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Dark Sky Films presents
Terror Beneath the Sea (1966)

"He was covered in scales all over. He chased me. It was horrible, just horrible."
- Jenny (Peggy Neal)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: December 06, 2005

Stars: Sonny Chiba, Peggy Neal
Other Stars: Erik Neilson, Franz Gruber, Gunther Braun, Andrew Hughes, Mike Daneen, Beverly Kahler, Hideo Murota, Tsuneji Miemachi
Director: Hajime Sato

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:19m:05s
Release Date: October 25, 2005
UPC: 030306772899
Genre: action


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C+ C+BB- F

DVD Review

Years before he became a martial arts icon, Sonny Chiba (billed here as Shin-Ichi Chiba) starred in this 1966 underwater/mad scientist thriller from director Hajime Sato, whose best work is the rarely seen vampire flick Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell in 1968. This Toei Studios release used Chiba and a largely unknown Western cast (with the possible exception of Peggy Neal from The X from Outer Space) dubbed with what seems to be entirely different voices, and when it hit the U.S. it never achieved any real notoriety. Actually, not that big of a surprise.

With Chiba's long term chopsocky success, and a resurgence thanks to Kill Bill, Dark Sky has dredged up this forgotten rubber-suited monster underwater adventure, tacked on some wonderfully lurid cover art, and dressed the whole thing up with an anamorphic widescreen transfer. That may be more of a proper fanfare than this one may seem to deserve, but it's a curiosity for Chiba enthusiasts and a casually goofy throwback story about a pair of evil genius types—played by Eric Nielsen and Mike Daneen—who are developing a race of "water cyborgs" in a secret underwater lair, with world domination on tap. That is, unless intrepid journalists Ken (Chiba) and Jenny (Neal) can convince the military otherwise, or better yet, take care of things themselves.

With cheaply made mutants borrowed liberally (and poorly) from The Creature From The Black Lagoon Design School, Sato goes into a weird mish-mosh motif, working a blenderized B-movie pulp machine with a strong hand, not allowing things like horrendous line reads or chuckleworthy shoot-outs derail any attempts at moving the logic-riddled plot along predictable paths. There is a bit of snoozy tedium during the middle section, even with a runtime well under 90 minutes, yet for all the uninspired "action" it is the fishmen vs humans elements that come the closest to any kind of real watchability. That and the comically shrill histrionics of Neal.

It seems apparent that Dark Sky's release of Terror Beneath the Sea is banking largely on the retro-campy factor for appeal (just check out that cover art), so pistol-whipping the insanity of the storyline seems unnecessarily cruel and unusual. And if retro-campy is your bag, then the breezy dumbness of Sato's badly dubbed mutant fishman movie may carry a few fun moments, especially if ill-fitting monster suits make you swoon. Fans of martial arts-era Chiba will no doubt walk away stunned by the colossal silliness of this one, but then those genre enthusiasts who get goosebumps when the words "mad scientist," "tranformations," and "underwater lair" are mentioned may feel a twinge of Saturday afternoon familiarity here.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Rationo
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: There is some confusion and discussion as to the original aspect ratio of Sato's film, but Dark Sky chose to issue this in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, and all the nitpicking over the minimal differences in OAR are really not that critical on a silly underwater mutant flick such as this; there are, however, some minor framing issues that would seem to indicate 1.85:1 is likely not the correct aspect ratio. The transfer itself is rather grainy with some occasional flicker, but color rendering is very solid throughout, with a pleasing array of bright colors and fairly natural fleshtones. Black levels are adequate, though the underwater scenes lack some of the sharpness found in other sequences.

Aspect ratio and those small framing concerns aside, this print looks far better than VHS copies I've seen, and the anamorphic treatment is a plus.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented in 2.0 Dolby Digital mono, using a rather tinny domestic release English dub. Voices tend to clip slightly, but dialogue is understandable at all times. The soundstage is fairly limited, but the presentation is adequate for the source material.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: Scanavo
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: No extras at all here, not even a trailer. The disc is cut into 14 chapters, with optional English subtitles.

Extras Grade: F

 

Final Comments

Here's a quirky under-the-radar title from the mid 1960s, an oddball Japanese-made undersea thriller with mutant fishmen, evil scientists, and an early leading role by Sonny Chiba. This release from Dark Sky is devoid of any extras, but the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer (proper OAR or not) is surprisingly strong, giving this campy treat a nice appearance.

You already know if a cheaply made Japanese undersea mutant fishmen movie would appeal to you. This one has its enjoyable moments, plus if all else fails, there's the lovely Peggy Neal.

 


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