Monster from the Ocean Floor (1954)

“Monster from the Ocean Floor” is historically important as the very first film produced by a young Roger Corman, so it’s a shame it’s not more entertaining than it is. It does have some schlocky charm, but owing to an obviously very low budget, it gets bogged down in talk and becomes fairly dull. It’s not even that much fun on the “so bad it’s good” level. It’s too bad, because if you’re a B movie enthusiast you’d certainly *want* to like it. It does have its moments, but they’re spread too far apart.

There is some enjoyment to be had from watching the amateurish acting. The pretty Anne Kimbell plays Julie Blair, an American artist on vacation in Mexico. She hears stories of locals disappearing from the waters and learns that there’s a legend believed by the natives. She meets a handsome marine biologist named Steve Dunning (Stuart Wade) – their initial encounter is amusing, to say the least – and while he’s a practical, hard headed kind of guy, she becomes convinced some sort of mysterious beast is the culprit – and she’s right, of course.

It’s naturally a good thing that the monster in this film – resembling an octopus with one great big red eye – is seen so little. Our anticipation is built up, and the payoff isn’t bad. I can believe that people who’d seen this movie as little children would have been frightened. The problem is that for a movie running only one hour and five minutes, there’s too much padding on this thing. Still, “Monster from the Ocean Floor” isn’t without its assets. Corman works with ace cinematographer Floyd Crosby – who shot his colourful, widescreen Edgar Allan Poe adaptations – and Crosby creates good atmosphere. The underwater photography is likewise well done. Kimbell has one harrowing scene with a shark. And the original music by Andre Brummer is enjoyable.

Cormans’ stock company player Jonathan Haze (billed as Jack Hayes) makes his film debut as the character Joe, director Wyott Ordung plays the key supporting role of Pablo, and Corman himself makes an uncredited on-screen appearance as Tommy.

This does have high curiosity value just to see the humble beginnings of one of the great independent filmmakers of all time.