30 Days of Madness, Day 29 — It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955)

by Tom Kapr

Wherein I attempt to watch one new-to-me horror film every day of October till Halloween and write a quick review. I will end my review with a letter grade like we do on our podcast (A, B, C, D, or F–pluses and minuses are for the non-committal!) and with the movie’s rank on my Flickchart.


“The mind of man had thought of everything–except that which was beyond his comprehension!”

Thanks, narrator guy.

It Came from Beneath the Sea, with one the most 50s of all movie titles, was directed by Robert Gordon, who went on to direct mostly for television in the 50s and 60s; and written by George Worthing Yates, who also gave us Them! and Attack of the Puppet People; and Harold Jacob Smith, who would go on to write The Defiant Ones and Inherit the Wind.

None of that really matters, however, because this will always be known as a Ray Harryhausen film. I make mention of Ray Harryhausen often when talking about effects films, and covered The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms both here and on my podcast. And really, Harryhausen’s stop-motion effects are this film’s saving grace.

Otherwise, the film seems to think it should focus almost entirely on the cringe-inducing romance between Kenneth “Block of Wood” Tobey and Faith “Ruuuth!” Domergue. Ah, the 1950s. When the way to a woman’s heart was undressing her with your eyes, backing her into a corner (literally), and pawing suggestively at laboratory beakers. And even though she’s a scientist and a professor, she’ll get all hot and flustered like a freshman girl. This film unfortunately wallows in its sexism, and even when it does try to get suddenly progressive, it is patronizing as hell.

But back to the real star, Ray Harryhausen. It Came from Beneath the Sea features some of his best work. His giant octopus is detailed and textured and, considering a cephalopod’s physiology, is impressively animated. The scene on the Golden Gate Bridge is probably the best in the film, though the excellent composite work is more on full display in the creature’s attack on the San Francisco Embarcadero. I’d even say that Harryhausen’s giant octopus is one of the greatest visual effects ever created for a film. It single-handedly (or, octopodedly?) saves the film and imbues it with a classic status it would otherwise not deserve.

Final grade: C

My Flickchart ranking: #1588 (out of 3274, a relative 51/100)

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