Before there was Jaws or Orca The Killer Whale there was The Phantom From 10,000 Leagues the mother of all monsters from the deep! This classic 1950's science fiction feature was a huge hit at drive-in theatres and aquariums across America! When a scientist tries to create a radioactive death ray, the experiment backfires causing a small turtle to revert to a giant prehistoric size monster. Dr. Ted Stevens (Kent Taylor, The Crawling Hand) meets a government investigators, at the scene of another beach murder caused by this hideous sea monster, while marine biologist Professor King (Michael Whalen, The Dawn Express), who created the monster in his laboratory, is being pursued by a beautiful femme fatale who is blackmailing or killing everyone in sight in an effort to acquire King's top secret files for the Russians. Directed by veteran Hollywood editor Dan Milner (From Hell It Came), his second of three directorial efforts.
Special Features: Audio Commentary by Film Historian Richard Harland Smith | "Trailers From Hell" with Joe Dante | Trailers
In 'The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues,' a sleepy seaside town is terrorized by a ferocious humanoid creature taking residence at a nearby beach. The only way to defeat the monster is the unlikely alliance of local authorities and a know-it-all scientist who just happens to also be an expert in the field where the deadly beast dwells. If only life operated as convenient for battling life's most unpleasant brutes as a film plot, then, well, we actually wouldn't have much reason to ever watch movies. But wishful fantasies aside, if this premise sounds pretty familiar, it's because it is, retold and duplicated several times over since it was originally introduced by 'Creature from the Black Lagoon.' One of the most famous iterations is celebrated in Steven Spielberg's 'Jaws,' and it can also be seen in 'Piranha,' 'Arachnophobia,' 'Lake Placid' and many more. And as is often the case in many creature features, especially those from the 1950s, the plot is essentially a cautionary tale against the atomic age and science run amok.
The nightmare begins one fine, sunny morning while Ted Baxter (Kent Taylor), a highly respected doctor of marine biology freshly arrived from who knows where, takes a stroll down the beach of an unnamed town. The filmmakers pile on the mystery thick and quick, leaving us to wonder a great deal about him but he's actually the hero of our comically twisted tale. Anyhow, he stumbles upon a body that has washed up on the beach just as government agent William Grant (Rodney Bell) also happens to be walking by. Naturally, Grant is suspicious of Baxter, but best of all is their back-and-forth banter with slight undertones of distrust mixed with an oddly-placed witticism, instantly suggesting an eventual friendly rapport. Once Baxter explains his academic credentials, the mysterious G-Man hilariously concludes the stranger is free to go. Your timing good sir may be impeccable, but how dare you! Do you not know you are in the presence of a world-renowned scientist with a superior intellect! Unhand me, this instant!
Granted, the whole affair feels too-perfectly scripted, the dialogue laughably fabricated and the acting amusingly amateurish. But that's precisely the fun in enjoying something as wonderfully bad as this cult favorite of drive-in B-movie mania. Everything following these opening moments are a ruse for generating a sense of mystery about the monster and its origins while keeping audiences invested. Almost as though patterned after an instructional manual on screenplay writing, the filmmakers immediately try to throw off the scent from the real culprit by introducing one red herring after another, starting with George Thomas (Phillip Pine). Only morsel we're given is that he wants whatever secret experiment local scientist Professor King (Michael Whalen) is conducting behind locked doors and his constant bargaining with voluptuous secret agent Wanda (Helene Stanton). The professor's secretary, Ethel (Vivi Janiss), is also suspect, except much of that suspicion is due to King and his completely unnecessary berating of her.
Funny enough, any possible suspicions are just as quickly dismissed as they are introduced because within a matter of minutes, the filmmakers make it perfectly clear King's unethical experiments on local wildlife produced the unnatural beast. But the real joke is that the monster is apparently guarding some radioactive device, which the supposedly good-hearted scientist also created. This only begs the question if the creature had been trained to be a guard dog and what exactly is the device that foreign spies are killing for? We're never given an answer, and instead, 'The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues' draws our attention to the budding romance between Baxter and King's daughter, Lois (Cathy Downs). It's hysterically meant to complicate our hero's moral position of pursuing justice for science and civilization over sparring his love interest the pain of knowing her father capable of such heinous acts against God and nature. Making the film all the more amusing is seeing how filmmakers spare Baxter from having to make the painful decision and conveniently letting the problem solve itself.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Kino Lorber brings 'The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues' to Blu-ray on a Region A locked, BD25 disc inside the standard blue keepcase. At startup, viewers are taken directly to a static main menu with music.
The phantom dives into the Blu waters with a good-looking 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode. Although not particularly remarkable compared to other releases from the same period, the new high-def transfer proves a marked improvement over previous home video editions. Fine lines and objects are very well-defined throughout with great detailing in the clothing and furniture, showing the source to be in excellent condition. Facial complexions are also highly revealing, especially in close-ups. However, the 1.85:1 presentation comes with its share of soft, poorly resolved scenes, which could be related to the either source or the original photography. There are also moments of noticeable discoloration and minor gate weave. Still, with a fine thin layer of natural grain, the video has a welcomed film-like quality with pitch-perfect contrast and crisp, clean whites from beginning to end. Black levels are equally rich and strong, providing several areas with dark shadows, excellent delineation and appreciable dimensionality.
The cult drive-in classic takes a swim equipped with an enjoyable and satisfying DTS-HD MA mono soundtrack. Similar to the video, this is a great improvement over previous DVD versions though a couple moments with the music still come off bright and feel a tad limited. On the other hand, the overall lossless mix and score reveal excellent clarity and definition in the midrange, despite much of it feeling narrow down the center. Background activity, such as the sound of waves crashing in the distance or seagulls occasionally flying overhead, are distinct and clear, providing the high-rez track with a welcomed sense of presence. There isn't really any bass to speak of, which is to be expected from a film of this age, but the music displays a bit of weight from time to time. With precise, well-prioritized vocals, the track makes for an enjoyable listen.
'The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues' is a wonderfully amusing cult favorite from the awesome era of drive-in B-movie mania, featuring a very familiar plot about a quaint, sleepy seaside town terrorized by an unspeakable monster living in a nearby beach. The Blu-ray from Kino Lorber arrives with a great looking picture quality and a slightly better audio presentation. Supplements are sadly light, but the overall package is worth checking out for cult collectors and enthusiasts.