It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955)


(director: Robert Gordon; screenwriters: Hal Smith/George Worthing Yates/from a story by Mr. Yates; cinematographer: Henry Freulich; editor: Jerome Thoms; music: Mischa Bakaleinikoff; cast: Kenneth Tobey (Commander Pete Matthews), Faith Domergue (Professor Lesley Joyce), Donald Curtis (Dr John Carter), Ian Keith (Admiral Burns), Dean Maddox Jr. (Admiral Norman), Chuck Griffiths (Griff); Runtime: 80; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Charles H. Schneer; Columbia; 1955)

“Harryhausen wasn’t yet on top of his game, but the special effects still were the feeble film’s best feature.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Veteran B-film director Robert Gordon (“Revenge of the Red Baron”/”The Joe Louis Story”/”The Rawhide Trail”)helms this low-budget special effects sci-fier without ever bringing it to life. It’s the first of a long collaboration between producer Charles Schneer and the highly acclaimed stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen. Budget constraints caused the featured giant octopus to have only six tentacles instead of eight, but Harryhausen managed to deflect that by never fully showing the beast. What couldn’t be deflected was the lame script by Hal Smith and George Worthing Yates, and the uninvolving love triangle story that goes nowhere.

When a foreign organic substance is found stuck on the outside of an atomic submarine and is radioactive, Commander Pete Matthews (Kenneth Tobey), cruising the Pacific, pulls into Pearl Harbor to get it checked out. Two top-level marine biologists, Dr. John Carter (Donald Curtis) and Professor Lesley Joyce (Faith Domergue, discovery of Howard Hughes and all that would imply), discover that H-bomb tests roused an octopus to emerge from great depths and has stopped eating its usual diet as it grows into a giant that attacks humans and ships for its new food supply. Of course the Navy doesn’t believe the scientists until a few more tragic incidents. In the meantime, Commander Matthews puts some heavy moves on the pretty scientist, while the effete Dr. Carter gives it a half-hearted attempt to go after her but is good loser. When the climax hits the trio take turns acting heroic, as the giant Octopus is busting up the Golden Gate Bridge and ready to do a number on San Francisco. In the end, a nuclear torpedo brings down the giant creature for the final count, as they hit it on its only vulnerable spot–its brain.

It’s sort of nice that this brainless film pays such respect to the brain and still has the presence of mind to make the lady scientist drop-dead gorgeous.

Harryhausen wasn’t yet on top of his game, but the special effects still were the feeble film’s best feature; the one shot with soldiers using flame throwers to get the beast off land and return to the sea, was effectively done.