It Came from Beneath the Sea(Released in July/55),I had not seen since the 1960s,when it was a staple of TV fare.Of course when it has been that long,it is the outstanding moments you recall only,like the giant octopus itself and it grabbing on to the Golden gate bridge,etc.But watching it after all those years I kind of re-discovered the film all over again.It actually has a decent plot for a B picture,which stars lead Kenneth Toby(The Thing) and Faith Domergue(This Island Earth).There is a sub plot that is strictly adult(that I didn't recall),as when the submariner says to the captain that he was concerned about the effect of radiation and ones ability to have children,or the Captains own battle of the sexes with this"new breed of woman".Even so the movie still remains stuck in its' B picture roots,despite Harryhausens wonderful background work.
The plot is relatively simple.An atomic powered sub commanded by Capt.Pete Matthews(Toby) is patrolling the western Pacific area when it is suddenly followed by a huge object unknown.Eventually the unknown locks the sub in a vice like grip.After more than a few tries to get the sub going backwards and/or forwards,the Captain calls for them to surface.It does the trick and a diving crew upon inspection of the hull finds a huge mass stuck in one of the steering vents.They head to Pearl Harbour for repairs and the piece of material is examined by two experts,one being marine biologist Lesley Joyce(Domergue).
The conclusion seems to be that the substance jammed in the sub belongs to a much bigger creature,a giant octopus.It is theorized that this creature grew to such immense proportions due to Atomic testing around the Marshall Islands.The theory is expounded in detail to the military who have a hard time believing what they have heard.Meanwhile other ships have come in contact with this thing and have met some nasty consequences as a result.And the creature seems to be slowly heading towards the U.S.west coast.
When the creature comes ashore in Oregon,it is not long after that it heads south and arrives in San Francisco Bay.An electrical netting has been spread underwater to protect the Golden Gate bridge and when it is turned on the creature immediately grabs onto the bridge to lift itself out of the water and away from the current.They get the power switched off and it slides back into the water.There Capt.Matthews sub is waiting and they fire a special atomic torpedo into the creature.The plan is to drive it out and then detonate it,but nothing is dislodging the creature.Then Capt.Matthews dons some diving gear,swims to the creature and pushes an explosive device towards it.The creature sees it,moves and it detonates prematurely.
The captain has to be rescued and when he is safely inside the ship they detonate the bomb which eliminates the octo-threat once and for all.
This film has the cold war era stamped all over it in its references to Atomic testings(a staple topic in 1950s Sci-Fi flicks),the "new" atomic submarine and all the modern gadgetry seen;all meant to convey the subtle,or not so subtle message,of the might of the US forces at work and on the job.The plot is the old boy meets girl,boy pushes too hard,girl gets testy and backs off,and in the end all is forgiven.Much of the returns for this flick came from the good old fashioned Drive-In,where I can still smell the fresh popcorn and see the young boys and girls out in their parents cars,cuddling during the scary parts and necking at will at other times.Ahhh,the good old days*sigh* ;-)
Technically speaking the film is in its' original a/r of 1:85:1.The film has been remastered and it looks crisp alright,but it is still quite grainy;as most ALL of Harryhausen's Columbia product
shamefully is,with the one exception being the 50th anniversary remastered 7th Voyage of Sinbad edition,which looks beautiful.Columbia attaches a high price to Harryhausen's works but doesn't deliver pristine prints to justify the charge.What is up with that?
This edition comes with the original b&w version along with a colourized copy.Now if you're like me you might be rolling your eyes at the very mention of colourization.I can think back to the 80s when they experimented with some Laurel and Hardy product and the results were,to put it mildly,pathetic.I have always railed against the process because it goes against the original vision of the artists involved.But I listened to a featurette with this set and it seems Harryhausen himself helped to colourize this movie.In fact it was only due to budget restraints way back when,that prevented them from shooting in colour in the first place,which he would have preferred.So with that in mind,and going against my better judgement,I actually sat and watched the colourized version.I must say I was impressed.They have certainly come a long way since the 80s with this process.This version looks very life like and if one didn't know better one could easily be fooled into thinking this WAS originally shot in colour.
The colour,however,did nothing to improve the picture other than its looks,but it is certainly interesting to see the two side by side.Extras include:commentary,a featurette on the film and the music man for the film,an interview by Tim Burton with Harryhausen,photo galleries,original artwork and more.
in conclusion,Columbia has come up with a single sided two disc set of Harryhausen's S/Fx 50s B flick,with lots of interviews and other extras,along with a colourized version of the film which I must admit looks pretty darn good.However the colour and remastered version here does nothing to improve the typical 50s plot.It may have been remastered but it didn't eliminate a good portion of the graininess,and for the high price this set commands(at least in Canada),I don't think it's worth it.