It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955) [31 Days of American Horror Review]

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Director: Robert Gordon
Starring:  Kenneth Tobey, Faith Domergue, Donald Curtis

After the game-changing success of The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, Columbia Pictures clearly fancied getting a bit of Harryhausen giant monster action themselves and who can blame them?

Unfortunately for them, instead of a magnificent dinosaur stomping about the place, they got a giant octopus, one that they could only afford to animate six arms of. Worse, the paucity of funds available meant a very noticeable amount of stock footage being clumsily inserted throughout the film.

Add in the dry, static environments of submarines and laboratories and you end up with a movie that feels more like a documentary or public information film at times.

Despite all this, It Came From Beneath The Sea is as massively enjoyable as it’s massive “Sixtopus” is…well, massive.

While on manoeuvres in the Pacific Ocean, Cmdr. Pete Mathews’ (Kenneth Tobey) nuclear submarine detects a huge sonar signal before being attacked and held by an unknown creature.

Bringing back a sample of organic material to their base in Pearl Harbor, Matthews enlists the help of Dr. John Carter (Donald Curtis) and Professor Lesley Joyce (Faith Domergue), who identify the animal as a giant octopus from the unexplored depths of the Mindanao Deep, which has been roused by nearby nuclear testing.

Now radioactive, the octopus is repelling it’s natural prey, so has left its natural territory in search of food. It’s also now monstrously huge, with it’s rampage of destruction taking it directly towards the North American Pacific Coast…

It’s definitely a lesser entry in the giant atomic monster genre, but there’s a lot to enjoy about It Came From Beneath The Sea.

The cast are all strong and given some good material to work with. As the heroic Commander Pete Mathews, Kenneth Tobey is on familiar ground, essentially playing his character from The Thing From Another World. He’s a gung-ho military man who thinks nothing of putting himself against a weird, inhuman menace, but he’s always got an eye for the ladies and is an expert at balancing both perfectly.

The lady in question is the always-arresting Faith Domergue, so you can see why he puts so much effort into wooing her. While Professor Lesley Joyce isn’t as interesting a character as she got to play in Curse Of The Cobra, it’s still a great part. A strong, independent woman who’s scientific expertise is an essential part of identifying and ultimately defeating the giant cephalopod.

Her relationship with work partner Dr. John Carter (Donald Curtis) is nicely realised too. They’ve got a playful, comfortable interaction that feels like an old married couple, enough that at first the viewer is as confused as Matthews as to what’s going on.

The real star of the show is that enormous octopus, though. Brilliantly brought to life by the genius of Ray Harryhausen, it looks magnificent, even if it does only have six arms. Watching it wreak havoc on land or sea is never anything other than thrilling. In a way it’s more intense than a creature of fantasy as we can fill in the blanks easier. We know how an octopus looks and moves, so too see one destroying the Golden Gate Bridge is a sight to behold.

Okay, at times It Came From Beneath The Sea feels like a public safety film and it’s low on real inspiration, but the combination of casting and effects more than makes up for any shortcomings.

Rating: 3.5/5.

JULESAVThe Writer of this piece was: Jules Boyle
Jules tweets from @Captain_Howdy

1 Comment on It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955) [31 Days of American Horror Review]

  1. It’s One of My Favorite Movies.

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