Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues (1955)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

Many years ago, I got a bunch of these multi-movie sets distributed by St. Clair Vision.  There was one that had 10 science-fiction movies and boasted over 13 hours!  One of those movies was The Phantom From 10,000 leagues, which accounted for 80 minutes of that amazing running time.  The idea was to write reviews of these movies in the hopes of making my money back.  If you recognize St. Clair Vision from some of my other reviews, you know that I should have been a little more cautious.

Part of the problem is that St. Clair Vision took advantage of public-domain titles, meaning that they could keep costs at a minimum by presumably not paying royalties.  They seemed to also put minimal effort and money into restoring many of the titles that they released in these sets.  You’d think that they’d at least find some decent titles, but they couldn’t even be bothered to do that.  The Phantom From 10,000 Leagues seems to typify everything that St. Clair Vision did wrong with these sets.

The movie takes place in California.  It starts with some bodies washed up on the shore, horribly burned with their rowboat severely damaged.  (Due to poor picture quality, you wouldn’t know except that people keep commenting on it, but more on that later.)  Doctor Ted Stevens is sent in to investigate.  He finds Professor King, who is doing research during his institution’s off season.  It’s so secret that not even his secretary, Ethel, doesn’t know what’s going on.  All Ethel can tell Dr. Stevens is that Prof. King locks himself in his office most of the day.

Dr. Stevens decides to do a little investigating in the ocean.  He uses the same charred rowboat, presumably with a new coat of paint, to see what’s going on.  He finds a guy in a lizard costume guarding some sort of light.  The guy in the costume is supposed to be the phantom from the title and the light is supposed to be some sort of mutant-forming radiation.  (In all honesty, I feel bad for the guy in the lizard suit.  It must be hard enough getting into costume like that, but to have to do all of your scenes underwater must be unbearable.)

Professor King’s assistant, George, does seem to have some idea of what‘s going on.  He’s working for some mysterious woman that wants him to steal King’s research or something.  George’s main interest seems to be killing (or at least trying to kill) people by harpooning them.  You may wonder why he uses a harpoon. I was wondering the same thing.  I don’t think he’s that bright.  He leaves the harpoon out for someone to find, complete with lots of his fingerprints.

Add to the mix Lois, Professor King’s daughter.  Dr. Stevens seems to take an interest in her, which she reciprocates.  When he’s not trying to figure out what’s going on, he’s usually spending time with her.  She doesn’t know what’s going on, either.  Eventually, everything is figured out, sort of, and taken care of, sort of.  The movie was so bad, I’m already trying to block it.

This is one of those movies that just had to be low budget.  (IMDb lists it as $100,000.  Assuming price doubles every 20 years, this would be about $750,000 in today’s money, roughly speaking.)  For instance, the same rowboat is used over and over again.  Also, the acting seemed pretty stiff, even though many of the actors seem to have been in other projects.  (This may be generational.  The movie was made about 60 years ago.) Another thing was that it seemed like a lot of people went diving without any sort of gear.  I don’t know if it was too hard to get, too expensive or just wasn’t common in the 1950’s.  Maybe they had spent all of their prop money on the rowboat.

The visual aspect was really bad.  Saint Clair apparently made no effort to restore the image at all.  The picture would go from very dark to blindingly bright.  This is why it was difficult for me to tell how obvious the burns were on the boat and people.  That’s how bad the film quality was.

The next time I get around to doing a worst-of list, I will probably put this movie on that list.  I would not recommend buying the movie.  I wouldn’t even waste a free Redbox code on it.  The only way I’d recommend watching it is if you get it as part of a set, like I did, or you can get it streaming. 

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