Thursday, March 11, 2010


Monster-of-the-Week: Quite a treat Friday night for monster-lovers, as Turner Classic Movies, the greatest TV channel ever, is showing four classic creature features in a row—The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955), The Monster that Challenged the World (1957) & the peerless giant-ant movie Them! (1954)

All four are worth watching, but this week let’s honor the Rhedosaur, the titanic (& fictitious) title character of The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, remotely based on Ray Bradbury’s sublime Saturday Evening Post story “The Fog Horn.”

Strictly as a movie, it isn’t as good as Them!—it’s a bit slow & stodgy. But the monster itself, animated by stop-motion master Ray Harryhausen, has few equals—Harryhausen endows him with far more personality than most of the human actors. The director, Eugene Lourie, told Harryhausen that he always made his monsters “die like a tenor in an opera,” & this is certainly true of Beast. The local NBC affiliate in my hometown showed the film constantly when I was a kid, & the Rhedosaur’s fiery Waterloo in the roller coaster at Coney Island, at the hand of sharpshooter Lee Van Cleef, always gave me a lump in the throat.

These images give some idea of the Beast’s dynamic beauty…

…but to really appreciate him, you need to see him in action.

One other TCM program note: The monster quadruple-feature is immediately followed by two other intriguing oddities from hypemaster William Castle—his strange 1974 fantasy Shanks, starring Marcel Marceau, & his 1961 gothic Mr. Sardonicus, based on Ray Russell’s short story “Sardonicus.”

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