Cast & Crew
Dean Maddox Jr.
On a peacetime patrol in the Pacific, the U.S. Navy's atomic submarine, captained by Commander Pete Mathews, is chased and held by an enormous, unidentifiable object. The sub picks up strong radioactive signals from outside the ship, but Pete's evasive maneuvers eventually wrench the vessel free. Upon returning to the Pearl Harbor naval base in Honolulu, a strange substance is discovered lodged on the ship's plates, prompting the Defense Department to summon two marine biology experts, Dr. John Carter and Dr. Lesley Joyce, to the base. After an initial exam, both Lesley and John agree that the substance came from a living creature, despite Pete and the Navy's incredulity. Over the following two weeks, as John and Lesley continue their investigation, Pete shows a personal interest in Lesley, who is only anxious to return to her own research. Finally, John and Lesley present their findings, stating that their tests suggest that the submarine was attacked by a giant octopus, which apparently was disturbed from its nest deep in the Pacific's Mindanao Straights by radioactive contamination from the atomic bomb fallout over Japan. Lesley explains that the unusual radioactive charge given off by the creature alerts its prey of its approach, and in desperation the octopus has surfaced in search of food. John and Lesley speculate that unexplained disappearances of a Japanese fishing fleet and a Siberian seal boat may have been due to the octopus. Pete and the Navy representatives express doubt over this hypothesis, however, and demand further proof. Later, as Pete assists John and Lesley with departure arrangements, a report comes in of an attack on a French shipping boat, from which several men escaped in a raft. John and Lesley are once again pressed into service for the government. The French survivors are questioned by psychiatrists, but when the first sailor's description of an attack by a creature with giant tentacles is met with skepticism, the other sailors refuse to testify. Lesley is able to convince the first sailor to repeat his story for the government officials, who now have the evidence they need to back up the scientists' premise. The government then halts all sea traffic in the North Pacific without revealing the reason to other countries. John flies out to sea to trace a missing ship, while Pete and Lesley follow up a report of three missing people on the coast of Oregon. The local sheriff, Bill Nash, takes them to the site of the attack along the beach, where they find a giant suction imprint in the sand and request that John join them. While waiting, Pete and Lesley fish all day to no avail, and are convinced that the giant creature may be in the vicinity. After John arrives and the imprint is definitively identified as octopus, Pete demands Lesley leave the project, which now threatens to become dangerous, but she steadfastly refuses. When Bill is attacked along the beach by the creature in front of the scientists, they hastily arrange for the entire Pacific coast waters to be mined before departing for San Francisco and the Navy's central headquarters. An electrified safety net is strung underwater across the entrance to San Francisco Bay to protect the Golden Gate Bridge, which is also wired. John takes a helicopter along the shore and baits the sea with dead sharks in an effort to lure the octopus back inland. Lesley demonstrates to reporters a special jet-propelled atomic torpedo, with which they hope to shoot the creature and then drive it to sea before detonating the device. Later that day, the giant octopus demolishes the net across the Bay and heads toward San Francisco. The Navy orders the Golden Gate Bridge abandoned, but when John learns that the electric circuit on the bridge remains on, races out to shut it off. The bridge is attacked by the creature, but Pete rescues John before one section collapses. The residents of the city panic and begin a mass exodus down the peninsula, as the Navy struggles to evacuate the Embarcadero, which is then battered by the octopus. When several more people are attacked, the Defense Department authorizes Pete to launch his submarine and the atomic warhead. John joins Pete while Lesley remains at the base. Flame throwers push the octopus back into the sea, but when Pete shoots the creature, it grabs the submarine. Using an aqualung, Pete swims out to the octopus and places explosive charges on it before being knocked out by the creature's flailing arms. John then swims out, shoots the octopus in the eye, forcing it to release the ship, and pulls Pete to safety. Back at the base, as the creature turns toward open sea, the torpedo is detonated, destroying the giant octopus. Later, while celebrating, Lesley agrees to continue seeing Pete after she and John finish their next research project.
Dean Maddox Jr.
Richard W. Peterson
Charles H. Schneer
George Worthing Yates
George Worthing Yates
It Came From Beneath the Sea
After his military service in World War II (in which he had trained as a field cameraman and served under both Ted "Dr. Seuss" Geisel and Frank Capra), Harryhausen was hired by Willis O'Brien as an animator on the troubled Mighty Joe Young (1949), when the project was still known as Mr. Joseph Young of Africa. Although the King Kong sets were long gone, Harryhausen was delighted to be working with many members of the original Kong crew, notably O'Brien, director Ernest B. Schoedsack (who was by this time partially blind), Schoedsack's scenarist wife Ruth Rose and model makers Marcel and Victor Delgado. Unfortunately, monster-making remained for Harryhausen more of an avocation than a career. He filled the downtime developing his own dinosaur project, Valley of Mist, as well as an adaptation of H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds, but was unable to attract interest in either title. His luck changed when he heard about a film producer, Jack Dietz, who was casting about for ways to animate the title creature of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), the first of what would prove to be a new cycle of monster-on-the-loose films. Selling Dietz on stop-motion, Harryhausen sweetened the pot with his own "Dynamation" process, in which he employed split screen and rear projection processes to put the Beast in the same frame as the live actors. Box office returns were substantial and The New York Times singled out Harryhausen's dinosaur design as "an awesome apparition, seemingly the size of the Paramount Building, as destructive as a hydrogen bomb."
Although job offers were still slow in coming, Columbia Pictures reached out to Harryhausen in the person of producer Charles Schneer. During the war, Schneer had worked in the same unit as Harryhausen at Astoria Studios in New York but the future business partners' paths had never crossed. Schneer was suitably impressed with the stop-motion work in The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms to pitch to Harryhausen a an idea for a follow-up about a giant octopus laying siege to San Francisco. 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!  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.
Growing dissatisfied with his relationship with Sam Katzman, Schneer founded his own company, Morningside Productions, to ensure greater creative control. Columbia remained the distributor for the company's subsequent ventures, from the monster-on-the-loose (in Rome) variant 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957) to the lively Jules Verne adaptations Mysterious Island (1961) and First Men in the Moon (1964) and the myth-based The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) and Jason and the Argonauts (1963). Due to the meticulous, time-consuming nature of Harryhausen's effects work, Schneer often produced films on his own (Hellcats of the Navy , The Case Against Brooklyn , Good Day for a Hanging ), none of which are remembered with as much affection or respect as his dozen with Harryhausen.
The partnership disbanded after the box office disappointment of Clash of the Titans (1981), at which time Ray Harryhausen retired. "I got tired of being in a dark room making one film while everybody else goes and makes three," he said in an interview in 2001. "People seem to want something of the future rather than the past. Elements of an explosion every five minutes didn't appeal to me like Greek mythology." While making a personal appearance at the Famous Monsters of Filmland convention in Arlington, Virginia in May 1993, the 72 year-old Harryhausen was asked by one of the 7,000 attendees if he would consider coming out of retirement. The answer was a jovial but firm no: "I'm having too much fun being a playboy."
Producer: Charles H. Schneer
Director: Robert Gordon
Screenplay: George Worthing Yates, Hal Smith; George Worthing Yates (story)
Cinematography: Henry Freulich
Art Direction: Paul Palmentola
Music: Mischa Bakaleinikoff
Film Editing: Jerome Thoms
Cast: Kenneth Tobey (Cmdr. Pete Mathews), Faith Domergue (Prof. Lesley Joyce), Donald Curtis (Dr. John Carter), Ian Keith (Adm. Burns), Dean Maddox, Jr. (Adm. Norman), Chuck Griffiths (Lt. Griff, USN), Harry Lauter (Deputy Bill Nash), Richard W. Peterson (Capt. Stacy).
by Richard Harland Smith
Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life by Ray Harryhausen and Tony Dalton
Kenneth Tobey interview by Tom Weaver, Attack of the Monster Movie Makers
Ray Harryhausen interview by Ruth and Roger Whiter, Animation World Magazine, Issue 4, Volume 11, February 2000
Ray Harryhausen interview by Marty Mapes, MovieHabit.com, 2001
Ray Harryhausen interview by Damien Love, Bright Lights Film Journal, Issue 58, November 2007
Charles Schneer: Another Look at a Shadowed Icon by John Stanhope, CinefantastiqueOnline.com
It Came From Beneath the Sea
Kenneth Tobey (1917-2003)
Born in Oakland, California on March 23, 1917, Tobey originally intended to be a lawyer before a stint with the University of California Little Theater changed his mind. From there, he went straight to New York and spent nearly two years studying acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse, where his classmates included Gregory Peck, Eli Wallach and Tony Randall. Throughout the '40s, Tobey acted on Broadway and in stock before relocating to Hollywood. Once there, Tobey soon found himself playing a tough soldier in films like I Was a Male War Bride and Twelve O' Clock High (both 1949); or a tough police officer in Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye and Three Secrets (both 1950). Such roles were hardly surprising, given Tobey's craggy features, unsmiling countenance and rough voice.
Needless to say, no-nonsense, authority figures would be Tobey's calling for the remainder of his career; yet given the right role, he had the talent to make it memorable: the smart, likeable Captain Hendrey in The Thing From Another World (1951); the gallant Colonel Jack Evans in the "prehistoric dinosaur attacks an urban center" genre chiller The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953, a must-see film for fans of special effects wizard, Ray Harryhausen; and as Bat Masterson, holding his own against Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster in Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957).
Television would also offer Tobey much work: he had his own action series as chopper pilot Chuck Martin in Whirlybirds (1957-59); and had a recurring role as Assistant District Attorney Alvin in Perry Mason (1957-66). He would also be kept busy with guest appearances in countless westerns (Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Virginian) and cop shows (The Rockford Files, Barnaby Jones, Ironside) for the next two decades. Most amusingly, the tail end of Tobey's career saw some self-deprecating cameo spots in such contemporary shockers as The Howling (1981); Strange Invaders (1983) and his role reprisal of Captain Hendry in The Attack of the B-Movie Monsters (2002). Tobey is survived by a daughter, two stepchildren, and two grandchildren.
by Michael T. Toole
Kenneth Tobey (1917-2003)
Because the budget was so low, Ray Harryhausen removed two arms from the octopus to save money on the effects. He made the creature appear as if two arms were always in the water, making it appear that it had eight arms.
This is the film that brought together producer Charles H. Schneer and special effects legend Ray Harryhausen. Their professional relationship would last until Clash of the Titans (1981), the final feature for both men.
The working titles of this film were The Monster Beneath the Sea and Monster of the Deep. According to the Daily Variety review, the film includes stock footage also used in Columbia's production of Creature with the Atom Brain.
Released in United States Summer July 1955
Released in United States Summer July 1955