WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953) and CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954), followed this year by IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE (1953) and EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS (1956).
On this Friday evening I delved into '50s sci-fi once more by watching IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA (1955), a Ray Harryhausen film which I found quite entertaining. I particularly liked the film's storytelling balance between its strong leads and the science fiction/special effects aspect; there was room for interesting characters along with the giant octopus.
Submarine Commander Pete Mathews (Kenneth Tobey) is as baffled as anyone when his submarine tangles with a giant sea monster while on a shakedown cruise off the West Coast of the United States.
Scientists Lesley Joyce (Faith Domergue) and John Carter (Donald Curtis) determine that the creature was some form of octopus. Although initially the military brass are dubious of the scientists' work, the creature soon terrorizes residents of Oregon and California, particularly San Francisco. The race is on to find a way to kill the giant octopus once and for all.
The climactic battle against the sea monster is very well done, as its tentacles destroy the Golden Gate Bridge and then reach into San Francisco, toppling buildings and threatening to destroy the city. Though primitive by modern standards, the effects remain very effective, particularly during the final confrontation between submarine and octopus. In a number of the San Francisco scenes people fall down as they're running away, a touch right out of scary nightmares. I especially loved the courageous army men using flame throwers to chase the octopus back into the sea!
I believe I've only seen Domergue previously in ESCORT WEST (1958); it's a little Western I liked a lot, but Domergue was outshone in that one by Elaine Stewart as her more likeable sister. Domergue's credits also included the film noir classic WHERE DANGER LIVES (1950) and the sci-fi title THIS ISLAND EARTH (1955). During the '50s she was married to director Hugo Fregonese.
When I saw Donald Curtis, I was amused to suddenly realize that he played the doctor who treats Tootie after her Halloween hijinks in MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944). I just saw him last week in the large cast of THIRTY SECONDS OVER TOKYO (1954). Curtis's career spanned over a quarter-century, with over 100 screen credits. In IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA he's interesting as a man who's forward-thinking in his appreciation of women's roles; he seems to have some romantic interest in his colleague Domergue, yet is sanguine when she is courted by Tobey. Curtis also has two of the most heroic moments in the film, racing onto the imperiled Golden Gate Bridge and later saving Tobey's life in an underwater battle with the octopus.
This movie was directed by Robert Gordon. The cinematographer was Henry Freulich. The film's supporting cast includes Ian Keith, Chuck Griffiths, Harry Lauter, and Tol Avery. It runs 79 minutes.
I watched a beautiful widescreen print recorded from Turner Classic Movies, which has the trailer available online.
The movie has also been released on DVD numerous times; potential buyers should exercise caution as some DVD releases of this black and white film were colorized. It can be rented from Netflix and ClassicFlix.
It also had a release on VHS.