Terror Beneath The Sea (1966)
By Kurly Tlapoyawa
Directed by Hajime Sato
Cast: Sonny Chiba, Peggy Neal
I definitely have a warm place in my heart for old-school Japanese-American film collaborations. The Manster? Pure genius. Green Slime? Now that's quality entertainment. So when you throw mutant gill-men, secret agent-style hijinks and freakin' Sonny Chiba into that mix, well, now you're speaking my language. That's exactly what we get in the officially-
The film stars a very young and clean-cut Sonny Chiba (The Street Fighter, Kill Bill) as Ken, an intrepid Japanese reporter. Ken is covering a press conference somewhere in the Pacific where the U.S. Navy is unveiling some new top-secret torpedoes. He is joined by his hottie gaijin girlfriend Jenny, played by Peggy Neal (The X From Outer Space). During the torpedo test, a mysterious humanoid figure darts across the viewscreen. This strange event piques the curiosity of our young couple, prompting a skin-diving expedition in which Jenny manages to snap a photo of one of the mysterious creatures, only to drop the camera as she makes her escape. Of course, the Navy doesn't buy into their story, so Ken and Jenny return to gather more evidence and are quickly captured by the creatures and taken to an underwater fortress 3,000 feet beneath the sea!
The hip underwater digs are home to Dr. Rufus Moore, a mad scientist sporting a mean pair of Roy Orbison shades who is creating a mindless army of mutant fish-men he has dubbed “water cyborgs.” Unfortunately, the water cyborgs themselves are pretty unimpressive, as they basically look like someone raided the Universal backlot for Creature From The Black Lagoon reject costumes and spray-painted them silver. But hell, you could do a lot worse.
One classic scene involves Dr. Moore demonstrating the process he uses to transform people he has captured into the water cyborgs. For five goddamned minutes we are subjected to the slowest time-lapse “special effects” sequence ever put to film--padded out with reaction shots of Ken and Jenny looking freaked out. Rufus then reveals the ultra hi-tech device he uses to control his mindless drones: a dial labeled “Work” and “Fight.” I don't know about you, but I would want my loyal army of cyborgs to be able to do a little bit more than that.
Hilarity ensues when we actually get to see the cyborgs in action--apparently their “fighting” style consists entirely of bitch-slapping and choking the crap out of their victims. Eventually Ken and Jenny are subjected to the transformation process--but the Navy shows up and thwarts the proceedings, leaving Jenny looking like she was on the receiving end of a gill-man bukkake.
With the Navy on the scene, all hell breaks loose, the water cyborgs run wild and Sonny Chiba finally gets to beat the shit out of someone! I don't wanna give away the ending, but it involves lots of guns and explosions.
The DVD package is pretty clean, offering a beautiful version of the print. However, for some reason, the film is presented in 1:85:1 aspect ratio while the movie itself was obviously filmed at 2:35:1. This results in some tightly cropped shots that can get pretty annoying at times. They could have also included an original Japanese audio track with English subs, but that's just being nitpicky as this type of flick plays just fine dubbed. And then there's the music. Ahhh, the sweet, sweet music. I believe the DVD jacket puts it best when it says, “Aquatic waves of '60s electronics wash gently over you as you lay back and experience this deep-sea Saturday matinee treat.” I couldn't have said it any better. (Dark Sky Films)
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