Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Monster from the Ocean Floor (1954)

...aka: It Stalked the Ocean Floor
...aka: Monster Maker

Directed by:
Wyott Ordung

A light, talky, mildly enjoyable 66-minute-long sea monster quickie that's most notable for being the very first film produced by Roger Corman, aka my hero. Filmed in California on a paltry 12,000 budget, it would become the modest hit that helped to launch the career of one of the - if not the - most important people working in the horror genre during the next fifty years. Unlike most other monster movies from this decade, the film is also notable for centering its action around a female protagonist and, as played by Anne Kimbell, she's the kind of brave, likable and assertive heroine that major studio productions seemed to frown upon using at the time and were usually relegated to independent films (note Corman's novel use of Beverly Garland in several sci-fi/ horror productions just a few years after this one). Though there are some romantic elements thrown in (including a silly beach serenade), Kimbell's character - Julie Blair; a "merchandise illustrator" vacationing in Mexico - is more interested in investigating claims of a legendary "devil" rumored to have red, glowing eyes (or is that, eye) that lurks beneath the waters and strikes fear in the hearts of the natives. Instead of letting herself get swept off her feet by the the obligatory handsome young scientist stationed nearby; Stanford marine biologist Steve Dunning (Stuart Wade), or simply tagging along with Steve and his superior Dr. Baldwin (Dick Pinner) on their boat, Julie is too busy charting her own adventure and taking solo diving expeditions to search for the creature. At one point she even courageously battles a shark with a pocket knife!

Other than Kimbell's character and performance, there's not much else to recommend here aside from some fun use of a pedal-powered mini-submarine, decent underwater photography (by Floyd Crosby) and nice Channel Islands/Catalina shooting locations. The male performances are uniformly wooden, there's next to no action and those expecting more monster or horror-oriented scenes are going to be sorely disappointed when they discover the one-eyed, tentacled monster doesn't even make an appearance until the final minutes of the picture. On the plus side, the monster design by Bob Baker really isn't too bad for its day and the creature at least gets a good death scene!

Director Ordung (who plays a supporting role here as well) had previously earned his Z-movie stripes by scripting the notoriously awful ROBOT MONSTER and would go on to write TARGET EARTH (1954) and FIRST MAN INTO SPACE (1959). Future LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS star Jonathan Haze (billed as "Jack Hayes") makes his film debut in a minor role, and Corman also has a brief cameo as Baldwin's "one man crew."


1 comment:

CavedogRob said...

Wyott Ordung! What a name! I always suspected this was a made up name until I read an interview with him in Fangoria many years ago. I never realized Haze was in this! It's a funny little film and Crosby's photography has saved many a bad movie!

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