The Beast from 20.000 Fathoms (Eugène Lourié / U.S., 1953):

A nuclear blast awakens a prehistoric behemoth in the Arctic, where explorers write "a new Genesis": A film surely appreciated by Herzog’s woolly seekers in Encounters at the End of the World, and visionary from beginning to end. Ray Bradbury lays out the foundation, Ray Harryhausen provides the stop-motion grace -- the dinosaur sports a dragon’s stare and a toddling gait, wrecks a lighthouse and stomps Wall Street, all Eugène Lourié has to do is shoot the thing straight and make sure that solitary, grim-faced police officer sustains his composure before being munched and swallowed. The balance of scientific curiosity (Paul Christian as the researcher) and military pragmatism (Kenneth Tobey, an army colonel) is from Hawks, so is much of the apparatus on display (Bringing Up Baby’s Mesozoic skeleton, the Monkey Business fuddy-duddies). Cuddly professor Cecil Kellaway packs into a bathysphere and ventures into the depths ("a world of untold tomorrows for a world of countless yesterdays"), where he’s duly intrigued by stock-footage of sea critters but so astounded by the proto-Godzilla that he dies in awe, describing it. The National Guard moves in as the big fella surrounds itself with rollercoasters at the Manhattan Beach fairgrounds, though it is a single bullet, fired by none other than Lee Van Cleef, that topples the roaring bundle of Eisenhower disquiet into the bonfire. King Kong was the Scarface of monster-filmdom, here's its White Heat. Cloverfield can’t even smell its guano. With Donald Woods and Steve Brodie. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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