18 December 2020 | kevinolzak
8 decades of Roger Corman exploitation kicks off here
1954's "Monster from the Ocean Floor" marked Roger Corman's science fiction debut, directed by cast member Wyott Ordung, at the helm for only one other feature, 1956's "Walk the Dark Street," but already infamous as the screenwriter behind "Robot Monster," later involved with titles like Richard Denning's "Target Earth," Marshall Thompson's "First Man into Space," Anthony Eisley's "The Navy vs. the Night Monsters," and John Carradine's "The Mummy and the Curse of the Jackals." The script was conceived by William Danch, thereafter a name heavily involved in animated cartoons over the next several decades, from Mr. Magoo to The Archies to Fat Albert. Corman first cut his teeth as a producer on Allied Artists' "Highway Dragnet," issued three months before this Lippert release, his third effort already before the camera as this one was rolled out, a racing picture called "The Fast and the Furious," the title that began his association with James H. Nicholson and Samuel Z. Arkoff. "Monster" apparently was completed in six days for a mere $12,000 plus deferments, advanced $60,000 by Robert Lippert to start a new career as director before year's end. The hook upon which the entire picture hangs (working titles "The Sea Demon" and "It Stalked the Ocean Floor") was a newly advertised one-man minisub from Aerojet General that the aspiring producer was able to acquire for easy promotion, it gets more action than attractive leading lady Anne Kimball (she does hitch a ride alongside), only 21 but calling it quits after two more features. The most notable cast member is Pittsburgh native Jonathan Haze, here billed as 'Jack Hayes' in his screen debut, swiftly going from gas station attendant to movie actor to remain a fixture in Corman films for 15 years before vanishing from sight, six years before his iconic role in "The Little Shop of Horrors." Yucatan was the setting for the slight story of a commercial artist (Anne Kimball) who hears tales of a demon that has claimed the lives of local villagers in the cove, spying a large octopus but little else in her never ending search beneath the waves. One notable encounter is with the minisub piloted by marine biologist Steve Dunning (Stuart Wade), who offers her a tour of his floating laboratory when not serenading her on guitar. Jonathan Haze is only in for a couple of scenes as the fisherman whose diving partner vanishes from his outfit, found intact with no body, while director Wyott Ordung plays a superstitious local who believes that by sacrificing the 'fair one' to the sea demon it will go away. All of this serves as padding until the final moments, when what is described as an amoeba emerges from hiding (actually an octopus puppet created by Bob Baker maneuvering through a fish tank, sporting one red eye and tentacles), capable of absorbing potential victims but saved from claiming Anne by the sub, taking out the huge orb and looking for all the world like a submarine sandwich that has yet to be swallowed (the monster's screen time is approximately 55 seconds). Producer Alex Gordon marveled at how well it came out considering its miniscule cost, obviously post dubbed and lacking any real excitement yet earning over $800,000 at the box office, the 27 year old Corman on his way to an astonishing career spanning 8 decades.