It Came From Beneath The Sea

1955’s It Came From Beneath The Sea holds an important place in the hearts of many fantasy film lovers because it was the first of twelve collaborations between producer Charles H. Schneer and stop-motion special effects master Ray Harryhausen, a partnership that produced some of the cinema’s most unforgettable images.  Not counting its serials and hokily-enjoyable Jungle Jim adventures, It Came From Beneath The Sea (earlier titled Monster Beneath The Sea) was Columbia Pictures’ first venture into 1950s science-fiction. 

After a few isolated attacks by the mysterious creature, the scientific and military heroes who have postulated the beast’s existence have their theory vindicated when the monster finally shows its face (or at least its tentacles).  Later, the creature visits a famous landmark, in this case San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, only to be destroyed by modern weaponry, here a remote-controlled torpedo. 

George Worthing Yates’ and Hal Smith’s screenplay did not explore any new dramatic ground, as it safely copied the formula set forth in Harryhausen's The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms and Them!, with some superfluous narration added to try to convince us of the factual nature of the proceedings.  As if we actually require facts in a tale about a gargantuan radioactive octopus that surfaces when H-bomb testing reduces its food supply.  By not taking any chances with the story, the writers were unknowingly further coalescing the plot points that lazy producers and screenwriters would turn into giant monster movie clichés throughout the fifties.

Thrown into the plot -- presumably to appeal to women -- was a mild romantic triangle between a buxom marine biologist (Faith Domergue), a chain-smoking Navy sub commander (Kenneth Tobey), and a brilliant-but-stodgy Harvard professor (Donald Curtis).  Not surprisingly, the woman chooses the military smokestack over the egghead.  But the film does deserve some credit for offering us a “new breed of woman” who wants a job and respect as much as she wants a man, and she proves it by screaming as little as possible during the picture.

Despite the attempt to promote sexual equality, the main attribute of director Robert Gordon’s film was the further refinement of Harryhausen's jaw-dropping technical effects, as his integration of the creature with miniatures and background footage dominated the film’s latter half.  The movie’s success helped ensure that the artist would continue to bring all sorts of amazing creatures to the screen for many years.

To learn about It Came From Beneath The Sea’s memorable music score by Mischa Bakaleinikoff, click HERE.


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