Came from Beneath the Sea
= Highest Rating
most famous bit of trivia connected with this mid-'50s monster
flick is that special effects wizard Ray Harryhausen, in order
to save money, made his giant octopus with only five tentacles
instead of eight. (A quintopus?) No matter. The creature
is so wonderfully articulated (for its day) that I'd bet most
people would never notice, even with repeat viewings.
It Came from Beneath the
Sea was Harryhausen's follow-up to the
hugely successful Beast
from 20,000 Fathoms (which is finally making its
way to DVD later this year). It also signaled the beginning
of Harryhausen's longtime collaboration with producer Charles
H. Schneer. Together the two men were responsible for some of
the most beloved fantasy films of the twentieth century, including
such classics as The 7th Voyage
of Sinbad, Mysterious Island
and Jason and the Argonauts. With
It Came they serve up your standard
giant monster on the rampage flick, chock full of the usual
clichés but made enjoyable by its appealing leads and, of course,
that five-armed stop-motion beastie.
The late, great Kenneth Tobey (1951's The
Thing from Another World) tops the small, mostly anonymous
cast as Commander Pete Mathews, skipper of one of the U.S. Navy's
atomic-powered submarines. On a shakedown cruise in the Pacific
the vessel is suddenly attacked by a huge, unidentifiable force
Mathews and crew have never experienced anything like it. For
a time the sub is held fast, unable to move even with engines
racing at flank speed. Finally freed, the sub surfaces and frogmen
inspect the damage. A big chunk of some unknown rubbery substance,
which is highly radioactive (and never shown to the audience,
by the way), is discovered jammed in one of the diving planes.
Mathews takes his boat back to base at Pearl Harbor to affect
repairs and file a report on the strange incident.
Navy, keen to learn just what it was that almost sank one of
their high tech submarines, tasks Cmdr. Mathews with recruiting
top scientists to find the answer. He finds the brains he's
looking for in professors John Carter (Donald Curtis) and Leslie
Joyce (Faith Domergue, The
House of Seven Corpses), each an eminent marine biologist.
The mystery substance seems to be organic in nature. But what
sea creature could possibly have a grip powerful enough to hold
back an atomic sub? After 13 days of intense lab research —
which seems an awful long time for such first-rate scientists
— they deduce that the substance is, in fact, octopus flesh.
Prof. Joyce theorizes that a gigantic octopus, mutated by atomic
testing, has emerged from the unfathomable abyss of the Mindanao
Deep in search of food... and mankind is on the menu.
Pentagon superiors initially scoff at the theory until a freighter
is dragged beneath the waves by the monster and some of the
crew survives to tell the tale. When people start going missing
from coastal areas in the Pacific Northwest the military begins
taking countermeasures, such as emplacing submarine nets to
guard harbor entrances. But "It" is a lot bigger and meaner
than anyone realizes. Entering San Francisco Bay, the beast
makes a shambles of the Golden Gate Bridge and wreaks havoc
along the ferry docks, flattening a few innocent bystanders
with its massive, writhing tentacles. To save the day Mathews
and Carter challenge the monster aboard Mathews' submarine,
armed with a specially-designed torpedo. They'll only get one
shot... Make it count, son!
Every familiar '50s giant monster movie cliché is on hand
in It Came: the silly romantic
subplot, an over-reliance on stock footage (some of which is
obviously from the 1930s), a strident score comprised mostly
of library cues, the pompous narrator, lots of cigarette smoking.
We certainly don't get enough creature action, as (apart from
the memorable freighter attack scene) our gargantuan octopod
only appears during the final 15 minutes or so. Yet the film
works as a pleasing trip down Memory Lane — provided, of course,
you're old enough to have been enthralled by this sort of stuff
as a youngster, one whose whole week was spent in anticipation
of a Friday night or Saturday afternoon Creature Features broadcast.
(I'm talking way before the advent of cable.) Harryhausen's
stop-motion menace aside, the fun comes from watching the always
reliable Ken Tobey essay yet another no-nonsense American military
man, this time flirting with a lovely proto-feminist scientist.
To the film's credit Faith Domergue's character is a spunky,
self-assured gal who knows her stuff, takes no guff, and doesn't
end up acting as if her PhD is in making sandwiches and coffee
for the guys. (Sadly, she's never fitted out in a tight, derriere-enhancing
jumpsuit as she was in This Island Earth.
And while her Prof. Joyce may be independent and headstrong,
she still winds up a sucker for manly Ken in his Navy dress
a good chunk of the film is devoted to the somewhat strange
semi-love triangle between Joyce, Mathews and Carter. (Yep.
Blatant padding at its most obvious.) Prof. Carter would seem
to have the edge — Joyce and the sub skipper have nothing in
common, really — but he ends up the gracious loser. Almost a
benign eunuch, you get the odd feeling that instead of making
a move on his comely colleague, the professor is content to
let the other two go at it. He'd rather just, er... watch.
(Observation being a key discipline of science and all.)
last of Columbia's Ray Harryhausen Signature Collection
DVDs, It Came is presented in anamorphic
widescreen (1.85:1) with a digital mono audio track. Picture quality
is quite good for a nearly 50-year old film. Ditto for sound,
though during scenes aboard the submarine at the beginning of
the movie dialog was somewhat muffled and occasionally hard to
discern. For the remainder of the show there's no problem. (I
believe this is a symptom inherent to the film's sound recording
and not the DVD, as there's a lot of whirring and clacking of
machinery in the sub's control room. If needed one can always
flip on the English subtitles during this sequence.)
As has been Columbia's
practice, the same documentary (The Harryhausen Chronicles)
and featurette (This Is Dynamation) included on the other
Harryhausen DVDs are also found here. A few trailers are offered,
for 20 Million Miles to Earth,
Mysterious Island and the DVD special
edition of Close Encounters of the Third
Kind in addition to that of the main feature. (Note: EC's
DVD rating of 7 for the disc is conditional on not owning
any of the other Columbia-Harryhausen titles. Otherwise it's a
This DVD went OOP in 2007. On January 15, 2008 a new 2-disc special
edition will be released, featuring the original B&W film
and a newly colorized version supervised by Ray Harryhausen. Extras
will include five featurettes (an interview of Harryhausen by
Tim Burton among them) and an audio commentary with Harryhausen.