul Picerni as Man in Trailer
  • Hugh Prosser as Doctor
  • William Woodson as Voice of Opening Narrator and Radio Announcer




The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms was the first film to feature a giant monster awakened or brought about by an atomic bomb detonation and to attack a major city. Due to its financial success at the box office, it helped spawn the entire genre of "giant monster" films of the 1950s. Producers Jack Dietz and Hal E. Chester got the idea to combine the growing paranoia about nuclear weapons with the concept of a giant monster after the successful theatrical re-release of King Kong in 1952. In turn, this craze inspired the Godzilla series.

When the short story of the same title by Ray Bradbury was published in The Saturday Evening Post, Dietz and Chester were reminded by someone that both works share a similar theme of a prehistoric sea monster, and a lighthouse being destroyed. The producers who wished to share Bradbury's reputation and popularity, bought the right to Bradbury's story and changed the film's title. The movie was promoted as being "suggested" by a Ray Bradbury story. Bradbury would eventually change the title of his story to The Fog Horn when it was reprinted.

Creature effects were assigned to Ray Harryhausen, who had been working with Willis O'Brien, the man who created King Kong, for years. The monster of the film looked nothing like the Brontosaurus-type creature of the short story. A drawing of the creature was published along with the story in the The Saturday Evening Post.[1] At one point there were plans to have the Rhedosaurus snort flames, but this idea was dropped before production began due to budget restrictions. However, the concept was still used in the films movie poster artwork.

Some early preproduction conceptual sketches of the Rhedosaurus showed that at one point it was to have a shelled head and at another point was to be a beaked Dinosaur creature. [2]

While trying to identify the Rhedosaurus, Professor Tom Nesbitt goes through the dinosaur drawings of Charles R. Knight, a man whom Harryhausen claims as in inspiration. Incidentally, Knight died in 1953, the year Beast was released.

The dinosaur skeleton in the museum sequence is artificial; it was obtained from storage at RKO Pictures where it had been constructed for Bringing up Baby (1938).

This movie had a production budget of $210,000. It grossed roughly $5 million dollars at the Box Office. Original prints of Beast were sepia toned.

The original music score was composed by Michel Michelet, but when Warner Brothers purchased the film they had a new score written by David Buttolph. Ray Harryhausen had been hoping that his film music hero Max Steiner would be able to write the music for the picture, as Steiner had written the landmark score for King Kong, and Steiner was under contract with Warner Brothers at the time. Unfortunately for Ray, Steiner had too many commitments to allow him to do the film, but fortunately for film music fans, Buttolph composed one of his most memorable and powerful scores, setting much of the tone for giant monster music of the 1950s.


Main article: The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms/Gallery.


Main article: The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (Soundtrack).

Alternate Titles

The Monster from Beneath the Sea (Umi no shita kara kaibutsu) (Working title)

The Sea Monster (O Monstro do Mar; Brazil)

Panic in New York (Pánik New Yorkban; Hungary)

Theatrical Releases

  • United States - June 13, 1953
  • Brazil - August 28, 1953
  • West Germany - November 6, 1953
  • Italy - January 1954
  • Sweden - February 22, 1954
  • Finland - March 26, 1954
  • Denmark - March 29, 1954
  • France - July 9, 1954
  • Austria - July 16, 1954
  • Portugal - December 12, 1954
  • Japan - December 22, 1954
  • Turkey - January 1955


Warner Home Video (2003)[3]

  • Released: October 21, 2003
  • Region: Region 1
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 1.0), French (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Format: Black & White, Closed-captioned, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Other Details: 1.33:1 aspect ratio, 80 minutes run time, 1 disc, American version

Warner Home Video (2006)[4]

  • Released: August 22, 2006
  • Region: Region 1
  • Language: English (Stereo)
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Closed-captioned, NTSC, Full Screen
  • Other Details: 1.33:1 aspect ratio, 518 minutes run time, 2 discs, American version

Warner Home Video (2015)

  • Released: October 27, 2015
  • Region:  A/1
  • Language: English
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-Ray, Black & White, Closed-captioned, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Other Details: 80 minutes, 1 disc, American version

Theatrical Posters


  • This movie went on to greatly influence the Godzilla series as series creators Ishiro Honda and Tomoyuki Tanaka were fans of it. Pre-production of the first Godzilla film had already started but the decision of what the monster should be was still up for debate, at the time being decided on between a giant ape, an octopus, or a mutant humanoid with a mushroom-cloud shaped head. Tanaka saw The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms while in the United States and got the idea to make the monster saurian, directly resulting in Godzilla.
  • Multiple fans have noticed a strong similarity between this film's plot and that of Godzilla (1998 film). Both involve opening with a nuclear test unleashing a lizard-like monster who first attacks a fishing boat, damages a seaside structure including a lighthouse, and making landfall on the same Manhattan dock where it has traveled with the intent to spawn. It proceeds to plow through a building a leave a massive hole in it, evade military watch until nightfall where it has a showdown against an artillery unit. In the fighting it departs to attack a submarine vessel (a diving bell or modern submarine) but leaves a blood sample that reveals a secondary threat. After a nuclear scientist studies the creature, the military manages to kill it with rockets after it gets caught up inside a famous New York landmark (Coney Island roller-coaster or the Brooklyn Bridge).


Film media
Godzilla films
King Kong films
Mothra films
Gamera films
Other films
Cancelled or scrapped films