Director: Robert Gordon
Sony Pictures

Following the success of the landmark THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS, visual effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen met with Columbia Pictures executive Charles Schneer and a historic celluloid partnership was born. While not as triumphant as his fantasy epics such as THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD and JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS, IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA is an engrossing, superior B-level sci-fi flick which was released during an era when oversized atomic terrors were all the rage in Hollywood. Previously released on DVD in 2003, Sony now revisits the title as a full-blown, two-disc special edition.

An atomic-powered submarine under the command of Navy officer Pete Matthews (Kenneth Tobey) is attacked by an unknown entity. After struggling with whatever is out there, the sub finally manages to get free and make its way back to Pearl Harbor. It is there that divers discover a strange matter jammed in the sub's blades. Marine biologist Leslie Joyce (Faith Domergue) and her colleague Dr. John Carter (Donald Curtis) are brought in to investigate, and they identify the findings as part of a giant octopus which likely surfaced from deep within the ocean after H-bomb testings. Soon, the navy and the scientists further their investigation of this supposed creature, but they are too late to save a cargo ship with only three survivors, a family relaxing on the beach, and a local sheriff played by character favorite Harry Lauter. Eventually, the octopus appears on dry land, making a massive mess of San Francisco.

Put in the perspective of their time, Harryhausen's stop-motion visual effects are excellent, mostly represented by colossal tentacles which smash through building windows and squash a string of panicked pedestrians. An entire octopus is shown from time to time (mostly during a climactic underwater sequence), and the now-famous legend is that the budget only allowed for six tentacles, rather than the appropriate eight -- a memorable anecdote that's been quoted a zillion times!

As for the film itself, it's a solid B programmer, with a kicker of an ending. It's only flaws are a rather talky first half and stuffy "news reporter" narration to explain things -- a common enhancement to 1950s science fiction films. Some of the overused stock footage seems to date back to the 1930s, looking highly dated by mid-1950s standards. Well cast is the era's beloved sci-fi hero Kenneth Tobey (who sadly passed away in late 2002) as the brave navy man who loves his cigarettes, T-bone steaks, and Faith Domergue. The lovely-eyed Domergue is great as the female scientist who's a sensible feminist, but not afraid to flaunt her low-cut evening gown to pry information out of a sailor.

Director Robert Gordon later helmed the rarely-seen Michael Gough thriller, BLACK ZOO (1963) and the film was co-written by George Worthing Yates (responsible for a number of 1950s sci-fi titles, as well as the Anglo cut of KING KONG VS. GODZILLA) and Hal Smith. Smith is actually the actor best known for his portrayal of boozer Otis Campbell on numerous episodes of "The Andy Griffith Show," as well as supplying the voice for Goliath (and several other characters) on the lovable 1960s stop-action animated series, "Davey and Goliath."

IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA was originally released on DVD as part of the "Ray Harryhausen Signature Collection" in 2003, but this new transfer is an improvement. The most significant facelift is the fact that most of the dirt and debris has been removed, presenting an all-around clean and sharp image without speckling. Presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement, the black and white image is very pleasing, with nice detail and some picture grain in check. As with all of Sony’s Harryhausen re-releases, a computer colorized version has been included, and looks better than average as far a colorization goes (you can joggle back and forth between both color and B&W versions). As for audio, the original mono track is crisp and free of any noticeable distortion, and an additional 5.1 track is also on hand. Spanish and Portuguese tracks are also included, as well as optional subtitles in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese.

Disc 1 includes a feature-length audio commentary with Ray Harryhausen himself, Hollywood effects artists Randy Cook and John Bruno, and documentary producer Arnold Kunert. The commentary is entertaining enough, with Harryhausen revealing a lot of technical secrets (working with the stop-motion models, the mattes, the projection, etc.), although at times he doesn’t remember some specific details when coaxed by the other participants (after all, it was more than 50 years ago!). The only other extras on Disc 1 are two trailers for other Sony DVD titles.

Disc 2 includes three extras carried over from Sony’s 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH 50th Anniversary Special Edition; "Tim Burton Sits Down with Ray Harryhausen”, “David Schechter on Film Music's Unsung Hero” and a featurette with Arnold Kunert displaying the various pressbooks, poster, lobby cards used to advertise this film, as well as 20 MILLION MILES and EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS. The featurette entitled “Remembering It Came From Beneath the Sea” runs over 20 minutes and presents a solid Harryhausen sit-down interview. Here, he covers some ground not heard in the commentary, recollecting his first meeting with Charles H. Schneer, renting a store away from the studio to act as his workshop, and he dissects most of the film’s effects one by one. “A Present Day Look at Stop Motion” has NYU film student Kyle Anderson demonstrating puppet-making and the methods for animating them with modern technology. Rounding out the extras are a nice photo gallery (including ad art, production photos and Harryhausen's artwork) and a digital sneak peek at a comic book based on the film called “It Came From Beneath the Sea…Again!” (George R. Reis)