Terror Beneath the Sea(Dark Sky Films, 10.25.2005)
It's hard not to like a film directed by Japanese cult director Hajimo Sato featuring cult hero Sonny Chiba and evil underwater rubber-suited fish-cyborgs. Released in 1966, The Terror Beneath the Sea makes an excellent Saturday afternoon laugh riot. Ken (Chiba) and Penny (played by Peggy Neal) are reporters covering tests of the Navy's newly developed submarine torpedo. The presentation goes awry when the profile of an amphibious creature floats across the test site. The navy refuses to investigate, but our intrepid reporters will not be stifled.
They undertake an investigation where they are terrorized by a mutant fishman. Jenny manages to snap a picture of the creature, but in her fright drops her camera. Ken and Jenny return to salvage the camera in order to bring back solid evidence to the uncooperative Navy commanders, but are kidnapped and learn who and what is behind the creatures that roam the sea.
The film, hilariously dubbed in English, is presented nicely on this DVD. A crisp picture, however, doesn't hide the wretched special effects and the seemingly endless stock footage. The costumes are great, in a funny kind of way, and the man-to-sea-monster transformation scenes are stop motion gold. While the performances are stilted (perhaps due in large part to the dubbing), Erik Neilson plays evil Dr. Moore perfectly. His psychotic grin and menacing laugh are wonderful; his sunglasses, too, are super cool.
Peggy Neal's pathetic woman shtick and horror screaming (staples of the genre) are passable, but it's really Sonny Chiba that steals the show. The likeable Ken is the hero who manages to swoop in and save the day just in the knick of time, and his broad toothy smile and overly choreographed fight scenes make this early Sonny Chiba film a good example of what made him such a huge cult success. There are no extra features, but the packaging is very cool: transparent case with an ultra-hip cover. -- Mark Devitt