Fans of the 1950s sci-fi/monster movies can rejoice, as the shoestring underwater antics of THE PHANTOM FROM 10,000 LEAGUES can now be enjoyed in HD. The film was an early release from American Releasing Corporation, which soon changed its name to American International Pictures (the rest of course, is history!).
On route to visit an oceanography professor, government investigator Ted Stevens (Kent Taylor, THE DAY MARS INVADED EARTH) discovers a fisherman's dead body drenched in radiation burns. When Ted finally catches up with Professor King (Michael Whalen, GAS HOUSE KIDS IN HOLLYWOOD), he seems more interested in wooing the old man's lovely daughter (Cathy Downs, THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN) more than anything else (and who can blame him?). Meanwhile, the overworked college professor is experimenting with genetic animal mutation. King walks into his tiny lab, puts on an oversized beekeeper's outfit, and using some kind of ray, transforms a defenseless turtle into something large and deadly -- a guy in a paper maché monster suit that looks like it was constructed by a poor man's Paul Blaisdell.
Add some bumbling spies, a nosy secretary (TV actress Vivi Janiss), unconvincing day-for-night shots, shoddy underwater photography, cheap threadbare sets, and the most barren beach imaginable, and you have THE PHANTOM FROM 10,000 LEAGUES. Well, actually, the title should be "Phantom From 20 Feet Below the Ocean," but we won't get too technical about it. Most likely inspired by the success of Universal's THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, we only see the monster several times (he's revealed in the opening minutes), and much of the duration has actors in suits and actresses in bathing suits walking and talking near the ocean. It was co-billed on the bottom half of a program with Roger Corman's THE DAY THE WORLD ENDED for a frolicking double feature of nature/ecology warnings and actors in rubber monster suits (AIP co-founder James H. Nicholson came up with the title for this one, something he excelled at). Kent Taylor (here, without his famous pencil-thin mustache) went on to become a B picture champion, closing his long career in Al Adamson schlockers like SATAN’S SADISTS, BRAIN OF BLOOD and I SPIT ON YOUR CORPSE. Director Dan Milner was a veteran editor with over 20 years of credits under his belt, but he did helm several other features including the Allied Artists tree-monster flick FROM HELL IT CAME (1957). Milner’s brother Jack produced the film, and the eerie music was composed by AIP regular Ronald Stein (THE HAUNTED PALACE). it was written by Lou Russoff, who scripted numerous AIP films of the 1950s as well as 1963’s BEACH PARTY.
Previously available on DVD from countless PD outfits, MGM released PHANTOM FROM 10,000 LEAGUES on DVD as a “Midnite Movies” double feature with BEAST WITH A MILLION EYES back in 2007. Kino Lorber has now licensed the film for this Blu-ray (as well as a separate DVD release using the same transfer), and as expected, it’s never looked better. Culled from the original vault materials, the 1080p HD transfer has the picture perfectly framed 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The black and white image sparkles with crisp detail and deep black levels black levels. Filmic grain is organic and handled well. The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track is clear as a bell, and the music and sound effects are also incorporated well in the mix. There are no subtitle options on the disc.
Film historian Richard Harland Smith is on hand for an enjoyably informative commentary, as he covers all aspects of the film’s production, its unusual espionage subplot, the locations, the underwater scenes, its cast and crew, the film’s obsession with having jackets being taken off and put on, the Milner brothers and the early days of AIP. THE HOWLING and GREMLINS director Joe Dante is on hand for a “Trailers From Hell” segment (2:21) as he recalls how when he saw this in the theater as a kid, the monster in the film looked nothing like it did on the poster and says he doesn’t know anybody who actually made it through the entire film. The trailer for THE MONSTER THAT CHALLENGED THE WORLD, also available on Blu-ray from Kino, is included. (George R. Reis)
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