THE PHANTOM FROM 10,000 LEAGUES (1956)
Article #1229 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-26-2004
Posting Date: 12-23-2004
Directed by Dan Milner
Featuring Kent Taylor, Cathy Downs, Michael Whalen
A series of murders near the beach are the result of an underwater monster created by radiation.
Title Check: First of all, it’s no phantom. Second, since it can be found just a short ways off of the shore at a fairly shallow depth (and it’s too busy guarding a chunk of uranium to put in much in the way of travel mileage), I don’t know here they get the “10,000 Leagues”, either.
Ten thoughts on this one…
1) The director of this worked in that capacity on one other genre movie. That movie was FROM HELL IT CAME, the killer tree movie. That should give you a little idea what you’re getting into here.
2) Actually, the opening sequence of the monster attack isn’t all that bad; it sets the mood and catches your attention. Of course, it has an advantage that the rest of the movie doesn’t have; nobody’s opened up their mouth to talk yet.
3) This movie has some of the clunkiest dialogue I have ever heard. It’s one of those cases where every line sounds mannered and artificial when actually spoken by a real human being. It takes an especially talented actor to deliver this kind of dialogue with conviction, but I’m afraid none of the cast members have quite that level of expertise.
4) Actually, the monster itself is not bad considering the budget of the movie. It’s certainly not up to the level of the Creature from the Black Lagoon, but it’s better than the monsters from either MONSTER FROM THE OCEAN FLOOR or CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA. It does not however look anything like the sleek otter-like creature used prominently in the advertising.
5) Our hero is a scientist who has written classic books on the effects of radiation on marine biology. He is working on an undercover investigation of the murders. To cover up his identity, he comes up with a fake name. Unfortunately, he tries to pull this trick on a fellow marine biologist, despite the fact that a) his books are rather well known among marine biologists, and b) one of his books has his photograph emblazoned across the cover of it. Conclusion: for a scientist, he’s none too smart.
6) Now, let’s take a look at the secretary. She’s snoopy. In fact, she’s really snoopy. I’d say she was the snoopiest secretary I’ve ever seen in a movie. Not only that, but when she snoops, she usually gets caught. So how does she act when she gets caught snooping? Why, she acts guilty as hell. Despite all this, her employer the professor (who is usually the one who catches her snooping) keeps her on, though he does vaguely threaten her with a spear gun at one point. Conclusion: this professor isn’t one of the brightest stars in the sky himself.
7) Where did the professor get the spear gun? Why, from his handy dandy spear gun wall display in his main office, all of them loaded and ready for use. If I were the secretary, I’d be pretty worried about this; after all, not only does she get vaguely threatened with a spear gun by her boss, she also gets more explicitly threatened with one of the spear guns by the would-be spy. Maybe somebody should lock up those spear guns…
8) Now let’s take a look at that would-be spy. He’s supposed to find out the secrets the professor is hiding so he can sell them to a foreign country. His brilliant plan to acquire these secrets consists of one and only one strategy; to try to convince the secretary to let him into the professor’s locked laboratory. Far be it from me to advise anyone to take up a life of crime, but if this guy had taken up breaking and entering, and learned how to pick a lock, he just might have opened up his options a bit.
9) The investigators first meet the would-be spy when they hear him moving in the bushes while they’re looking at the body of the fisherman. They find him carrying (you guessed it) a spear gun. He claims that he was going to go out diving, though he is neither wearing a diving outfit nor carrying one. They ask him why he’s going diving so late at night during one of the most brightly lit scenes in the whole movie.
When some more bodies are discovered on the beach, the spy shoots a spear at one of the investigators. Up to this point, the spy really hasn’t done anything illegal; the bodies on the beach are the result of monster attacks. So why does this spy insist on trying to kill the investigators, especially with a weapon that is easily traceable (that board in the professor’s office), that he’s been seen carrying, and that leaves behind ammunition large enough to leave fingerprints? My guess is that he’s so incompetent at trying to get the professor’s secrets that he needs to do something to justify his existence. Conclusion: compared to this guy, the professor and the scientist come across as geniuses.
10) At least one person actually dies from a spear attack in this movie. They are shot at from their right side, and the spear ends up sticking squarely in their back. I didn’t know that spearguns shot with that much of a curve.
Conclusion: This is one of those movies where it’s best not to think too hard about what’s going on.