Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A Freezing Horror!

The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues is a professionally made movie with credible actors and sets and exactly one row boat.

The movie stars Kent Taylor as a sleuthing oceanographer who is investigating mysterious deaths in an amazingly accessible cove and discovers almost immediately a "sea serpent" guarding a bright light which he surmises is radium. He then follows a rather complicated but not necessarily complex web of intrigue involving another sea-going professor (Michael Whalen), his treasonous assistant (Phillip Pine), a femme fatale spy (Helene Stanton), and a sneaky secretary with a grudge (Vivi Janiss). Add in an FBI gumshoe (Rodney Bell) and a pretty daughter (Cathy Downs) good for the dating and you have the makings of a soap opera masquerading as a totally average science fiction flick.

The "sea serpent" created by the professor using radiation was actually the special effects creation of Paul Blaisdell and looks like what it is, a cheaper knock off of the superb Creature from the Black Lagoon. I hasten to point out that he doesn't look like the poster much at all, but rather like some Aztec statue come to life waddling around in the seaweed waiting for hapless scuba divers to swim by, which they all seem to do. What attracts these folks to this apparently random spot in the ocean is not really clear, but they all paddle out to it and in a few moments encounter the beast and some fatally.

What's really funny is that all seem to use the same boat. This movie makes the most use of a single row boat that I've ever seen, or am likely to see. By my memory count it passes for at least four different boats in the movie though its never changed in its appearance. It makes the trek out into the sea six times and the durable little bugger always makes it back despite being capsized twice.

The driving motivation of this movie is that the government wants to put a lid on unlicensed and dangerous radiation experiments which have yielded death rays. We get to see this theoretical "death ray" at work just once in the movie with some very nicely blended stock footage of an exploding ship which happens to float right over the top of it. While our hero is doing his duty he is also putting the moves on a most comely wench, the daughter of the slightly obsessed professor. Quite a bit of screen time is taken up with them ogling one another but little seems to come of it, at least as far as this story goes.

The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues is a harmless and smooth effort, but lacks much in the way of verve or punch.

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