Terror Beneath the Sea (1966)


(Kaitei Daisenso)

Japan. 1966.


Director – Hajime Sato, Screenplay – Kohichi Ohtsu, Based on the Novel by Masami Fukushima, Producers – Koichi Kameda & Sei-ichi Yoshino, Cinematography – Kazuo Shimomura, Underwater Photography – Akira Takeishi, Music – Shunsuke Kikuchi, Special Effects – Nobuo Yajima, Art Direction – Shin-ichi Eno. Production Company – Tokyo First Film Co. Ltd./K. Fujita Associates Inc


Sonny Chiba (Ken Abe), Peggy Neal (Jenny Glason), Enric Nielsen (Dr Moore)


The US Navy is conducting a test demonstration of a new nuclear missile. In the midst of this, those present see a strange creature swim past the camera. Reporters Ken Abe and Jenny Glason decide to go scuba diving in the area to discover what the creature was. However, once underwater, they are abducted and taken to the undersea laboratory of Dr Moore who shows them that he is building a race of amphibian cyborgs to take over the world.

Terror Beneath the Sea was another entry that jump aboard the Japanese sf movie trend that became all the thing for a time in the 1960s after the success of films like Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1954), The Mysterians (1957) and numerous imitators of these. Unlike most of these other films, Terror Beneath the Sea is not made by either Toho or its rival studio Daiei, but by an independent studio Tokyo First.

By this point, Japanese monster movies and science-fiction had gained much popularity in the West. Many Japanese genre films routinely had new material added in by American distributors but then with films like Monster Zero/Invasion of the Astro Monster (1965), Frankenstein Conquers the World (1966) and The Green Slime (1968), Japanese studios started importing American actors to carry them in the international markets. In this case, Terror Beneath the Sea winds in an entire plot about the US military and featured Peggy Neal, an American actress who only ever appeared in three Japanese films. The hero of the show was Sonny Chiba, who had yet to become the famous action star he did in the 1970s with the Streetfighter films. Director Hajime Sato made a handful of other films, all within genre territory including House of Terrors (1965), The Golden Bat (1966) and the famous Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell (1968).

Terror Beneath the Sea is really a variant on The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) and before it The Thing from Another World (1951). Indeed, Terror Beneath the Sea came out only a month after the US-made Destination Inner Space (1966), which featured the very similar theme of amphibian monsters striking underwater. (Although despite Terror Beneath the Sea‘s allegiance to Hollywood models, the hoary old Japanese monster movie spectre of atomic radiation still lurks not terribly far away in the background).

Hajime Sato directs with the exact same colourful stolidity that Ishiro Honda gave the Toho films – that is to say one-dimensional characters, pedestrian dramatics and the emphasis entirely on monsters and the sf elements. There are some entertainingly colourful scenes where the humans are transformed into cyborgs, where we see their scales developing and ears changing in a progression of stop-action images and the wonderfully schlocky sight of gill lungs being surgically implanted. The cyborgs are decent creations, although do lose their threat somewhat when they are reduced to being merely extras in suits running around shooting people with handguns. The fight scenes during the last fifteen minutes are dully directed. One of the bonuses of the film is a fine score, which puts the usual thunderous didactics of the Japanese monster movie to fine use. The effects are competent for the era.

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