Random Film of the Day* It Came From Beneath the Sea

*For the next week or so, I’m going to add a random film the great Ray Harryhausen worked on. The legendary special effects MASTER passed away on May 7, 2013 at age 92 in London and yes, the film world owes him more than they can ever repay…

it came from beneath the seaYou can probably consider the 1955 film It Came From Beneath the Sea as (and I quote) “The ONLY six-tentacled giant octopus movie you’ll ever need” and call it a night, but this would be a pretty damn shorter than usual column. Actually, this was another fun Charles H. Schneer/Ray Harryhausen co-production put together to show off Ray’s stop motion animation brilliance and yes indeed, it succeeds quite well on that front.

Of course, it’s also another yet low budget atomic radiation created mutation run amok deal, so expect a chunk of military stock footage, a few jabs at scientific accuracy gone awry and the usual pairing of lantern-jawed hero with sexy researcher who’s all business at the proper moments…

The plot follows the same template as most 50’s “B” monster flicks wagging their finger at all that atomic testing that used to take place. Of course, in reality, there were probably a few too many million fish and other sea life getting blown up or dying afterwards from radiation for years, so I guess you can consider these flicks overly optimistic about the results of multiple atomic bombs exploded under and over the ocean. Now that you feel better about life, the film scores a few points by doing a bit of fake globe-hopping by mentioning Japan, Siberia and France in different scenes.

But you’re not seeing this for international relations at all, right? You’re seeing it for the big octopus and nope, it doesn’t disappoint, wrecking up San Francisco but good before it’s taken out with a great deal of ordinance and the city is saved. Amusingly enough, the film’s shorter production schedule and budget constraints made Harryhausen cut the number of arms on the monster from eight to six, but he didn’t think audiences would notice much if at all. The kids and adults who weren’t up on their marine biology were probably not seeing any difference at all, but plenty of others noticed… and didn’t really care.

For me, one of the charms of the best stop motion is seeing the small mistakes that only a human animator can make and while a six armed “octopus” isn’t a “mistake”, it’s still a fun bit of film trivia that makes this one really special. Go check it out at some point, preferably with Mysterious Island, another Harryhausen effects film with a cephalopod (this time with all its arms, last time I checked). I’ll get to that gem later in the week if you can hold your breath that long. Or hell, just come up for air and have a seat on the couch, I’ll be with you in a bit…

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