The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues

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One of the last entries in the ever-declining line of sea monsters of the mid-fifties, this super-low-budget film was released by ARC as a B-bill to Roger Corman’s Day the World Ended. An incompetent spy whodunnit meets a ridiculously bad nuclear monster hunt. One of the worst scripts of the fifties, but the acting is surprisingly good. Stars later exploitation staple Kent Taylor.

The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues!

The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues!

The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues (1955, USA). Directed by Dan Milner. Written by Lou Rusoff. Starring: Kent Taylor, Cathy Downs, Michael Whalen, Helene Stanton, Phillip Pine, Rodney Bell, Vivi Janiss. Produced by Jack & Dan Milner for Milner Brothers Productions.
IMDb rating: 3.4/10. Tomatometer: N/A. Metascore: N/A. 

Poster.

Poster.

You may or may not remember that I recently gave 2/10 stars to Roger Corman’s post-apocalyptic snooze-fest Day the World Ended (1955, review). Well, that was American Releasing Company’s (ARC) top-billed film on a double feature that also included The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues. To be perfectly honest, I would like to give this film a 0/10 rating, just to clearly mark the distance in quality from Corman’s movie, that was at least competently filmed. But unfortunately The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues has a so-bad-it’s-good charm about it, that makes it impossible for me to give it a zero. This, by the way, was a quality that Day the World Ended sorely lacked in its grave melodrama. Continue reading

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It Came from Beneath the Sea

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(4/10) A giant radioactive octopus destroys San Francisco in Columbia’s stale rehash of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. This low-budget programmer is saved by a good leading cast and Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion animation. George Worthing Yates writes a strong part for scream queen Faith Domergue, giving it a feminist slant. The hero from King Dinosaur, William Bryant, is back in a bit-part, but this time it is sci-fi stalwart Kenneth Tobey’s turn to ”bring the atom bomb”.

The hexapus attacking the Golden Gate in the later colourised version of the film.

The hexapus attacking the Golden Gate in the later colourised version of the film.

It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955, USA). Directed by Robert Gordon. Written by George Worthing Yates, Harold Jacob Smith. Starring: Kenneth Tobey, Faith Domergue, Donald Curtis. Produced by Charles H. Schneer for Clover Productions.
IMDb rating: 5.9/10. Tomatometer: 67% Fresh. Metascore: N/A.

Poster.

Poster.

Radioactive deep-sea dangers menaced the world in the mid-fifties, and it all started with the Warner-distributed The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953, review), which in turn was inspired by the immensely successful re-release of King King (1933, review) in 1952. King Kong showed Hollywood that stop-motion animation was still as effective a way for creating giant monsters as it had been twenty years earlier. King Kong, or course, was animated by legendary Willis O’Brien, as was its inferior slapdash sequel Son of Kong (1933). A much worthier follow-up was made in 1949, Mighty Joe Young, which gave O’Brien his only Oscar, although most of the animation was done by his apprentice, a young man called Ray Harryhausen, who would hone his animating skills on George Pal’s Puppetoons replacement animation film series. When producer Jack Dietz had the idea to make a giant monster film about a radioactive dinosaur wreaking havoc in New York, the call went out to Ray Harryhausen to create the creature in the stop-motion technique, and that film’s huge success spawned the inferior rip-off It Came from Beneah the Sea. Continue reading

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

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(8/10) Disney began producing live-action films in 1950, and by 1954, with its newly created distribution company Buena Vista, decided to go big or bust. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is a magnificent adventure film with groundbreaking special effects, majestic Cinemascope Technicolor photography and beautiful designs. A star cast led by Kirk Douglas and James Mason help create what is regularly seen as the best Jules Verne adaptation of all time. However, the script is a bit disjointed, the film a bit too long, and Douglas steals a bit too many scenes with clowny over-acting. The highlight is the Nautilus crew’s fight with the film’s legendary mechanical squid.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954, USA). Directed by Richard Fleischer. Written by Earl Felton. Based on the novel with the same name by Jules Verne. Starring: Kirk Douglas, James Mason, Paul Lukas, Peter Lorre, Robert J. Wilke, Charles Grodin. Produced by Walt Disney for Walt Disney Productions.
IMDb rating: 7.2/10. Tomatometer: 89% Fresh. Metascore: N/A.

The pride of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - the giant squid, engineered by Robert A.- Mattey.

The pride of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – the giant squid, engineered by Robert A. Mattey.

Underwater shenanigans had been a thing in science fiction films in 1954, with Universal rolling out its final (belated) ”golden era” movie monster in Creature from the Black Lagoon (review) and Roger Corman making his production debut with Monster from the Ocean Floor (review). One of the reasons for this fad was the fact that a piece of technology had recently been unveiled that revolutionised underwater photography: scuba gear. But another, perhaps even greater reason was that movie lovers around the world were anxiously awaiting the Christmas release of Walt Disney’s mega-production 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Continue reading

Monster from the Ocean Floor

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(4/10) This 1954 shoestring-shocker is the first ever film produced by the king of B movies, Roger Corman. Despite a non-existing budget, Corman and director Wyatt Ordung are able to cobble together a film that looks like it was produced by decent Poverty Row studio. Lead actress Anne Kimbell’s warm and sympathetic portrayal of a tourist hunting a mutated sea monster in a Mexican cove does much to raise the film above its meagre production values. A surprisingly entertaining film that is perfect for a few laughs and a bowl of popcorn.

Monster from the Ocean Floor (1954, USA). Directed by Wyatt Ordung. Written by Bill Danch. Starring: Anne Kimbell, Stuart Wade, Dick Pinner, Wyatt Ordung, Inez Palange, Jonathan Haze, David Garcia, Roger Corman.. Produced by Roger Corman for Palo Alto Productions. IMDb rating: 3.3/10. Rotten Tomatoes: N/A. Metacritic: N/A.

Anne Kimbell exhausted after having encountered the monster from the ocean floor.

Anne Kimbell exhausted after having encountered the monster from the ocean floor.

This blog has chronicled the history of science fiction cinema from its humble beginnings with Georges Méliès’ groundbreaking extravaganza A Trip to the Moon (review) in 1902 through the pioneering work of masters like Fritz Lang (Metropolis 1927 review, Woman in the Moon, 1929, review) and the creators of the Universal monsters to the fifties. Beginning with George Pal’s ambitious Destination Moon (1950, review), the early fifties marked the beginning of nearly every subgenre now found in science fiction movies of today, whether it was the alien invasion (The Day the Earth Stood Still, 1951, review), the alien monster (The Thing from Another World, 1951, review), the post-apocalyptic world (Five, 1951, review), the colonisation of space (When Worlds Collide, 1952, review) alien duplicates (Invaders from Mars, 1953, review), the futuristic war (The War of the Worlds, 1953, review) or the atomic monster (The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, 1953, review). Continue reading

Unknown World

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(4/10) In a nutshell: The first actual hollow Earth film made in Hollywood, this 1951 cheapo produced by visual effects wizards Jack Rabin and Irving Block is almost a good picture, but stumbles in basically all departments. Pretentious, illogical, naive, chauvinistic, shakily directed and badly acted, but it does move along at a decent pace, is filmed in stunning cave locations and has occasional glimpses of profundity and brilliance. Loosely based on Jules Verne and Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Unknown World (1951). Directed by Terry O. Morse. Written by Millard Kaufman. Inspired (uncredited) by A Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne and At the Earth’s Core by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Starring: Bruce Kellogg, Marilyn Nash, Victor Killian, Otto Waldis. Produced by Jack Rabin & Irving Block for Lippert Pictures. IMDb score: 3.9

Some guy (seriously, I can't tell the apart!), Marilyn Nash and Bruce Kellogg in Unknown World.

Some guy (seriously, I can’t tell the apart!), Marilyn Nash and Bruce Kellogg in Unknown World.

Released two years earlier, Unknown World might have become a minor cult classic, so novel was its idea in Hollywood at the time. But released in late 1951, the movie faced such stiff opposition from other science fiction films, like The Day the Earth Stood Still (review), Superman and the Mole-Men (review), When Worlds Collide (review) and Flight to Mars (review), that it was a bit overlooked. And unfortunately it hasn’t received the same sort of delayed love as other cult classics by later generations, either. The main reason being that it is neither very good nor campy enough to be loved by the so-bad-it’s-good fans. But for any completist sci-fi fan it is definately a must-watch, since it is the first full-length feature film to tackle the hollow Earth genre. Continue reading

The Mysterious Island

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(5/10) In a nutshell: This 1941 Soviet-Ukrainian film is probably the most accurate film version of Jules Verne’s novel The Mysterious Island that has ever been put on screen. Beautiful locations on the shores of the Black Sea help out this film, which nonetheless suffers from creaky and static direction and too much off-screen action. Features Robert Ross, the leader of the African-American community in Moscow during the forties, fifties and sixties.

The Mysterious Island/Tainstvennyy Ostrov. 1941, USSR. Directed by Eduard Pentslin. Written by M. Kalinin, Boris Shelontsev. Based on the novel The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne. Starring: Alexei Krasnopolskiy, Pavel Kiyanskiy, Andrei Sova, Igor Kozlov, Andrei Andrienko-Zemskov, Jura Grammatikati, Robert Ross, Nikolai Kommissarov. Produced by Odessa Film Studio/Gorky Film Studios. IMDb score: 7.0

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Pavel Kiyanskiy as Spilett and Andrei Andriyenko-Zemskov as Pencroff in Tainstvennyy Ostrov/The Mysterious Island.

As readers of Jules Verne will know, the 1874 novel The Mysterious Island is science fiction only inasmuch as it is related to the earlier 20,000 Leagues Beneath the Sea, and Captain Nemo and his submarine turn up briefly in the final chapters of the book. But I decided to include The Mysterious Island, or Tainstvennyy Ostrov, as it is known in Russian, as it is something as curious as a 1941 adventure/science fiction film from the Soviet Union with American protagonists, including a black man. Continue reading

Undersea Kingdom

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(3/10) In a nutshell: Inspired by Flash Gordon and The Phantom Empire, the young Republic Studios launched their own sci-fi serial in 1936, and the result was an action-packed, but rather brainless concoction relying heavily on horse chases and pointless crowd battles. Occasional good design and an energetic Crash Corrigan, nice action scenes, or even some merited actors can’t save this awfully scripted and blandly acted Atlantis-themed hotchpotch.

Undersea Kingdom. 1936, USA. Serial. Directed by B. Reeves Eason & Joseph Kane. Written by John Rathmell, Maurice Geraghty, Oliver Drake, Tracy Knight. Starring: Ray ”Crash” Corrigan, Lois Wilde, Lee van Atta, C. Montague Shaw, Monte Blue, William Farnum, Smiley Burnette, Frankie Farnum, Lon Chaney Jr, Sinbad the parrot. Produced by Nat Levine for Republic. IMDb score: 4.7

Crash Corrigan fighting off two Black Robes in the Republic sci-fi serial Undersea Kingdom.

Crash Corrigan fighting off two Black Robes in the Republic sci-fi serial Undersea Kingdom.

I’ve stated numerous times that I normally don’t review serials. But I can’t seem to keep away, can I? Well, just to put my review of Flash Gordon (1936) in perspective, I’ve decided to write a few lines on Undersea Kingdom, released barely two months after Flash. The cheap ripoff showcases almost everything that Flash Gordon got right, by getting it all wrong. Nonetheless, for some peculiar reason, the serial seems to hold a very special place in the hearts of the friends of the Republic serials. Admittedly, it is not without its technical merits, and one does learn to enjoy the horrible acting the way one enjoys Plan 9 from Outer Space. Continue reading