PreCommentary: The story is not actually based on Ray Bradbury's short story by the same name, but was converted from its working title, The Monster from the Sea, because of copyright worries about the lighthouse scene and the inclination to capitalize on the Bradbury name. Rights to the Ray Bradbury story, later anthologized as "The Fog Horn," were purchased after similarities were noticed. The film capitalized on the loose Bradbury connection, and made millions. Warner Bros. approached but couldn't afford Willis O'Brien, who recommended his apprentice Ray Harryhausen for the technical effects. This film influenced the Japanese origin of Godzilla.

Notes: Warner Bros. Picture. 80 min.
The video box tells us: "A New Age of Technology Unleashes a Prehistoric Age of Terror!"
Tom Nesbitt: Paul Christian
Lee Hunter: Paula Raymond
Dean Thurgood Elson: Cecil Kellaway
Col. Jack Evans: Kenneth Tobey
Jacob: Jack Pennick
Captain Jackson: Donald Woods
Corporal Stone: Lee Van Cleef
George Ritchie: Ross Elliott
Sergeant Loomis: Steve Brodie
Sergeant Willistead: Ray Hyke
Nesbitt's Secretary: Mary Hill
Doctor: Michael Fox
Radar Man: Alvin Greenman
Dr. Morton: Frank Ferguson
Dr. Ingersoll: King Donovan

Produced: Hal Chester and Jack Dietz
Directed: Eugene Lourie (cf. Gorgo, and The Giant Behemoth)
Screenplay: Lou Morheim and Fred Freiberger
Suggested by Ray Bradbury in a story for the Saturday Evening Post.
Music: David Buttolph
Technical Effects: Ray Harryhausen

Summary: "This is Operation Experiment," "Today is X Day," announces the dire male voice regarding an Arctic expedition and accompanied by atomic footage and ice cataclysms. Some macho blab pretends absolution of blame for evil via sanctimony: "You know, every time one of these things goes off I feel as if we were helping to write the first chapter of a new Genesis." Tom Nesbitt: "Let's hope we don't find ourselves writing the last chapter of the old one."

Tom survives an avalanche and a monster sighting, but ends up in a psychiatric hospital. Visited by Colonel Jack Evans, Tom says: ""I'm having a hard time trying to convince these people I'm not an idiot."

Reports of a destroyed fishing boat include newspaper headlines: "Sea Serpent Reported Off Great Banks." So Tom visits Professor Elson, a paleontologist at the College of Natural History, who, because the creature he supposedly saw would be "over 100 million years old," also doesn't believe Tom. Assistant Lee Hunter, however, notes that an expedition to the Siberian tundra unearthed a mastodon herd "dead thousands of years, yet their fur was still intact, the meat still edible."

Another Canadian ship is destroyed, Tom learns from a radio in the hospital. Lee brings sketches of dinosaurs, but Tom finds nothing similar to his sighting: "Maybe it's part imagination, after all--something I used to dream about when I was a kid, or read in fairy tales. [Most bizarre, while looking at dino pix, "With A Song in My Heart" is playing on the radio.] Tom does discover a picture finally, and retrieves a sailor witness who identifies the same picture. The Professor say the fossil of a "Rhedosaurus" was discovered in subterranean caves in the Hudson River, the only fossil evidence of the species, and he is immediately convinced of Tom's story and that the animal is headed for its ancestral breeding grounds. Jack is notified.

The creature destroys a lighthouse off Maine in an effective silhouette sequence. Lee and Tom are inexplicably at a ballet when another report comes in about a farmer crushed and some wreckage off Massachusetts. The Professor climbs in a cage and dives into the Hudson. We see footage of a squid battling a shark. Then the Rhedosaur arrives and Doctor Elson makes scientific observations instead of screaming when the mouth of the animal lunges. The boat loses contact with Elson.

The creature emerges on a Manhattan dock and comes ashore. NYC panic ensues. A cop shoots at the animal, but gets eaten. New Yorkers trample a blind man. Many cops arrive [and a large Sea Food sign is visible in the background!]. The dinosaur plunges through a building, creates terror among people escaping to the subway, and a "full scale war" is declared. People are admitted to hospitals in record numbers and soldiers collapse near the blood spots left after shootings, so the creature is toxic too. Lee declares its skull is "at least 8 inches thick." Bazookas leave blood spots, so Tom decides the best course of action is to shoot a radioactive isotope into the creature's neck wound in order to destroy all its tissue.

At Coney Island, Tom accompanies a sharpshooter, Corporal Stone, to the top of a roller coaster to fire at the animal, which, in the ensuing fire, circles and collapses. The film ends with no commentary.

Commentary: The film was produced on a budget of $250,000 but grossed over $5 million, a success credited to Ray Harryhausen's special effects and director Eugene Lourie's effective uses of darkness and shadows.

This film's special effects are a good illustration of why I always feel that Willis O'Brien is to Ray Harryhausen what Peggy Fleming is to most Japanese figure-skaters. In other words, the technique is unquestionably there with Harryhausen's stop-motion monsters, but you never get the humanism (for want of a less anthropocentric word)--it's not as meaningful an experience. Not just Kong, but the dinosaurs of O'Brien live--there's psychological if not emotional nuance. Harryhausen's Beast here is impressive--particularly the use of light on its scales--and I'd rather they hadn't killed it, but we seem just to be going through the (stop-)motions.