Thursday, October 24, 2019

TERROR BENEATH THE SEA (1966) Movie Review

Scare-A-Thon Totals to Date:

Total Movies Watched: 22
Total First Time Views: 10
Amount raised for AMAZON WATCH: $1,820.72

Terror Beneath the Sea (1966) d. Hajime Sato (Japan) (78 min) (1st viewing)

During a press conference/demonstration of a new guided underwater missile, a unidentified humanoid shape is viewed on the Navy’s closed-circuit television monitors. Their curiosity sparked, reporters Ken Abe (Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba) and Jenny Gleason (Peggy Neal) decide to explore the area with scuba gear the following day, where Jenny has a close encounter with a low-rent Gill-Man, even getting close enough to snap a photo, losing her camera in the struggle. When the Navy refuses to believe her story, she and Ken head back out, only to be kidnapped by a swarm of the creatures and taken to the underwater laboratory of the nefarious Dr. Moore (Erik Neilson), who has dreams and schemes of transforming humanity into an army of amphibian cyborgs under his control! It’s up to Ken and Jen to clock the doc before the trouble bubbles and our lives take a dive.

Two years before delivering the mind-melting Goke: Body Snatcher from Hell, director Sato helmed this derivative but thoroughly enjoyable sci-fi romp that happily riffs on the James Bond films (Dr. Moore could arguably be called a direct ancestor to Curd Jurgens’ sea-dreaming megalomaniac in The Spy Who Loved Me) as well as Millicent Patrick’s monster designs for Creature from the Black Lagoon, with a pinch of atomic paranoia for good measure.

Outside of the rubbery suits, the special effects primarily consist of time-lapse photography of the human subjects being slowly turned into scaly mechanical monstrosities that seemingly have three settings: “Rest,” “Work,” and “Fight.” The futuristic sets and miniatures by Shinichi Eno are deserving of note, as is Shinsuke Kikuchi’s groovy guitar-driven musical score.

Chiba, still nearly a decade out from becoming an international action superstar with his Street Fighter movies, is an amiable heroic presence, with Neal on hand as the requisite shrieking eye candy (though she does manage to pull off a few moments of derring-do between cringes and moans). The rest of the characters are equally distributed between Caucasian and Japanese actors, and deliver their B-movie best. (Though the film was shot in English, it appears that all the dialogue has been re-dubbed by other performers, including several sounding suspiciously like Paul Frees, though IMDb cannot confirm this.)

Surprisingly entertaining despite (or perhaps because of) its low-tech charms, this is a charming curio that should pass the time most pleasantly for fans of old-school monster delights.

Terror Beneath the Sea is available now streaming on Shout! Factory TV (and was also released on a bare bones DVD by DarkSky Films in 2005).


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