Thursday, 15 May 2014

It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955)

A rather slow-paced but commendable made-to-formula sci-fi film

Directed by Robert Gordon
Produced by Charles H. Schneer
Written by Hal Smith, George Worthing Yates
Music by Mischa Bakeleinikoff
Cinematography: Henry Freulich
Editing by Jerome Thoms
Studio: Clover Productions
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Running time: 79 min.
Budget: $150,000
Box office: $1.7 million (US)


Kenneth Tobey: Cmdr. Pete Mathews
Faith Domergue: Prof. Lesley Joyce
Donald Curtis: Dr. John Carter
Ian Keith: Adm. Burns
Dean Maddox Jr.: Adm. Norman
Chuck Griffiths: Lt. Griff, USN
Harry Lauter : Deputy Bill Nash
Richard W. Peterson: Capt. Stacy

It Came From Beneath the Sea was produced by Sam Katzman and Charles Schneer and directed by Robert Gordon for Columbia Pictures, from a script by George Worthing Yates. The film’s most distinguishing feature would have to be the special model-animated effects of Ray Harryhausen. Much of the film was shot at the San Francisco Naval Shipyard with some scenes being shot aboard a submarine. Some of the naval personnel were even given supporting roles in the film.


Spoiler Alert!!!! 

(Words and phrases in italics taken from narration and dialogue in the film.)

(Post Day of Reckoning)

Special Report from KNTV

Studio News Presenter: Tonight we have a story that sounds too incredible to be believed, but true it IS ladies and gentlemen. It is a story that fills in the details of the recent catastrophic events that befell our proud city of San Francisco. 

At that time it was considered to be too early for the world to know what was going on. But now we can lay before you the incident in its shocking entirety.

Our story begins with an atomic submarine designed to be man’s greatest weapon of the seas on patrol manoeuvres in the Pacific Ocean. For the crew on board this maritime marvel of Man’s genius, it must have seemed that in between playing cards, all they had to do was eat and sleep and press a button when there’s any work to be done.

The sub captained by Commander Pete Mathews suddenly came into contact with an object that their sonar indicated was of massive proportions. It was definitely not a whale, nor a ship. Even after several attempts at evasive manoeuvres, the sub was somehow disabled but managed to free itself and proceed to Pearl Harbor.

What was even more disturbing about this incident was that a radiation warning signal was triggered and that it was determined that the radiation was coming from outside the sub. All aboard the sub had good reason to fear the danger posed by the presence of radiation. According to one of the crewmen we interviewed who wished to remain anonymous, “I heard it (radiation) makes it so you can’t have children.”

(Early Encounter)

Excerpt from Commander Pete Mathews’ personal log:

……the next time I arrive in these waters I’m going to have torpedos on board and warheads on them…….. 

Commander Pete Mathews’ official report:

Shakedown cruise completed-x-ray-struck submerged object-x-ray-damage: minor flooding. Putting into Pearl for repairs.

(Post Day of Reckoning)

Special Report from KNTV

Studio News Presenter: Back at Pearl Harbour, it was discovered that a large amount of animal tissue had jammed the sub’s dive planes.  

Beyond this point, for the first time in their lives, three people met: the man-and-woman team of marine biologists, Dr John Carter, Professor Lesley Joyce and Commander Pete Mathews.

Professor Lesley Joyce is head of marine biology at the South East Institute of Oceanography. She is considered to be the most outstanding authority on marine biology alive today.

After 12 days and nights of numerous tests and experiments, nothing was certain, until finally Joyce and Carter managed to identify the tissue as part of a gigantic squid.

Their findings were presented to military authorities at an arranged meeting. Prof Lesley Joyce takes up the story;

“We were faced with scepticism from the authorities and had begun receiving reports of missing bathers, and the unexplained disappearance of a Japanese fishing fleet. In addition, the Siberian seal hunting season had failed due to a lack of animals.

“Dr John Carter and I had come to the conclusion that the giant octopus was in fact from the Mindanao Deep and had been forced out of its natural habitat due to hydrogen bomb testing in that area. The testing caused the giant octopus to become radioactive, and that it was this radioactivity that drove away its usual food supply.”

Journalist: What actual proof did you have to support your theories? 

Prof Lesley Joyce: We later received a report of an attack on a tramp steamer that encountered the squid. The captain had ordered the crew to abandon ship just before it was dragged under the water. The surviving members of the crew were questioned by psychiatrists, but when one of the sailor's description of the attack by a creature with giant tentacles was met with scepticism, his crew mates refused to testify.

Journalist: So how were they persuaded to reveal the truth of what happened?

Prof Lesley Joyce: Let’s just say that I was able to convince the first sailor to repeat his story for the government officials. We now had the evidence to back our theories.”

Studio News Presenter: We now present to you an actual recording we have managed to obtain of part of the interview that was conducted with one of the survivors by the psychiatric team;

“…It grabbed us……came up out of the water…..ship I was on….she went down with all hands…It was a giant octopus!!!”

(Pre- Day of Reckoning)

Extract from the San Francisco Chronicle July ---, 1955

The US government has announced a halt to all sea traffic in the North Pacific. No reason has been given for this course of action, apart from the official statement that the US navy is engaged in secret manoeuvres.

Sea trade between at least three continents has come to a complete standstill.

Rumours are beginning to circulate that what is in fact taking place is the strangest search in history. But for what and why remains…….

(Post-Day of Reckoning)

Special Report from KNTV

Studio News Presenter: The Navy recently gave permission for Commander Pete Mathews to take part in an exclusive interview with one of our reporters. Here is part of the interview;

Journalist: Can you tell us Commander about the events at Harper’s Cove?

Commander Pete Mathews: The local Sheriff, Bill Nash took Prof Lesley Joyce and I to the site of an attack along the beach where we found a circular imprint in the sand. We then decided to send a request to Dr John Carter to join us. While we were waiting for him, we decided to do some fishing.

Journalist: Fishing?

Commander Pete Mathews: That’s right. Having had no luck catching anything made us convinced that the giant creature was probably in the vicinity. After Dr Carter arrived the imprint was identified as having been made by a giant octopus.

Journalist: What did you decide to do then?

Commander Pete Mathews: Well, my immediate concern was for Prof Lesley Joyce. I told her that she should leave the project, which seemed to me to have become far too dangerous for a woman.

Journalist: She obviously didn’t comply with your wishes?

Commander Pete Mathews: Well, let’s just say that Prof Lesley Joyce is part of an all new breed who feel they are just as smart and courageous as men. They don’t like to be pushed around. Ha! Ha! She told me in no uncertain terms that I had underestimated her ability to help in a crisis. She wasn’t wrong there!

Journalist: So what did you do then?

Commander Pete Mathews: Unfortunately Sheriff Bill Nash was attacked along the beach by the creature right in front of us so…….

(Day Of Reckoning)

Extract from the San Francisco Chronicle July__, 1955

Western Coast Of America Made Ready! 

An imminent threat from what is believed to be a giant octopus has resulted in the entire off-shore Pacific coast waters being mined and all shipping taking refuge.

In addition, an electrified safety net has been strung underwater across the entrance to San Francisco Bay to protect the Golden Gate Bridge, which has also been wired.

As part of a project team put together to study and combat this latest threat to our survival, Professor Lesley Joyce demonstrated to a group of reporters a special jet-propelled atomic torpedo, with a warhead patented on a harpoon with which it is hoped to shoot the creature and then drive it out to sea before electrically detonating the device…..

(Day Of Reckoning)

Mobile Radio Unit Report:

Ladies and gentlemen, the military has just reported that an unknown contact is moving towards San Francisco harbor. The explosions you can hear are part of the planned detonation of mine fields in the hope of driving the creature off. (more sounds of explosions)

Oh my….The mines have had absolutely no effect on the marine intruder. We’ve been informed that the second stage of the defence plan is to be put into action involving an electrical current being put through the Golden Gate bridge and into the water.

We have just had it confirmed that the threat is in fact a giant octopus. It has also apparently demolished a net that had been placed across the Bay and is now heading toward San Francisco!


We are now standing at the entrance to the Golden Gate Bridge and have discovered that the Navy has ordered the bridge to be abandoned. Just a minute! I see Dr John Carter from the team tasked with combating the creature He appears to be agitated and yelling out something about the electric circuit on the bridge being on and needing to shut it off before damage is caused to the bridge itself. He is now driving off through the police cordon apparently to shut the current off.

Oh my God! The giant creature has surfaced and caught sight of the bridge. It has a huge medusa-like bulbous head with snaking tentacles emanating from it and it is now full of rage and is attacking the bridge itself! That moaning sound of agony you hear is the sound of steel girders being rent, ground, twisted and contorted by the pulverizing power of the octopus’ tentacles.

What has become of Dr Carter? He is completely exposed to the enraged creature….Just one moment! Another member of the team, submarine Commander Mathews has now just rushed on to the scene and is driving out to rescue Carter!

It seems that Carter has managed to shut the power down and the beast is slowly slipping beneath the water. Oh no! It is now thrashing the bridge but wait…..Commander Matthews is returning and ….yes! He has managed to rescue Dr Carter. Just in time too as one whole section of the bridge is collapsing right before our eyes!

(Day Of Reckoning)

KGO-FM 103.7

Emergency bulletin read by radio announcer Sam Hayes:

“A marine monster is at large within this vicinity. You are advised to stay in your homes. The ferry boats are not running, so stay away from the ferry boats…..”

(Day Of Reckoning)

Mobile Radio Unit Report:

We have resumed our broadcast to find a city in panic and a mass exodus taking place down the peninsula, The creature has now re-surfaced near the Market Street docks and is now starting its rampage, destroying everything in its path, including the Ferry Building. We can see a group of soldiers armed with flame throwers bravely forcing the creature back into the water foot-by-foot with each lick of fiery death being directed at it…….

(Post-Day of Reckoning)

Special Report from KNTV

Studio News Presenter: We also have for you an interview we recently conducted with Dr John Carter who collaborated with Professor Joyce in the investigation surrounding the gigantic marine intruder to our shores.

Journalist: Dr Carter, can you please tell us how the giant octopus was eventually defeated?

Dr Carter: Well, the Defence Department authorized Commander Matthews to launch his submarine carrying the modified atomic warhead. I joined the commander while Professor Joyce remained at the base.

When the soldiers with the flame throwers succeeded in pushing the creature back into the sea, the commander ordered the torpedo to be fired at the creature. Unfortunately for us the octopus grabbed hold of our submarine and held us fast.

Using an aqualung, Commander Matthews bravely swam out to the octopus and placed explosive charges on it. It seemed like he almost had a personal vendetta against the creature. As it turned out, he was knocked out by the creature's flailing tentacles.

Journalist: What happened then? Obviously you couldn’t detonate the warhead with the commander still in the water and the sub being pinned down so close. How did you manage to do this while still being able to save the Commander and the sub?

Dr Carter: Well, I took it upon myself to don scuba gear and swim out and shoot the octopus in the eye, forcing it to release its grip on the ship. The most vulnerable part of the octopus is its brain, you see. Fortunately I was also able to bring Commander Matthews back to safety.

As the creature made its way toward open sea, the torpedo was detonated, destroying it.

Journalist: Thank you so much for your account, Dr Carter. We now take you back to the studio.

Studio News Presenter: As you can see from tonight’s special report, the recent events tell a story that shakes the very foundations of our complacent belief in our technological supremacy over nature, whereby all Man’s knowledge has increased so that any upheaval in nature would be beyond his belief.

Prior to this it seems that not even last year’s events involving the creature Godzilla’s rampage in Japan, nor even the Rhedosaurus’ wreaking havoc in New York City in ’53 had fully shaken us out of our complacency. With the new disaster having been visited upon us, we now know that the mind of man had thought of everything…..except that which was beyond his comprehension.

Could such a calamity befall us yet again? Will our children and grandchildren again…say… in about another 50 or 60 years’ time have to face another giant octopus, another Rhedosaurus or even another……Godzilla!?

Good night and thank you….

Points of interest

Kenneth Tobey also starred in 'The Thing from Another World' (1951) and 'The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms' (1953), both featured in this blog.

To keep shooting costs low, scenes were shot inside an actual submarine, above and under water, using handheld cameras.

A Pacific coastline scene was created by dumping several truckloads of sand onto a soundstage at Columbia Studios backed with a rear screen projection.

The principle feature of It Came From Beneath The Sea, are the octopus effects by Ray Harryhausen. Due to budget constraints Harryhausen was only provided with enough money to animate six of the octopus' arms. Two tentacles were cut off.

The octopus is quite impressive through Harryhausen’s stop-motion animation magic and its integration into various scenes where we are treated to seeing it seemingly climb on the Golden Gate Bridge, grabbing hold of a submarine and squashing fleeing citizens with its tentacles in the San Francisco harbour. Here was Hollywood’s answer to the increasing popularity of television in American homes.

The monster octopus is merely a creature whose habitat man has been disturbed by Man and is driven by the instinct to survive. Atomic testing caused it to become radioactive and it could no longer hunt because its usual prey could somehow sense its presence. It had to come to the surface in search of food. On this basis we can feel sympathy for the creature but as a monster character it is devoid of the personality of Harryhausen's other creatures. Also unlike Godzilla and Co. our marine monster is limited to a largely aquatic environment. No rampaging through cities or going on inland excursions for him!

The octopus originated the Mindinao Deep, the deepest part of our ocean's bottoms. What else lurks within the unexplored parts of our oceans?

Faith Domergue’s character, Professor Lesley Joyce provided for the time an interesting feminist point of view. Unfortunately it was somewhat spoiled by the love triangle and romantic scenes. As Matthews constantly kept grabbing Joyce, throwing her around, invading her space and physically cutting off her escape routes, I couldn’t help thinking what would happen if he tried that these days. Harassment law suits? Painful assault to his groin area? And what is it with Carter being so damn nice about some guy moving in on his girlfriend? Not even a good old ménage-a-trois arrangement happening here! I also couldn’t help wondering why can’t Joyce make up her damn mind about who and what she wants? Well….. (Note: In the interests of avoiding potential painful assaults to my groin area, I am making no references about “women!” at this point.)

©Chris Christopoulos 2014

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