Yet another Ray Harryhausen film from the 1950’s has just been released on DVD in a two disc special edition. It Came from Beneath the Sea comes in between The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers. It’s probably the least of those three films but I always liked this one even more than “Earth Vs…” This is such a product of the 1950’s when the paranoia over nuclear testing was at its highest. The result was a plethora of films featuring all manner of radioactive-spawned giant monsters: spiders, ants, grasshoppers, and other beasties. In this film the threat comes from a giant octopus, driven out of its deep sea home by atomic bombs tested at sea.
The first to encounter the creature is a U.S. Navy nuclear sub, commanded by Pete Matthews (Tobey). The sub doesn’t know exactly what they’ve encountered but a piece of the creature was caught in the Sub’s propellers. The hunk of octopus is taken to be analyzed by two marine biologists, Prof. Lesley Joyce (Domergue) and Prof. John Carter (Curtis). They determine that the piece belongs to an octopus but one that has grown to enormous proportions.
The creature soon makes attacks on other vessels, sinking an entire merchant ship, and leaving only a handful of shocked survivors. While the Navy at first dismisses the professor’s findings, they soon cannot deny the truth and decide to take action. The film’s climax comes with the memorable octopus attack destroying the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
Like all of these films, it’s the masterful stop-motion effects that are the real star. While the film itself took only a few weeks to shoot, Harryhausen worked on the effects for months afterwards, painstakingly filming the creature’s movement’s one frame at a time. Yes, perhaps it looks dated next to today’s slick CGI effects but there’s a certain admiration you have to have for Harryhausen’s work. He knew these were low-budget B features but that never stopped him from delivering 100% effort.
It Came from Beneath the Sea is slower than the other films I mentioned. It takes a good 25 minutes or so before we even get a good look at the creature for the first time and the film only runs about 79 minutes. There is a melodramatic love triangle going on between the three leads. Matthews is the tough captain while Carter is the somewhat sheepish scientist. When Professor Joyce tells carter that Matthews kissed her, all he can manage is, “Did you enjoy it?”
That said, I enjoyed the cast. Tobey was a great character actor who made over 300 film and TV appearances in his fifty year career. He was a regular in the 1950’s TV show “Whirlybirds” and also appeared in such shows as I Spy, Lassie, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Ironside, and Emergency, usually playing some sort of authority figure. His final role was in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in 1994. He was a strong, macho leading man. Domergue’s Prof. Joyce was every bit as tough as Matthews. Domergue was no stranger to Sci-Fi roles, seemingly always playing the role of a scientist. She also starred in This Island Earth and Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet.
Extras: The film comes in either the original black & white or new colorized format. This new Chroma-Color process is vastly improved over the old colorizing process of 10 or 20 years ago and while purists might object, Harryhausen himself approves of the look.
The film comes with Audio Commentary with Ray Harryhausen, Arnold Kunert, Randy Cook and John Bruno
Remembering It Came From Beneath the Sea, is Harryhausen’s own recollections about making the film and runs 22:00
A Present Day Look at Stop-Motion takes a look at film students learning the art of stop motion. 11:36
Tim Burton Sits Down with Ray Harryhausen. Director Tim Burton interviews Harryhausen as ray discusses how the saucers were made and other interesting tidbits about the film. Great segment but it’s almost ruined by Burton who babbles almost incoherently and uses the words “you know” and “amazing” about a hundred times during the 27:09 minute interview.
Original Ad Artwork Producer Arnold Kunert looks at the film’s ad materials including rare posters and lobby cards from Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers and other films. 17:30
David Schecter on Film Music’s Unsung Hero Is a retrospective on the career of composer Misha Bakaleinikoff 22:32
Sneak Peek of Digital Comic Book Flying Saucers vs. the Earth
Video Photo Galleries.