Happy Halloween! Can’t believe we’re on our tenth Shamedown of 2022. As always, if anyone is coming in late and wants to know what this Shamedown business is all about, the details can be found here. Onward…
Roger Corman has quite the reputation and quite the filmography. The man has been producing since the early nineteen-fifties and 1954’s Monster From the Ocean Floor is his second producer credit. Like a lot of Corman movies, it was made quickly, spontaneously, and cheaply. How did it come out? Well, we’ll get to that.
The movie opens on a beach somewhere in Mexico, where sombrero-clad American Julie Blair (Anne Kimbell) is busy sketching and talking to one of the local boys, who tells her about how an underwater animal came up from the deep and stole his dad. Apparently this creature is worse than a sea monster and more like a devil. Julie, who has been swimming in the cove where it happened, thinks it must be his imagination and the boy’s dad actually drowned, but the little boy sticks to his story.
With that it mind, Julie walks down the beach to go swimming, when she has a run-in with a one-man sub driven by marine biologist Steve Dunning (Stuart Wade), who jokes about giving her a lift. Julie’s annoyed at first, but Steve is a charmer and invites her to his research vessel, where he and his colleague, Dr. Baldwin (Dick Pinner) have been taking seawater samples. It might seem like a pickup but it’s all legit. Steve and Dr. Baldwin even show Julie microscope slides of what they’ve already collected, and we get some nifty footage of microorganisms.
Julie and Steve start dating because of course they do, and Julie tells him about the mysterious creature. Steve doesn’t think there’s anything to it but he humors Julie anyway, and the two of them go scuba-diving. While they don’t find anything, the locals are super scared of the supposed underwater devil to the point of drinking themselves silly, so there definitely has to be something to the monster story. Julie finds she can ply them with tequila and they sing like canaries about what they’ve seen.
Long story short, Julie encounters the monster in that cove, which is why, boys and girls, we always swim with a buddy. Fortunately, Steve sails around in just in the nick of time and rescues Julie, who’s caught on some seaweed and flailing helplessly while the creature advances at a snail’s pace. I hate to keep referring to The Simpsons (OK, maybe I don’t), but the beast bears a remarkable resemblance to Kang and Kodos of Treehouse of Horror fame. No, he doesn’t drool, and his eye is a vulnerable spot, as (spoiler alert) Steve and the minisub end up proving.
Clocking in at just over an hour, Monster From the Ocean Floor is barely a movie. The plot is pretty thin and there are a lot of rookie mistakes, such as in the first scene when Julie and the little boy are talking and the ocean is so loud the dialogue is hard to understand. I don’t know if it was high tide at the time or what, but by the end of the scene the surf is so loud they’re shouting their lines at each other. The obvious thing to do would be to either use ADR or lower the ocean sounds, but that little detail can be overlooked because that sort of thing costs money.
There are also some hilarious continuity errors, such as Julie’s lipstick looking perfect in one insert shot and non-existent in the next, even though she hasn’t moved or done anything except talk. And with the dark red lipstick she wears in the film it’s glaringly obvious. We also can’t forget the clearly recycled footage of Julie caught on the seaweed, which is used in two different scenes. Maybe they thought no one would notice.
However, Corwin does deserve props for how versatile he was during the making of the film. The movie was shot in six days at Leo G. Carillo State Beach and off of Santa Catalina Island with a budget of twelve thousand dollars, which meant funds were so tight that legend has it Corman drove the camera and equipment truck in addition to producing. With his engineering degree from Stanford, Corman was good at improvising, and the creature in the film is obviously a puppet. It works, although it doesn’t move hardly at all.
Where Corman really struck gold was with Steve’s minisub, which was developed for the Navy by the Aerojet General Corporation, who agreed to let him use the sub in return for free advertising. The sub was nicknamed the “Aquaped” because it could be pedaled and was supposed to be used for underwater demolition, but apparently didn’t make it out of the nineteen-fifties.
Monster From the Ocean Floor hasn’t been treated kindly over the years as far as preservation goes, and there’s no reason why it should because it’s not one of Corwin’s best. Ergo, the film has degraded to the point that some scenes look and sound terrible–in one part, Julie and Steve’s voices drop half an octave but are back to normal in the next scene. It’s probably why streaming services such as Amazon and Tubi keep it around–it’s cheap. Still, it makes for a fun hour, if only to point out all the different gaffes and hilariosities.
Coming up in November (click on the images for more information)…
Yeah, one of them’s mine, but it bears repeating right? And yeah, October might have been light, but we’re going to make up for it in November. All right, we have a new Stage To Screen coming up on Wednesday. As always, thanks for reading, and I hope to see you then…
Monster From the Ocean Floor is available on DVD from Amazon or to stream on Amazon Prime and Tubi.
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