On October 11th, the American Cinematheque will be showing John Huston‘s Moby Dick (’56) with Eugene Lourie’s The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (’53) as a creatures-from-the-sea double feature. Not to trash Lourie’s film, which was the first ’50s flick about a radioactive prehistoric monster invading a big city (a year before Gojira opened in Japan), but this pairing feels like a kind of light-hearted mockery of Huston.

Moby Dick, after all, was a flawed but in many ways admirable example of literate, authentic, epic-scale filmmaking in the classic mode; The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms had Ray Harryhausen‘s effects, fine, but it was primarily a fast-buck popcorn movie.
I’ll always worship Moby Dick for its luscious monochrome color scheme — a decision by Huston and cinematographer Oswald Morris to blend the coior-shot film with a “gray” negative in post-production and thereby creating a unique sort of faded steel-gray color. (The idea was to try and duplicate the faded color in those 19th Century Currier and Ives etchings.)
This monochrome color look was simulated for the Moby Dick DVD that came out in ’01, but will the American Cinematheque show a 1950s collector’s print that has the same immaculate look of the 1956 release prints, or will they just show a plain color print (i.e., one from the original negative but not blended with a gray negative). That, Mr. Starbuck, is the question.