It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955)

“I’m a scientist, commander — I don’t need to be reminded that your objectives are not necessarily my own.”

Synopsis:
A submarine commander (Kenneth Tobey) enlists the help of a pair of scientists (Faith Domergue and Donald Curtis) in identifying and snaring an atomically charged octopus wreaking havoc in the ocean — but will his romantic interest in Domergue get in the way of his military duties?

Genres:

Review:
Special effects guru Ray Harryhausen’s next film after The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953) (also co-starring Kenneth Tobey) was this similarly-themed mutant-monster flick, featuring impressive animation of an octopus (actually a six-tentacled creature — a.k.a. a “hexapus”) taking down the Golden Gate Bridge. As narrative filler, we’re given an unintentionally chuckle-worthy love triangle between Domergue, Tobey, and Curtis, filled with plenty of thinly veiled sexual allure (Domergue strokes beakers in her lab while Tobey first converses with her) and amusing banter — such as Tobey mollifying the agitated Domergue by showing her he knows what she REALLY wants in a fancy restaurant:

Tobey (to Domergue): “We, my dear doctor, are going to dance.” (To Curtis): “With your permission, sir.”
Curtis: “Live it up, children.”
Domergue: “But… you haven’t even asked me!”
Tobey: “That’s the way we do it in the navy.”
Domergue: “But I haven’t even had my dinner!”
Tobey (to Curtis): “Would you order another t-bone, doctor?
Domergue: “I don’t like t-bones, and you’re being a fool!”
Curtis: “Don’t believe her, Pete. She says that to all the boys.”
Domergue: “You’re both being fools! Just because you’re men, you think that…”
Tobey (leaning in seductively): “Do you like lobster?
Domergue (tentatively): “Yes…”
Tobey: “Broiled, with garlic butter and parsley?”
Domergue (smiling and laughing): “Yes.”

This film is also notable for marking the beginning of Harryhausen’s decades-long collaboration with producer Charles Schneer, during which time they made 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957), Mysterious Island (1961), First Men in the Moon (1964), The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), Jason and the Argonauts (1963), and Clash of the Titans (1981).

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Fun special effects by Ray Harryhausen

Must See?
Yes, for Harryhausen’s work, and as a representative “’50s monster movie”.

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2 Responses to “It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955)”

  1. Agreed – a once-must for Harryhausen’s work and for its place in monster movie history. As per my post in ‘The ’40s-’50s in Film’ (fb):

    “John! John – I think you better take a look at this!”

    ‘It Came from Beneath the Sea’ (1955): ~and “We don’t want a panic on our hands!”… not even if it *is* an incredibly gigantic octopus that can terrorize and crawl and kill anyway! …In the ’50s, monster movies of this sort had a tendency to lean toward the ‘slow burn’ narrative – with the idea (I suppose) that it was necessary to slowly build the tension to a climactic showdown (while adding a ‘peek’ of terror mid-film). That’s certainly the blueprint here – with just enough time to also squeeze in that love story! Brainy, sea-life specialist Faith Domergue can’t resist hunky navy commander Kenneth Tobey but there’s just so little time for serious courtin’ and kissin’ – that slimy THING from the bottom of the ocean floor insists (with complete thanks to effects pro Ray Harryhausen) on being an utter and complete nuisance! …This thematically busy flick is also a feminist manifesto. Domergue sometimes finds herself around military personnel who – right in front of her! – have a tendency to talk about her as though she’s not there! It’s all too easy to take her side: after all, she may be a vivacious woman (who coifs and dresses accordingly) but she also happens to be a brilliant scientist – something neanderthal navy types just wouldn’t understand!

  2. Not must despite being a good, solid monster mash. The only really significant historical landmarks in Harryhausen’s career, the only “must sees” are:

    The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) for being his first solo film.

    The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1957) for having influenced so many filmmakers (animators and live action) over the years.

    Jason and the Argonauts (1963) Harryhausen’s finest achievement.

    Arguably Clash of the Titans (1981) as his biggest budgeted, most prestigious film and his swansong.

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