A strange creature threatens man's domain and there's also a giant octopus in 1955's It Came from Beneath the Sea. This giant monster or kaiju film has some really impressive effects from Ray Harryhausen but most of the movie is about a budding romance between a submarine captain and a marine biologist. The movie's perspective on sexual politics is adorable and fascinating in its apparent awkward sincerity. And one really ought to wonder, what can we make of the modern, professional woman when confronted with a giant octopus?
Obviously very influenced by the original Godzilla which came out in Japan the year before, this American film also features a monster from the depths of the sea who's awoken by nuclear testing. And, like Godzilla, it features a love triangle involving two men, a ship's captain and a scientist, and a woman. In Godzilla, the woman is the daughter of an older scientist while in It Came from Beneath the Sea, the woman is a scientist herself.
Faith Domergue as Professor Lesley Joyce puts the cheese in cheesecake as she plays the role with the knowing smirk of a streetwise chanteuse. At one point, she uses her feminine wiles to get a sailor to open up about encountering the monster. She has him light her cigarette and sits on the table in front of him.
She's great. I couldn't stop smiling whenever she was on screen.
The Navy captain, Pete (Kenneth Tobey), doesn't know what to make of this woman and is surprised when she's offended when he wants her to break off attending a conference in Cairo just for him. Of course, he still has the right to extort her into dancing with him at the hotel, taking her insistence she doesn't want to as a "yes"--which ends up being apparently the case when she kisses him later.
While she may be okay for identifying an octopus, it takes the male scientist, John Carter (Donald Curtis)(no relation to the hero on Mars), to team up with Pete for some undersea fighting to actually defeat the thing. In Godzilla, the male scientist is driven mad by jealousy when the woman breaks up with him favour of the ship's captain. But while John had seemed to be interested in Lesley, he doesn't seem to take it hard at all when she chooses Pete over him. He ends up being kind of superfluous, mainly there as an initial obstacle for Pete and then he's there to do the manly yet scientific things that Lesley can't do.
Godzilla featured mainstream stars like Takashi Shimura, it was directed by Ishiro Honda who'd been assistant director to Akira Kurosawa, and had music by one of the great film composers of Japanese film in the 50s and 60s, Masaru Sato. It Came from Beneath the Sea actually had a pretty good composer, Mischa Bakaleinikoff (though I'd swear I was hearing a lot of Wagner), but mainly all the star quality was in Ray Harryhausen.
That octopus outperforms all the actors. A sequence where men with flamethrowers fend off a tentacle in particular holds up surprisingly well.