A giant stop-motion-animated octopus (with six arms) attacks San Francisco. A pair of scientists and a nuclear sub captain try to stop it before it tears down the Golden Gate Bridge.
Kenneth Tobey ... Cmdr. Pete Mathews
Faith Domergue ... Prof. Lesleyl Joyce
Donald Curtis ... Prof. 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 one of the better monster films from the Fifties as Hollywood cinema was desperately trying to compete with the small picture box gradually invading American homes. One of the answers was large screen special effects and this film was one of the best in that department.
Ray Harryhausen's name so far is still the only special effects man that I know who's name will actually encourage people to buy a movie ticket. He created some marvelous film monsters and this was one of his best.
The octopus we are told comes from the Mindinao Deep, a spot on our planet still not totally explored because it is the deepest part of our ocean's bottoms. Presumably there are a whole lot more like him around and in point of fact to this day we don't know all the creatures of the sea.
That perennial villain of Fifties Science fiction, atomic testing and/or radiation has made this big guy move out of the depths and try to capture Captain Kenneth Tobey's submarine. He barely gets away and Tobey's is the first of several incidents involving the creature. Scientists Faith Domergue and Donald Curtis are also on the job and the creature ends up in San Francisco Bay. He does a number on the Golden Gate bridge and then tries to beach himself at the Embarcadero. Army flame throwers see that doesn't happen.
Faith Domergue was a really beautiful woman who became known again through the Howard Hughes biographical film, The Aviator. She was at one time Hughes's main squeeze. This is probably the film she's most known for though. There's one scene where Domergue uses her best asset to convince a merchant seaman whose ship has been sunk by the octopus, but is afraid of being given a section 8, to fess up about the monster. Kind of campy, but fun.
The monster's no villain here as in some films. He's just a creature whose habitat man has disturbed that's trying to survive. Unfortunately we can't have him roaming the Pacific destroying all kinds of civilian and military activity. So he has to be killed. For me it was a bit sad seeing the outcome. I think other viewers will feel the same way.
From producer Charles H. Schneer and stop motion animation legend Ray Harryhausen came this science fiction thriller about monstrous octopus, driven from the bottom of the ocean by atom bomb testing, that wreaks havoc on San Francisco.
With intrepid 1950's science fiction hero Kenneth Tobey as the star, this would have earned a viewing from me based on that merit alone. The film itself is not really one of the more shining examples of its genre, however. It's paced slowly and is much too dialog heavy, depending largely on chemistry between Tobey, love interest Faith Domergue, and the "other man", brilliant scientist Donald Curtis. The love triangle here is not that interesting. This picture would have done better to focus instead of the exploits of the octopus, when in fact it doesn't appear often enough until the climax.
Regardless of such details, I'm a great admirer of Harryhausen and his work. In fact, I prefer his brand of animation to the computer-generated nonsense of today because his brand of animation has SOLIDITY. I can actually believe that any of his characters, or creatures, is a physical presence within the film. The octopus doesn't disappoint, even if Harryhausen had to eliminate two tentacles (that's right, it has six instead of eight) due to a low budget.
Ultimately, "It Came From Beneath the Sea" is not particularly exciting, but it is decent entertainment nonetheless. When you've got a great character star like Tobey in the lead and such interesting effects to look at it's hard to complain.
Having already starred in 'The Thing from Another World' (1951) and 'The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms' (1953), Kenneth Tobey completed a memorable treble of classic Sci-Fi films with this offering.
Make no mistake, 'It Came from Beneath the Sea' is one of the classics of the genre and as such is above the mundane criticism about poor script, narrative, performances etc. We all know that these monster-flicks from the 50's and 60's had their shortcomings, but they were made to a formula for a target audience and in this respect there is little to fault and much to commend.
Here we have a giant octopus, disturbed from it's Pacific lair by atomic testing, heading for San Francisco in a foul mood. The Harryhausen effects are great, the narrative follows a course of some scientific logic and Faith Domergue, if a little too old, looks good enough in her tight blouse.
Director Robert Gordon did little else of note which is surprising - he did a good enough job here and whilst not up to the standard of '20 Million Miles to Earth' (1957), 'It Came from Beneath the Sea' is still superior for its type.
BEST SCENE - no contest; the octopus trashing the Golden Gate Bridge.
* This is the film that brought together producer Charles H. Schneer and special effects legend Ray Harryhausen. Their professional relationship would last until Clash of the Titans (1981), the final feature for both men.
* Because the budget was so low, Ray Harryhausen saved money by building his octopus model with six rather than the correct eight tentacles. He tried to pose the creature so this lack of the right number of arms wasn't apparent.
* The "atom-powered" submarine shown cruising on the surface is actually the diesel-electric submarine USS Cubera (SS-347).
* Columbia booked this as a double bill with Creature with the Atom Brain (1955) all across the US.