The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues (1955) – By Duane L. Martin

 

There’s something deadly out there just off the coast of the Pacific Ocean, and when people start turning up dead on the beach with severe radiation burns, Dr. Ted Stevens (Kent Taylor) shows up to investigate.  After connecting with a special investigator, he makes contact with Professor King of the local oceanographic institute, who’s been doing secret experiments with atomic energy that are based on some of Dr. Steven’s work where he used atomic energy in heavy water to create a death ray of sorts.  Unfortunately, Professor King not only created something that’s a far more powerful version of that, but he’s also created a horrible mutant that thrives off of the atomic energy and protects it by killing anyone who comes near it.  Now they have to figure out a way to destroy it to stop the killings, but it may not be so easy.  Not only do they have a monster to contend with, but there’s a traitor at the institute who’s trying to acquire Dr. King’s research for a foreign government.  Will they be able to kill the creature and stop the atomic reaction before it’s too late?  You’ll have to watch the movie to find out.

I reviewed this film years and years ago on my other website where I used to review classic films.  I gave it a 3/5 rating on that review, and I must say that my opinion hasn’t changed much since then.  This movie has some really fun elements to it, but it’s also got some problems.  Let’s start out with the fun stuff first.

The monster, while very cool and monstrous looking, always has strings connected to it that are quite visible.  I would imagine that these were to keep the man in the suit from floating up to the surface.  Why isn’t it a bad thing, as one would probably think it would be?  Because that was the fun of classic b-movies.  Seeing the strings on the monsters or space ships, getting a peek at the man’s sneakers as they extended from the tops of the feet of the monster costume, or in this case, seeing the man’s hands sticking out of the costume as he choked Professor King at the end of the film.  It’s not polished film making, but it’s what makes these films so much fun.

Kent Taylor as Dr. Stevens was a hoot.  The guy is so slick and casual about everything, and the way he just moved right in on Professor King’s daughter Lois (Cathy Downs) was just spectacular to watch.  He was so smooth about it, I’m surprised she wasn’t pregnant by the end of the film without even realizing it.

The science behind everything in the film is sketchy at best, and flat out bogus at worst…but hey, it sounds good in the context of the film and makes it all a lot of fun to immerse yourself in for 80 minutes.

As for the bad stuff, let’s start with the title.  The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues.  A league is 3.452 miles.  10,000 leagues would be 34,520 miles.  Now to put that in perspective, the distance from the surface of the Earth to the center of the core is roughly 4,025 miles, which would make the diameter of the Earth from one side to the other roughly 8,050 miles, and the circumference of the Earth is 24,901 miles.  Now, 10,000 leagues is the equivalent of going back and forth across the diameter of the Earth more than four times, and around the circumference of the Earth nearly one and a half times.  10,000 leagues is also the equivalent of 14.5% of the distance from the surface of the Earth to the moon.

Now, what’s amusing about this, aside from the fact that 10,000 leagues doesn’t exist in any ocean on Earth?  Well, I’m glad you asked.  The amusing part is that the monster and the atomic reaction that was feeding it were both no deeper than someone could scuba dive to easily, as was evidenced by the fact that several people actually did scuba dive down to it in the movie.  Aside from that, even if such a ridiculous depth could be reached in the ocean, the pressures involved down at that depth would be astronomical.  Nothing the size of the monster in this film could survive under that much pressure, much less exist in a physical form.  Even if, for the sake of argument it could, coming up close enough to the surface for scuba divers to be able to reach it would kill it long before it even got remotely close to coming up that far.  The pressure changes as it came up would give it much the same effect as a diver getting the bends, only on a far more severe scale.

Does any of that reduce my enjoyment of the movie?  No, not one bit.  I just found it amusing, so I wanted to mention it.  The fact that I found it amusing however is a testament to the fact that this film does have a considerable amount of entertainment value, even though it can be quite illogical at times.

What’s the best thing about this movie?  Well, at the beginning of the film the monster pulls a man out of his boat and holds him down under the water, but the way he’s holding him makes it look like he’s trying to hump the guy’s leg, which I have always found endlessly amusing.

What’s the worst thing about it?  It can be slow at times, and most everyone in this film acts rather illogically.  Then there’s the part at the end where Lois basically shrugs off the death of her father like it’s no big deal, even though she supposedly loved him.

This new blu-ray release from Kino Lorber Is the best looking and sounding version of this film currently available.  It’s a bit grainy, but it’s a film type of grain without all the bad spots you’d expect to see on an old film.  For special features, it includes audio commentary with film historian Richard Harland Smith, Trailers from Hell with Joe Dante and trailers for The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues and The Monster That Challenged the World.

If you love classic 50’s cheese, then this is one you’ll want to have in your collection.  It has so many fun little elements in it that it all adds up to a genuinely entertaining viewing experience, and this new blu-ray is definitely the copy you’ll want to own.

If you’d like to find out more about this release, you can check out its page on the Kino Lorber website here: http://www.kinolorber.com/video.php?id=2209