Sunday, October 04, 2009


This early Ray Harryhausen monster movie is surprisingly fun, despite the low budget and the silly romance plot. Kenneth Tobey is the commander of an atomic submarine which gets rammed by a large, mysterious, radioactive Something that shows up on the sonar. When they surface, a chunk of animal flesh is found and two top marine biologists, Donald Curtis and Faith Domergue, are called in to help Tobey investigate. While a rather mild romantic triangle develops between the three, they discover that this thing is a giant octopus; they theorize that it resided deep in the Pacific until it was disturbed by H-bomb blasts. The marine life forms that would be its natural prey can sense its radioactivity and make them themselves scarce, so the beast heads to the American West Coast to feed. It shows up again on the Oregon coast, heads south where it wraps itself around the Golden Gate bridge, and winds up wrecking havoc in the San Francisco Bay. Tobey and Curtis go down in a sub to make one last effort at killing it; will one have to sacrifice his life for the other (and for Domergue, and, I guess, for mankind)? The plot is nothing you haven't seen before--some critics have noted in particular that it seems like a seaside version of the earlier THEM (giant radioactive ants in Los Angeles), and it does, but it's still fun. Harryhausen's stop-motion octopus is notorious for only having six tentacles (all the budget would allow), but honestly I've seen this movie three times and I've always found the creature so effective that I've never noticed this flaw. All three lead actors are just fine, with the understated Curtis especially good in the secondary male lead. The film would seem to partake of the same atomic-age paranoia which informed GODZILLA, THEM, and countless other 50's SF films, but that aspect of the plot is downplayed practically out of existence, and the final scene is all about the romance. [TCM]

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