Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Starring Kenneth Tobey, Faith Domergue, Donald Curtis, Ian Keith, Dean Maddox Jr.
Directed by Robert Gordon
Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Before the menace of Cloverfield (review here) made quick work of Manhattan, and just as Godzilla made its maiden journey destroying all that was Tokyo, we here in the States had our own monster. A monster who obliterated many a city. One who waged war not only on our armed forces, but on any other fantastic creature who would also become part of his legacy. Standing in at around sixty to seventy-two inches tall, this legendary behemoth is known to fans everywhere as … *cues dramatic giant monster score* Ray Harryhausen.
How could you not be a fan? This man has single-handedly unleashed a bevy of monstrous brutes of all shapes and sizes on film fans for decades. From the Ymir to the Cyclops he’s done it all. In It Came From Beneath the Seas it’s a giant octopus that’s causing all manner of mayhem in California. But how did it get here?
Seamen (hold the jokes, you friggin’ perverts) have always been the type to hold vendettas. Just like the great Captain Ahab pursued the infamous white whale Moby Dick, Captain Pete Mathews (Tobey) takes great offense to a giant radioactive octopus attacking his submarine. Mathews tracks the beast all the way to San Fransisco while trying to prevent it from causing any more damage along the way, but to no avail. This killer octopus is pretty determined to fuck shit up. To make matters worse, our weapons seem powerless against it. Good thing the government is there working hard to create a super-torpedo that can penetrate the beast’s skull and scramble its brain. Hey, you never know when you’re going to need one of those super-torpedoes, ya know? We really ought to keep those things handy.
It Came From Beneath the Sea is a good old-fashioned monster-mash that’s a blast from start to finish. Harryhausen takes great delight not only in bringing these things to life, but also in having them smash some of our most well known structures. It’s the Golden Gate Bridge that’s on the menu here along with the Embarcadero, and even all these decades later this scene still packs quite the punch. It’s a testament to Ray’s skill and talent. Best of all? We now have two choices on how to watch it — in original black & white or in vivid realistic color.
The colorization process has indeed peaked. It’s nowhere near as awkward looking as it used to be. I remember when Ted Turner’s mission was to turn every classic film that he could into color. The result was lime green zombies and giant gorillas that looked as if they were made of chocolate. Finally someone has gotten this process right. Good stuff.
In terms of supplemental material I must admit I’m kind of surprised. Not by how many features are included in this two-disc set, but by how many of said features were also included on the re-release of 20 Million Miles to Earth (review here) a few months back. I’m not a big fan of recycling material, but I understand why it was done. I don’t condone it mind you, but I do understand it. That being said, I will only focus on the new stuff that’s included. You can click the above link to find out about the other features.
Things kick off on Disc One with a rather dry commentary by Ray Harryhausen along with visual effects artists Randall William Cook and John Bruno and film historian Arnold Kunert. Harryhausen is in his twilight years — I can understand him not swinging from the chandeliers — but the other guys? Come on, liven it up a little, will you? This movie is fun! Stop being so dry when talking about it! After a grueling listen, it’s time to head on over to Disc Two for the meat of the extras.
First up, a twenty-one-minute featurette entitled Remembering It Came From Beneath the Sea. This is sort of an abbreviated version of the commentary with Harryhausen supplying most of the dialogue and the other folks sharing a memory or two. Not bad, but if you listened to the commentary track already, this is pretty redundant. From there the next new feature is called A Present-Day Look at Stop-Motion. Clocking in at about twelve minutes, it introduces us to Kyle Anderson, a student at NYU who majors in, you guessed it, stop-motion animation. Though we see how the process has evolved over the years, this featurette comes off as kind of a throw-away bit. There’s no doubt Mr. Anderson is talented, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of him in the future, but watching him manipulate cutesy clay animals just isn’t my idea of a good time. The new features are then wrapped up with an early look at the forthcoming comic It Came From Beneath the Sea … AGAIN!. If you’ve ever seen a virtual comic before, then you know what to expect. Use the arrows, advance the frames, yadda yadda.
Even with the recycled material, this DVD is a must-buy for monster movie fans of all ages. Are you a new genre fan who’s impressed by stuff like Cloverfield? Then, brother, It Came From Beneath the Sea is a good history lesson for you! You’ll never travel over the Golden Gate and feel the same way again!
4 out of 5
3 1/2 out of 5
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