Sunday, July 4, 2010

Foreign Fears: Terror Beneath the Sea (1966)

Terror Beneath the Sea (1966)

Director: Hajime Sato
Cast: Sonny Chiba, Peggy Neal, Franz Gruber, Steve Queens, Andre Husse, and Erik Neilson

Can ya'll say Sonny Chiba? Hell, yeah!
Chiba, last seen in Tarantino's Kill Bill films, has come a long way since starring in Terror Beneath the Sea, in which he plays Ken, an intrepid journalist.
During a Naval demonstration of a new weapon, a mysterious undersea man swims by the submarine. This sparks Ken and his beautiful sidekick, Jenny (read main squeeze), to investigate. They dive undersea, only to be captured by a crazy scientist intent on creating an army of fish men to take over the world (or at least the oceans of the world), using a top secret Processing Formula. Don’t panic, as the Processing Formula consists of getting a shot and then having to stand around in a gas chamber for ten minutes while all the actors grimace and frown and say things like 'proceed', and some funky electronic music plays in the background. Then a dubbed German scientist chains you to a table and does some half-assed operation. this is the part you can safely fats forward through. You ain't gonna miss anything. Chiba does nothing but grasp Jenny and look intense for the camera.
After this silliness if over, Ken and Jenny are offered the chance to join our crazy world dominating scientist because...well, that's never made exactly clear, seeing as how they're just a couple of meddling reporters. Maybe he's going to start his own undersea newspaper or something. The Daily Coral has a nice ring to it.
Ken and Jenny attempt to escape and are sentenced to become fish people as well. They get injected, stand around for a while in a gas tank, listen to the tunes, have a bunch of crap smeared on their faces by the special effects crew, and generally do a lot of kicking and screaming for no reason.

Meanwhile, and this is where the story gets dicey, there's a special agent scientist and his friends flying around in a plane over the ocean looking for them, a kidnapped scientist is dragged into the picture to do some more grimacing and yelling, and a submarine full of dubbed dolts attack the undersea facility, thereby pushing the story into a state of denouement, as the fish men attack their masters.
For an actor known for his fight scenes, there are precious few in Terror Beneath the Sea. Chiba has two rock em' sock em' scenes and they're short, and have been sped up to make them look more intense.
The stars of this film are the terrible fish men. Those rubber suits just look weird and might even give you a nightmare or two, with those alien bird eyes and those pointed faces. All in all it might keep you away from sushi for a bit.
The production values are typical Tokyo cheap and the director Sato doesn't show near as much verve as he did in his cult classic "Goke". The music is strictly background, except during the transformation scenes. There are no extras on this stripped down DVD.

--Nickolas Cook