Yes, you can finally toss away your old, crummy VHS copies of Terror Beneath the Sea (1966) as Dark Sky Films, in their infinite awesomosity, has provided an excellent looking DVD release of this rather obscure and offbeat film. It's worth mentioning up front this is the 73-minute U.S. version, and not the 90-minute Japanese version. Directed by Hajime Sato (House of Terrors, Body Snatcher from Hell), the film features Peggy Neal (The X from Outer Space), Erik Neilson, Franz Gruber (The X from Outer Space, The Last Days of Planet Earth), and Sonny Chiba, who had yet to garner the popularity soon to follow with his popular `Street Fighter' films released through the 1970s. Chiba, approaching 70 years of age, can still be seen kicking ash in recent releases like The Storm Riders (1998) and Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003).
Ken (Chiba) and Jenny (Neal) are a pair of reporters, who seem more than just professionally involved, currently aboard a futuristic submarine, covering the navy's testing of a newly developed homing torpedo. After a spiel by a navy spokesman, who seemed to give away an awful lot of what I would consider classified information, the test begins, and everything goes well except for the brief appearance of an odd looking creature across the view port. Being good (nosy) reporters, Ken and Jenny take it upon themselves to do a little follow up investigating, diving near where they saw the anomaly, which happens to be near an underwater, atomic waste site (skin diving near radioactive toxic waste? Where do I sign up?). Eventually the pair gets separated, Jenny has a run in with a sea monkey man, snaps a photo, drops her camera, and, as a result, has no proof the event ever happened, so no one believes her except for Ken, and even he seems a bit skeptical. The plucky pair, returning to retrieve Jenny's camera, find an underwater cave, are captured by a small group of sea monkey men, and end up in a vast, underwater facility developed my a egomaniacal scientist type named Dr. Rufus Moore (Neilson), who has grandiose visions of a fabulous, futuristic, utopian society under the sea, one in which he's obviously in charge. As a means to an end, Dr. Moore has been turning poor schlubs into water cyborgs, altering not only their outer appearance, but their innards too, in an effort to create an army of computer controlled, sea monkey men to do his bidding (he can even make them fight like Rock `em Sock `em Robots). As the navy continues to search for the two, missing reporters, Ken formulates a plan to escape (one that involves throttling a woman and stealing her access card...you da man!), but Dr. Moore, being the rotten no-goodnik he is, has different plans for the couple, nefarious ones that involve turning them into mindless water cyberborgs (that might be an improvement for Jenny, especially if it puts a stop to her endless shrieking). Soon after the navy does find Moore's secret underwater base, there's some missile action, and the stuff hits the fan as navy rockets knock out the controls that keep the sea monkey men in check, causing them to not only turn on their masters, but anyone who doesn't sport gills, including Ken and Jenny...
I enjoyed the hell out of this film, produced at Toei Studios, mainly because it was just so weird. It's sort of a strange hybrid between the spy films of the 1960s and a creature feature from the 1940s/1950s. The acting is lousy, even ridiculously so at times, but that ended up being part of the fun here, for me, at least. This movie is worth watching if only to see the scene featuring the main scientist working for Dr. Moore spouting off pompously and dramatically about all they've achieved, and their goals for the future. Another great scene occurs near the end, aboard the navy submarine, right after a sort of play by his own rules navy guy orders the firing of some super powerful, awesoma weapon called the X-4 ("Not the X-4 you'll blow up the whole ocean!"). After successfully nailing the intended target, the one navy guy says to the other, with an incredulous look of surprise on his face, "Wow! You've hit the jackpot!"...as for what follows, you have to see it for yourself, as I can't adequately describe it...one thing's for sure, Sonny Chiba and Peggy Neal have absolutely no chemistry whatsoever. Neal, who has the personality of a wet noodle, runs around for about a third of the film screeching, squealing, and shrieking, in no particular order, continually throwing her hands up in a defensive manner to avoid looking at whatever unpleasantness there is to see (turns out for the viewers, she was the `unpleasantness'), and just flogging the `damsel in distress' routine within an inch of its life. Her character is a useless piece of flotsam whose only purpose is to look good on the screen, and provide a sort of love interest for the hero...not that I mind that sort of thing, but one doesn't have to make it so obvious. As far as Sonny, it was kinda neat seeing him prior to his Street Fighter days, with his fashionable uni-brow coming in nicely. He does get in some decent fight sequences, but it's all kind of tame compared to some of his later movies. The sea monkey men looked funky, but I think maybe back in 1966, when the movie was released, they probably looked better, perhaps even scary. I thought the special effects were pretty cool, especially the sequence involving the transformation process of human to fish man, including a surgical process to install a new set of organs (none of which we actually get to see) for a more amphibious lifestyle. The miniature work was very strong, matching most anything coming out of Toho Studios at the time. The story moves along pretty well (if you don't mind a few, plodding scuba sequences up front), and then picks up a whole lot more after the fish men, who've been trained extensively of the use of automatic weapons and spear guns, turn on their human overlords once the computer controls are disabled, making use of their acquired talents to do a whole lot of killing. Woo hoo! All in all this is a silly movie, but a whole lot of 1960s swinging fun with some decent production values, a third rate James Bond villain, some scaly, hostile gill men, a young Sonny Chiba, dubious science fiction, some blood, and a really irritating blonde girl with a propensity for screaming unnecessarily.
The picture quality on this Dark Sky Films DVD release, presented in widescreen (1.85:1) anamorphic, looks excellent, and the Dolby Digital 2.0 audio comes through beautifully. There's zippo, nada, zilch for extras, but there are English subtitles available.
If I learned anything from this film its that sea monkey men are a hostile bunch, and wouldn't hesitate for a second to fire a spear into your guts...and if you're going to construct a vast, advanced, futuristic, undersea base, avoid doing so near an unstable navy atomic dumping site.