Oct 081955
two reels

A military sub is grabbed deep underwater by something unknown. Doctor John Carter (Donald Curtis) and Doctor Leslie Joyce (Faith Domergue) determine that the culprit is a giant octopus, altered by radiation. While the military search for the beast, Carter and  Commander Pete Matthews (Kenneth Tobey) vie for the affections of Joyce.

For several generations, including mine, Ray Harryhausen is an artist whose work has never been matched.  His stop-motion animation has brought fantasies to life, but always kept them in the land of the fantastic. Whether he will keep his god-like status in the world of special effects when judged by generations raised on CGI is yet to be seen, but I’m an old guy, and I love everything he’s done.

In It Came From Beneath the Sea, what he did was the octopus (or hexopus as the budget only allowed for six tentacles), and while it’s not his best work, it is still captivating. The creature destroying the Golden Gate Bridge has become an iconic moment.  Whenever the beast tugs on the side of a ship or slaps some guy who is too stupid to stay off of the beach, I stare at the screen, enthralled.

When Harryhausen’s creature isn’t on screen, things slow down and I wonder if it isn’t a good time to sort my socks. The first half of the film is a lot of exposition with the characters explaining to each other what is clear to anyone in the audience who had bothered reading the film’s title. And if something is worth telling (which isn’t often), the script goes with the philosophy that it is worth telling over and over again. Apparently, there wasn’t enough cash for appropriately sized sets, so the stars (and one or two extras) repeatedly huddle together in cramped spaces—tiny offices, an undersized lab—and make sure not to move.

For all you fans of stock footage (and who isn’t?!), this is your lucky day. There’s lots and lots of stock footage, accompanied by yet more exposition, delivered by a narrator who thinks he’s recording a news reel. You’ll see those standard shots of ships and planes that have appeared in a hundred film, and one of traffic in San Francisco that had to be twenty years old when it was spliced in (or everyone in 1955 SanFran drove antique cars).

The plot isn’t much and the ending is anticlimactic. The romantic subplot just takes up time, and the dialog is so-so. Faith Domergue is competent and attractive, and her co-stars do their job adequately. That means it all comes down to Harryhausen. If you love his work, then you’ll want to catch this at least once. If you don’t like stop-motion animation or ’50s giant monster movies, give this a pass.

Ray Harryhausen’s other features are The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (1956), 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957), The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), The 3 Worlds of Gulliver (1960), Mysterious Island (1961), Jason and the Argonauts (1963), The First Men in the Moon (1964), One Million Years B.C. (1966), The Valley of Gwangi (1969) ), The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973), Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977), and Clash of the Titans (1981).

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