It Came from Beneath the Sea

Friday, February 11 - Saturday, February 12, 2011

“Originally bearing the title Monster from the Deep, It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955) marked the maiden voyage of the long-running partnership of Harryhausen and Schneer. Harryhausen began by making a study of cephalopod mollusks at the Hermosa Beach Aquarium while Schneer met with executive producer Sam Katzman to lock down a budget. Writer George Worthing Yates (fresh from the job of writing the giant ant movie Them! [1954] for Warner Brothers) fleshed out Steve Fisher’s step outline, changing the title to Monster Beneath the Sea. The final shooting script bearing that title was delivered in September 1954, with the name-change occurring two months later. Harryhausen had begun filming his effects sequences in August. Pressure from the front office to curtail costs resulted in an effects compromise that has largely gone unnoticed, except by marine biologists and trainspotters: the eponymous octopod has only six tentacles. Harryhausen diverted attention from this deficiency by keeping the Beast below the waterline with at least one limb moving at all times, having anticipated that moviegoers would rather watch the one tentacle in motion than five at rest.

“Cast as the two-fisted hero of It Came from Beneath the Sea was Kenneth Tobey, star of both The Thing from Another World (1951) and The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. A native of Oakland, California, Tobey had been a classmate of Gregory Peck and Eli Wallach at New York’s Neighborhood Playhouse, and made an impression in an uncredited bit in the service comedy I Was a Male War Bride (1949) with Cary Grant. Paired with Tobey as a female scientist was Faith Domergue, a discovery of Howard Hughes, who bought the New Orleans-born actress’ Warners contract with the intention of molding her to be the next Jane Russell. (That same year, Domergue starred in the future cult favorites This Island Earth and Cult of the Cobra).

“To keep shooting costs low, director Robert Gordon shot inside an actual submarine, both above and under water, using handheld cameras. For a scene that takes place on a stretch of Pacific coastline, Gordon and his crew dumped several truckloads of sand onto a soundstage at Columbia, which they backed with a rear screen projection. During their scene together, Tobey found himself sinking through the sand to the point of appearing shorter than Domergue on camera, forcing him to dig himself out of the hole between every take. A more extensive love scene had been written for the characters but was literally torn out of the shooting script by Sam Katzman, to keep principal photography from going over schedule.

“The price tag on It Came from Beneath the Sea was a miserly $150,000, approximately $26,000 of which paid for Harryhausen’s special effects. The first Harryhausen-Schneer production was a bona fide success at the time of its release in mid 1955 and established a distinctive template for terror married to spectacle. Harryhausen-Schneer followed this with Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956), heaping destruction this time on Washington, D.C.” – Turner Classic Movies

  • Country USA
  • Language English
  • Rating NR
  • Year 1955
  • Running Time 79 minutes
  • Director Robert Gordon

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