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IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA ($20) is another one of those great classic Ray Harryhausen movies that I am absolutely delighted to have on DVD. Harryhausen was the out and out master of stop motion special effects, not only because his work was technically proficient, but because he imbued each of his creations with a sense of personality that made them so much fun to watch. The creature in IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA is no exception to this rule; in fact, it is probably one of Harryhausen’s most entertaining because it is cloaked in mystery for a good portion of the film, which is enhanced by a slow reveal of the monster in its entirety.

IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA stars Kenneth Tobey as Pete Mathews the commander of a nuclear submarine that has the film’s first encounter with the creature. After the submarine barely escapes the deadly grasp of something from the murky depths, the vessel is forced to put in for repairs, which allows a scientific team time to investigate the evidence of the encounter that remained attached to the sub. Scientists Lesley Joyce (Faith Domergue) and John Carter (Donald Curtis) eventually identify the mysterious sea creature as a giant octopus that has been driven from the bottom of the ocean by nuclear testing, which has forced it to seek new prey closer to the surface- in man’s domain. As with many other Harryhausen movies, IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA climaxes at recognizable landmark- in this case, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment has made IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA available on DVD in a 1.85:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. This is actually a great little transfer of a vintage 1950’s sci-fi movie. The black and white film element is in very good shape, with very few age related blemishes on the film proper, although the stock footage looks a bit beaten up, which is probably how it always looked. There are a number of sequences that utilize rear screen projection, and while the actors and foreground objects look fine, the projected backgrounds do appear a bit soft. The rest of the time the image appears relatively sharp and rather nicely defined. Blacks appear inky; whites are clean and stable, while the contrast displays a bit of occasional harshness that solidifies the image. There is a noticeable grain structure throughout the course of movie, but it is rather mild and hardly bothersome. Digital compression artifacts remain completely out of sight during the presentation.

IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA comes with a good quality Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack. It would appear that the track has been given a digital cleaning, which has removed almost all traces of background hiss and surface noise. The sound is generally pleasant and free from distortion at average listening levels. Dialogue is always precisely rendered and completely understandable. Fidelity is limited by mid-fifties recording technology, which is exemplified by the occasionally unconvincing sound effect, or the slightly reedy quality of the music. No other language tracks have been included on the DVD, although English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese and Thai subtitles are present.

Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few supplements. Once again Columbia has trotted out the This Is Dynamation featurette and the Ray Harryhausen Chronicles. This Is Dynamation runs about three and a half minutes and explains the special photographic process Harryhausen used to create his stop motion special effects. The Harryhausen Chronicles is an hour-long program hosted by Leonard Nimoy, which details Ray Harryhausen’ s life and career in cinema. Also included on the DVD are theatrical trailers for IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH, MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND.

As I stated above, IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA is anther terrific Ray Harryhausen classic that has found its way to DVD- much to the joy of his innumerable fans. Columbia’s DVD looks and sounds great for a vintage sci-fi flick, so I’m sure that the anointed will definitely want to add IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA to their Harryhausen collections. Recommended.



It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2003 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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