Wednesday, October 27, 2010
It Came From Beneath The Sea
It’s always a dicey proposition to revisit well-loved movies from the past. What enthralled you when you were ten may seem tiresome later in life. Sometimes, the movies hold up surprisingly well (see my review of 1933’s The Invisible Man) but often they disappoint, which brings us to today’s entertaining but dated entry, It Came From Beneath the Sea.
A new nuclear submarine on patrol in the Pacific encounters something in deep waters – something which chases them and damages the submarine. Vessels in a Japanese fishing fleet disappear. A merchant marine ship is attacked. Sub Commander Kenneth Tobey (The Thing From Another World) joins with scientists Donald Curtis and Faith Domergue to learn the world is facing the menace of a giant octopus, driven from the unexplored depths of the ocean because it has been irradiated by nuclear testing, and can no longer catch its normal prey. The action culminates with an attack by the creature on San Francisco.
The special effects for the movie were done by the great Ray Harryhausen, and look good enough considering he was working with a miniscule budget. A budget so low, in fact, the octopus has only six arms (you can’t really tell unless you’re looking for it) making it, in fact a sextopus. Sextopus would make a great name for a movie, but I bet you couldn’t sell the DVD at Wal-Mart.
The cast is good. Kenneth Tobey, who was mostly a character actor sometimes appearing as a lead in B-movies, is a likeable hero, Curtis is just off-beat enough to make a good scientist, and Domergue is very pretty. They are hampered by a fairly clunky script with some seriously dated lines (“This is a new breed of woman. She wants to make her own decision.”) and an awful voice-over narration (“Then on a momentous occasion, three people came together.”). Voice-overs rarely work, and they certainly don’t here.
After quite a buildup, the ending of the movie is almost anti-climactic, although there are some heroics as two of our heroes have to get out into wetsuits to stab the beast through the eye. (I would not have volunteered. The submarine looks so cozy compared to swimming with an octopus the size of an aircraft carrier.) Despite a lot of scientific doubletalk, whoever made the movie doesn’t seem to know much about octopi.
It’s still enjoyable on a certain level, with a giant sea creature attacking ships and ravaging a city (at least the part of the city near the bay), and the sort of firm-jawed heroics we found in films back in the 1950s. I’d say keep your expectations low, cough through some of the dialogue and enjoy the movie for what it is.