The Atomic Submarine (1959) | It’s Destination Inner Space for this Boy’s Own adventure

The Atomic Submarine (1959)

When several atomic submarines disappear in the North Pole, pride of the US fleet, the Tiger Shark, embarks on its most strangest and fearful voyage ever. Hitting an underwater electrical storm, the sub’s crew discover extraterrestrial forces are at work and begin to stalk an alien craft they dub, Cyclops, 1200-feet below the surface. When the two titanic craft become locked together in a death grip, the sub’s commander Reef Holloway (Arthur Franz) and his young rival, scientist Carl Neilsen (Brett Halsey), head inside the mysterious craft with a team of frogman. Coming face-to-face with a gigantic one-eyed inhabitant, they learn of its plans for colonising the Earth and set in motion a plan to take the alien menace down. But first they must escape its radioactive death ray…

The Atomic Submarine (1959)

The World of Century Twenty FirstNow this one of those old sci-fi films that I remember so well as a kid as two things really stood out: the electro-sonic soundtrack which combines a Bela Bartok-inspired piano score with Hammond organ and theremin; and the gigantic one-eyed alien. That memorable score is by Alexander Laszlo, a film composer who scored dozens of features in the 1940s and 1950s. A big experimenter in electronica, he also did an inventive score for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, called The World of Century Twenty First, narrated by Vincent Price. This is a collector’s item today, fetching upwards of $US100 for the original record.

The Atomic Submarine (1959)

Now there’s no question that the film’s special effects are sub-par. It consists mainly of a kid’s spinning top toy for the flying saucer and a submarine model kit that youngsters of the period got in boxes of Cheerios. I had one too, but rather than firing little torpedoes, it had a receptacle where’d you put an aspirin (I think) which made the sub dive then float back to the surface. It made bath-times were so much fun. Ah, but back to our Boy’s Own adventure.

The Atomic Submarine (1959)

The interior of the Cyclops is just a large expanse of blackness with a console of lights and a hand puppet for the alien. But that eyeball in a sock is quite something – especially for an eight-year-old back in the 1960s and 1970s. Given that this was made only a few years before Irwin Allen brought his outer and inner space adventures to our TV screens, this film most certainly inspired The Derelict episode in Lost in Space (both settings as vitually identical), and it could have served as the entire premise for Allen’s Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea film and TV series. The stock characters and the use of stock footage are also trademark Irwin Allen, while the narration is a device he used for the Lost in Space pilot. Then there’s the Explorer diving bell itself. In Voyage it became the flying sub, while in Lost in Space it was the pod.

This new DVD release from Screenbound is based on a print struck in 1987, and it really shows up those poverty row effects. But who cares? This nostalgic sci-fi is a whole lot of fun and great treat for a rainy day. The only extra is an unrestored trailer (watch it below) that plays like a war propaganda film complete with newsreel styled music.


About Peter Fuller

Peter Fuller is an award-winning print, radio and television journalist and producer, with over 30 years experience covering film and television, with a special interest in world cinema and popular culture. He is a leading expert on the life and career of Vincent Price and actively promotes the actor's legacy through publications, websites and special events.

Posted on March 1, 2016, in Cult classic, Might See, Sci-Fi and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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