It Came From Beneath the Sea DVD Review

It's rather surprising that more giant creature films don't feature giant squids. We've had all sorts of radioactive monstrosities over the years, yet the giant squid is real. Logic dictates that something real is far more frightening than something that isn't. Though not a giant squid, "It Came From Beneath the Sea" does a fantastic job at making the experience seem real thanks to Ray Harryhausen's effects and placing it high in the ranks of 50's monster movies. An atomic bomb test in Marshall Islands irritates one of the seas larger inhabitants, causing it to attack a submarine. Scientists Lesley Joyce (Faith Domergue) and John Carter (Donald Curtis) team up with Commander Pete Mathews (genre veteran Kenneth Tobey) to try and figure out what caused the disaster. More incidents occur and the sense of urgency builds. Finally the creature makes a spectacular attack on San Francisco for one last attack while the authorities make a desperate attempt to put an end to the menace. Any decent science fiction fan knows Ray Harryhausen's work. This was his first film with producer Charles H. Schneer, whom would join him on countless other classics for the rest of his career. Harryhausen's creation here remains spectacular to this day and the rest of the effects work is still believable. Well known is that the octopus only has 6 tentacles (compared to 8 on a real one), an effort to save on the budget and give the master animator a break. This is a somewhat disjointed film however, as the two lead characters lead a generic romance that goes absolutely nowhere in the second half. Stock footage is used extensively and the narrator used in the first half-hour is grating (and speaks only once in the second half). It's obvious that the focus is put squarely where it should be for the final chapters and it all comes out just fine in the end, but it almost makes the first 40 minutes seem meaningless. Even so, "It Came From Beneath the Sea" is one of the best of the 50's creature features and a must see for any fan of this quirky genre. (**** out of *****) Columbia has done a fine job with this disc, starting with the 1.85:1 anamorphic video. Clean and clear thanks to a beautiful restoration job, the only thing dragging this one down is some grain of varying annoyance. The stock footage mentioned above is also heavily damaged, but this is the norm and makes it blatantly obvious. Only minor scratches remain on the actual film footage. This is likely the best this film will ever look and a treat for fans. (****) The discs soundtrack replicates the original mono presentation of the film with a little bit of trouble. The volume fluctuates from scene to scene and having your finger on the volume button is almost necessary. Other than this, this is a serviceable soundtrack that isn't for home theater enthusiasts, but for watching the film it's just fine. (***) Two featurettes are included on the disc along with a few trailers. "This is Dynamation" is an old, short promotional film that showcases some of Harryhausen's spectacular effects work. You won't learn much, but it is fun to watch for it's retro factor. Also available on a separate DVD, "The Harryhausen Chronicles" is hosted by Leonard Nimoy. This hour long look at one of the best special effects men of all time is spectacular, filled with countless interviews and never before seen footage. If you love stop motion, this is worth owning the disc just to watch it. This isn't a packed disc, but the quality far surpasses the quantity here. (****) This disc is available as part of the Ray Harryhausen Signature Collection of DVD's, which includes "20 Million Miles to Earth" and the "Sinbad" series. Nearly every movie in this set must be purchased if you have any interest in special effects or classic sci-fi. Even alone by itself, "It Came From Beneath the Sea" is a classic and a worthy purchase for anyone who has even a mild interest.

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