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Although THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS ($20) was the first film in which Ray Harryhausen was solely responsible for the stop motion animation special effects, his signature style was already properly in place, thus making it the archetype for many of the legendary fantasy films upon which his reputation was built. In THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS we already see Harryhausen’s penchant for rampaging monsters amongst recognizable landmarks taking shape. Based upon a Ray Bradbury story, the plot of THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS is concerned with a nuclear test explosion in the arctic that awakens a dinosaur that has been hibernating in the ice for a hundred million years. Of course, the creature begins wreaking havoc as it makes its way down the eastern seaboard- towards its old stomping grounds, which now happens to be New York. Sure, it all sounds a bit silly, but Harryhausen’s superior stop-motion work makes it totally enjoyable. The cast of THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS features Paul Hubschmid, Paula Raymond, Cecil Kellaway, Kenneth Tobey and Lee Van Cleef.

Warner Home Video has made THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS available on DVD in a truly fine looking black and white transfer that frames the film in its proper 1.37:1 full screen aspect ratio. There are some variations in the quality of the film elements, with the stock footage being in rough shape compared to the principal photography and Harryhausen’s effects work. Also, some of the location footage appears a bit grainy, as do some of the process shots. For the most part, the image appears rather crisp and nicely defined. Everything but the stock footage appears very clean, as though a bit of work went into sprucing up the film for DVD. The blacks are inky, whites are stable and the picture produces a very nice grayscale and fine contrast. Digital compression artifacts are nicely camouflaged.

THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS comes with a pretty good Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack. Sure, one will find the expected age related limitations in the track’s fidelity; however the sound is pretty strong, giving the impression that most of the background noise and other audible anomalies have been cleaned up in the mastering process. Sound effects are reasonably convincing, which says a lot for a film that is half a century old, plus the film’s music is rendered without any really noticeable signs of distortion. Dialogue is crisp and is always completely understandable. A French language track is also included, plus subtitles have been provided on the DVD in English, French and Spanish.

Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some nice extras. The Rhedosaurus And The Roller Coaster: Making The Beast is a six-minute program that features Ray Harryhausen, who talks about the projects origins as a Ray Bradbury short story, its adaptation to film and his stop-motion effects work. Harryhausen & Bradbury: An Unfathomable Friendship runs sixteen minutes and features a recent live appearance, in which both men discuss their friendship and working together on this film. Also included on the DVD are trailers for THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS, THE BLACK SCORPION and CLASH OF THE TITANS.

THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS is a fun Harryhausen outing that will appeal to his countless fans. Additionally, Warner has done a very good job with the DVD, so none of them will be disappointed in that area. If you count yourself amongst the anointed, then you’ll want to pick up a copy of THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS on DVD.



The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2003 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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