Fox // 1964 // 74 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // March 28th, 2013
Get ready for, oh, let's say seven and a half leagues under the sea of pure unadulterated oceanic excitement!
Bill Harper (Ken Scott, The Three Faces of Eve) is a former salvager who has fallen on hard times. Bill lives with his wife, Dottie (Merry Anders, Desk Set), as an apartment house manager with no income to speak of, which means Bill could really use some self esteem (or at least a Joel Osteen book). Bill's younger slacker brother, Buddy (Garth Benton, 13 Frightened Girls!), also lives with Bill and Dottie, but spends most of his time hitting on women as well as making moves on Bill's wife. Bill makes a decision that will change his life forever: scuba dive to Catalina Island, walk into the Island's bank, rob it in full scuba gear, and walk back to the sea with a large pile of loot that he'll stick on one of ferry's hulls with magnets. Will Bill be able to pull of the caper of the century (or at least of 1964...)? Or will he and Buddy find themselves on the wrong side of a jail cell?
Raiders from Beneath the Sea is a great example of a movie that looks so exciting it's almost bursting at the seams with promise. The front cover of the DVD has an image of the one-sheet poster that makes the film look like a slam-bang action picture ("Like Monsters Out of the Deep They Came Ashore...Two Men Out to Seize a Million Dollar Haul!") and even the film's title -- Raiders from Beneath the Deep -- conjures up memories of a film that came into being over fifteen years later, Steven Spielberg's superior Raiders of the Lost Ark. It's the sort of movie that finds dialogue like, "Hey, what's eating you, ya old sourpuss?" to be laden with nail biting suspense. In other words, Raiders from Beneath the Sea comes wrapped in a neat, fancy package but ends up being an absolute B-movie stinker.
Raiders from Beneath the Sea is flatly shot by director Maury Dexter (The Mini-Skirt Mob) and is about as generically uninspired a film as I've ever seen. None of the film's sets look very pricey, as if the whole thing were shot on the fly at whatever locations the scouts could come up with at the last minute. Heck, they even manage to make Catalina Island -- one of the West Coast's most beautiful hotspots -- look drab and uninteresting. The most baffling aspect of Raiders from Beneath the Sea is the music score, which should have won some alternate universe Oscar for "Most Inappropriate Film Music Ever." There are moments that should be riddled with suspense but instead are hilariously rendered inert because the music score is so...weird. Like soft jazz crossed with an In Like Flint 1960s groove and a dash of conga music. The story actually has promise -- the way the men plan to hide the money on magnets under the boat is kinda-sorta intriguing -- but Raiders from Beneath the Sea can't ride on a single good idea alone. In the end, the whole mess is just a bore, as we watch characters yammer on about how to execute their plan, which is about as exciting as re-wrapping toilet paper around its cardboard core. When their plan is finally put in place, it becomes the very definition of anti-climactic.
Ken Scott, looking like a third rate Rock Hudson, sleepwalks through the film while Garth Benton sneers and slimes his way as his brother. Neither lead shows much star power and instead seem to realize what the rest of us already know: they're in a low class Z-movie clunker. Booth Coleman (Dr. Zaius in the classic Planet of the Apes television series) plays a secondary character who wants in on the action, and while he's probably the most interesting character in the film, that's like saying a glass of one week old sour milk is better than a glass of two week old sour milk; it's still sour milk. Most disappointing is the fact that there are hardly any scenes underwater; I mean, it's right there on the poster, for Pete's sake! The best moment (sarcasm starts now) in the movie comes when one scuba diver gets his line tangled in a moving boat motor, which pulls him in for a gruesome death. Or at least it would be gruesome, if it wasn't so obvious that the "special effect" -- and I use that term very loosely -- is achieved using a stiff plastic action figure and a toy boat. In fact, the film may be worth seeing just for this brief moment!
There's a reason why you haven't heard of Raiders from Beneath the Sea: it's junky '60s fare that isn't worth your time or money. The story is soggy, the acting is mediocre (at best), and the whole thing looks like a cheap made-for-TV movie that generates as much electricity as a dead watch battery. Plunder at your own peril.
Raiders from Beneath the Sea is presented in 1.33:1 full frame (trimmed slightly from its original 1.37:1 aspect ratio). Fox offers up a decent looking black and white image, although its far from perfect. There are some blemishes in the print, but they aren't too intrusive (it's mostly a heavy grain issue more than anything). For a movie that was lucky to even see the light of day, Raiders from Beneath the Sea looks pretty good on DVD. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono in English. There isn't much to report about this track; dialogue, music, and effects easily distinguished and that's about the extent of this audio mix. No alternate subtitles or soundtracks are available on this disc.
Not surprisingly, there are no extra features included on this first ever DVD release of Raiders from Beneath the Sea. Thank the good Lord, as I don't know if I could have sat through them.
Raiders from Beneath the Sea is DOA (or DITW, "Dead in the Water").
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 74 Minutes
Release Year: 1964
MPAA Rating: Not Rated