The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues


1h 20m 1956
The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues

Brief Synopsis

A mutated sea creature attacks people along the beach.

Film Details

Genre
Horror
Sci-Fi
Release Date
Jan 1956
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 4 Jan 1956
Production Company
Milner Bros. Productions
Distribution Company
American Releasing Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Catalina Island, California, United States; Malibu, California, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 20m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Film Length
8 reels

Synopsis

One evening, a fisherman rows out to Baker's cove, off a beach in California, and is killed by a mutated sea creature guarding a mysterious light source coming from the ocean floor. The man's charred body is discovered by William Grant, an investigator for the U.S. Department of Defense, and marine scientist Dr. Ted Stevens. Unknown to Grant, Stevens has been assigned to work undercover on the case, as two other men have already been killed by the monster, which locals call "the phantom." Using the name Ted Baxter and pretending to be a tourist, Ted is offering to help Grant when they are interrupted by George Thomas, who is lurking in the shadows. Thomas, the assistant of oceanographer Prof. King, who works at the nearby Pacific College of Oceanography, claims that he was searching for specimens. George actually was following King, who had been the first to discover the body before hurrying away, but Grant believes George's lie. Ted then goes to the King home, where King has instructed his daughter Lois to assert that he has been home all evening, even though he just came in. King, who has been worrying Lois with his peculiar behavior, then climbs out his bedroom window before Ted can talk with him. The next day, King's secretary, Ethel Hall, chats with janitor Andy, who tells her about the most recent killing. Andy is suspicious of King, who has been working in great secrecy lately, but Ethel dismisses his concerns. Ethel is also desperate to discover what King is working on, and after King enters his locked laboratory, she retrieves a piece of paper that he dropped. George snatches the paper away from Ethel and alternately tries to bribe and threaten her in order to gain her help in accessing the lab. Meanwhile, Ted makes a test dive in the cove, where he sees the mysterious light and the odd creature, which has arms and legs, with a row of spikes running down its spine. Ted reaches safety, then goes to the lab, where he informs King that the fisherman had died from radiation burns, not natural causes. Ted asks for detailed charts of the ocean and King promises to bring them to his house that afternoon. Ted agrees, and there, King gives him the charts and reveals he knows that Ted is a scientist famous for his experiments on the biological effects of radiation on marine life. Relieved to be able to confide in King, Ted admits that he is investigating the nuclear light source and the monster, although King dismisses his concerns. Ted, who had conducted similar experiments on a much smaller scale, is worried that the light is man-made and can be transformed into a dangerous weapon. Ted theorizes that the monster gets sustenance from the light and warns that it and the light must be destroyed. King is affronted that Ted might suspect him, but Ted reveals that King is not under suspicion because its creator has offered to sell the technology to foreign governments. King is horrified by the news, but their conversation is interrupted by a call from Grant, who requests diving equipment for the following morning. Meanwhile, George meets with his former lover, Wanda, who is a secret agent for the foreign government seeking information about the nuclear light, which was indeed created by King, although for purely scientific reasons. Wanda warns George that he must stop Grant's dive and informs him that he has only two more days to provide the necessary intelligence. While George returns to the college to sabotage the diving gear, Grant meets with Ethel. The embittered Ethel reveals that her son died while collecting specimens for King, and Grant persuades her to obtain a wax impression of King's lab keys. Soon after, Ted is walking with Lois on the beach while a young couple go scuba diving in the cove. After they are killed by the phantom, their bodies are washed ashore, where Ted and Lois find them. Ted sends Lois to find Grant, after which George, who has been stalking Ted, shoots at him with a spear gun. George's shot misses its target, although George succeeds in escaping. At the morgue, as Ted and Grant discuss the corpses, Ted reveals that he is also working for the Department of Defense. In the morning, Ted and Grant are preparing for their dive when the poison George inserted into the gear almost knocks out Grant. Ted revives him and cleans the equipment, after which the men make their descent. They see the monster but manage to evade it and reach the surface safely. Meanwhile, at the college, Ethel notices that a spear gun is missing, and George threatens her again when she states that she saw him with it. George then finds Wanda, who reveals that Ethel met with Grant and orders George to "take care" of Ethel. Later that night, King discovers that Ethel has obtained keys to his lab and searched it. Ethel then goes to the beach to meet Grant, but George kills her with the spear gun before she can keep the rendezvous. The next day, Ted and Grant are discussing the case when the sheriff arrives and confirms that George killed Ethel and shot at Ted. Ted informs King, then urges him to provide the necessary information to destroy the light source and monster. King admits he activated a uranium deposit in the ocean floor in order to create the nuclear light but, unwilling to end his experiment, asks for an hour to consider his options. While Grant and the sheriff locate and arrest George and Wanda, Ted comforts Lois, who knows that something is deeply troubling her father. Determined to find her father, Lois insists on going to the lab, and Ted accompanies her. As they are walking along the beach, however, they see a large ship explode in the ocean, just as it passes over King's nuclear light. King also sees the explosion and, tormented by what he has wrought, destroys his laboratory. He then grabs a bundle of dynamite and rows out to the cove. King succeeds in planting the dynamite but is seized by the monster before he can escape, and they are both killed in the explosion, which covers up the light permanently. Grant, Ted and Lois watch the explosion from the beach, and Ted soberly comments that King has paid for his mistakes.

Film Details

Genre
Horror
Sci-Fi
Release Date
Jan 1956
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 4 Jan 1956
Production Company
Milner Bros. Productions
Distribution Company
American Releasing Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Catalina Island, California, United States; Malibu, California, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 20m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Film Length
8 reels

Articles

The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues


Atomic horror hit American screens like a bombshell in the 1950s. From "duck and cover" drills to backyard bomb shelters, nuclear fears became a part of American life. With the release of Godzilla (1954) in Japan, an avenging devil rising from the radioactive ashes of the bomb, Hollywood followed suit with its own atomic age mutant creature films like Them! (1954) and Tarantula (1955). The independent producers of drive-in fare kept up with the times, if not the budgets. Title aside, The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues (1955) is no ghost story but one of the many B-movie responses to those bigger budget creature features.

At the fledgling Pacific College of Oceanography, located on a seemingly deserted stretch of the California coast, Prof. King (Michael Whalen) is working on "breathtaking things." In the nearby shallows, an aquatic reptile that looks suspiciously like a carnival sideshow knock-off of The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) is attacking fishermen and scuba divers who stray too close to his lair, leading to the stories of the "phantom." Enter Dr. Ted Stevens (Kent Taylor), a famous oceanographer and scientist who created "the first workable death ray." He stumbles upon the film's first victim (killed in the pre-credits sequence), which makes him the first of many suspects in the investigation conducted by Agent Grant (Rodney Bell) of the Department of Defense.

The phantom takes a back seat to the tangled plot of secret experiments, shifty characters, international espionage, paranoia, threats and assassination by spear gun, all revolving around a mysterious shaft of radioactive light from the ocean floor. The professor's secretary lurks about suspiciously trying to get a peek behind his locked office door while his assistant, George (Phillip Pine), is constantly sneaking around the bushes when he's not trying to break into King's files. There's also a sexy female spy who spends much of her time in a bikini (Helene Stanton), a slow-witted janitor and a local sheriff who is oddly unfazed by the growing body count and mysterious doings in his town. As one character succinctly puts it: "Science is a devouring mistress."

Shot on a tiny budget with a skeleton cast, The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues is as B as they come; for a college town, there's hardly a soul around apart from the featured cast, the anonymous sets and locations (look for the stock shot introducing "Jefty's Road House," are borrowed from the 1948 rural noir Road House) and cheap creature effects abound. Kent Taylor, the biggest name in the cast, was nearing the end of a long and busy career as a B-actor, capped by the lead in the short-lived early TV show Boston Blackie. Cathy Downs, who plays King's daughter and is just about the only character not a suspect, played Clementine in John Ford's My Darling Clementine (1946) before sinking into obscurity. The rubber suit of the vaguely demonic creature bends and sags while the automated mouth randomly flaps open and closed. The biggest expense in the budget is the aquatic footage: there's more genuine underwater photography here than most drive-in monster movies.

The title suggests a mashup of the underwater monster movie The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) and Disney's recently released 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), but the creators clearly had no idea that a league was actually an archaic unit of length measuring about three miles. The underwater action here takes place in shallows easily accessible by scuba divers. Call it "Creature from the Nuclear Inlet."

Directed by veteran editor Dan Milner and produced by Jack Milner, a sound editor by trade, The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues was released on a double bill with Roger Corman's atomic apocalypse thriller Day the World Ended ("making that movie look great by comparison," notes Michael Weldon in his Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film) by American Releasing Corporation, a fledgling production company specializing in cheaply made exploitation pictures. It's better known under its second incarnation: in 1956 it changed its name to American International Pictures (or AIP) and went on to make its fame in exploitation movie history.

Producer: Jack Milner
Director: Dan Milner
Screenplay: Lou Rusoff (screenplay); Dorys Lukather (original story)
Cinematography: Brydon Baker
Music: Ronald Stein
Film Editing: Dan Milner (uncredited)
Cast: Kent Taylor (Dr. Ted Stevens/Ted Baxter), Cathy Downs (Lois King), Michael Whalen (Prof. King), Helene Stanton (Wanda), Philip Pine (George Thomas), Rodney Bell (William S. 'Bill' Grant), Vivi Janiss (Ethel Hall, Dr. King's Secretary), Michael Garth (Sheriff), Pierce Lyden (Andy, the Janitor).
BW-80m.

by Sean Axmaker
The Phantom From 10,000 Leagues

The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues

Atomic horror hit American screens like a bombshell in the 1950s. From "duck and cover" drills to backyard bomb shelters, nuclear fears became a part of American life. With the release of Godzilla (1954) in Japan, an avenging devil rising from the radioactive ashes of the bomb, Hollywood followed suit with its own atomic age mutant creature films like Them! (1954) and Tarantula (1955). The independent producers of drive-in fare kept up with the times, if not the budgets. Title aside, The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues (1955) is no ghost story but one of the many B-movie responses to those bigger budget creature features. At the fledgling Pacific College of Oceanography, located on a seemingly deserted stretch of the California coast, Prof. King (Michael Whalen) is working on "breathtaking things." In the nearby shallows, an aquatic reptile that looks suspiciously like a carnival sideshow knock-off of The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) is attacking fishermen and scuba divers who stray too close to his lair, leading to the stories of the "phantom." Enter Dr. Ted Stevens (Kent Taylor), a famous oceanographer and scientist who created "the first workable death ray." He stumbles upon the film's first victim (killed in the pre-credits sequence), which makes him the first of many suspects in the investigation conducted by Agent Grant (Rodney Bell) of the Department of Defense. The phantom takes a back seat to the tangled plot of secret experiments, shifty characters, international espionage, paranoia, threats and assassination by spear gun, all revolving around a mysterious shaft of radioactive light from the ocean floor. The professor's secretary lurks about suspiciously trying to get a peek behind his locked office door while his assistant, George (Phillip Pine), is constantly sneaking around the bushes when he's not trying to break into King's files. There's also a sexy female spy who spends much of her time in a bikini (Helene Stanton), a slow-witted janitor and a local sheriff who is oddly unfazed by the growing body count and mysterious doings in his town. As one character succinctly puts it: "Science is a devouring mistress." Shot on a tiny budget with a skeleton cast, The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues is as B as they come; for a college town, there's hardly a soul around apart from the featured cast, the anonymous sets and locations (look for the stock shot introducing "Jefty's Road House," are borrowed from the 1948 rural noir Road House) and cheap creature effects abound. Kent Taylor, the biggest name in the cast, was nearing the end of a long and busy career as a B-actor, capped by the lead in the short-lived early TV show Boston Blackie. Cathy Downs, who plays King's daughter and is just about the only character not a suspect, played Clementine in John Ford's My Darling Clementine (1946) before sinking into obscurity. The rubber suit of the vaguely demonic creature bends and sags while the automated mouth randomly flaps open and closed. The biggest expense in the budget is the aquatic footage: there's more genuine underwater photography here than most drive-in monster movies. The title suggests a mashup of the underwater monster movie The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) and Disney's recently released 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), but the creators clearly had no idea that a league was actually an archaic unit of length measuring about three miles. The underwater action here takes place in shallows easily accessible by scuba divers. Call it "Creature from the Nuclear Inlet." Directed by veteran editor Dan Milner and produced by Jack Milner, a sound editor by trade, The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues was released on a double bill with Roger Corman's atomic apocalypse thriller Day the World Ended ("making that movie look great by comparison," notes Michael Weldon in his Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film) by American Releasing Corporation, a fledgling production company specializing in cheaply made exploitation pictures. It's better known under its second incarnation: in 1956 it changed its name to American International Pictures (or AIP) and went on to make its fame in exploitation movie history. Producer: Jack Milner Director: Dan Milner Screenplay: Lou Rusoff (screenplay); Dorys Lukather (original story) Cinematography: Brydon Baker Music: Ronald Stein Film Editing: Dan Milner (uncredited) Cast: Kent Taylor (Dr. Ted Stevens/Ted Baxter), Cathy Downs (Lois King), Michael Whalen (Prof. King), Helene Stanton (Wanda), Philip Pine (George Thomas), Rodney Bell (William S. 'Bill' Grant), Vivi Janiss (Ethel Hall, Dr. King's Secretary), Michael Garth (Sheriff), Pierce Lyden (Andy, the Janitor). BW-80m. by Sean Axmaker

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Although the film bears a 1956 copyright statement for Milner Bros. Productions, it is not listed in the Copyright Catalog. An undated but contemporary studio billing sheet, included in the film's file at the AMPAS Library, indicates that Don Orlando was originally cast as "Andy." According to Hollywood Reporter production charts, portions of the picture were shot on location at Malibu and Catalina Island, CA. The film was released on a double bill with American Releasing Corp.'s Day the World Ended. Reviews of The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues were highly critical of the plot, as exemplified by the Variety reviewer's comments that called it "a confused offering that makes little attempt at seeking thrills with sufficient logic to hold a plot together."