Terror Beneath The Sea (Japan 1966)

Rating: **
Review Date: 9/7/15
Cast: Sonny Chiba, Peggy Neal

This bizarre Japanese science fiction film was shot in English with a bunch of American actors, but stars a Japanese speaking Sonny Chiba. My only guess is that it was an attempt to introduce Chiba to the West as an international action star. The story begins with a group of journalists aboard a US Navy submarine that's conducting a test of their new homing torpedo. During the test, the crew catches a glimpse of a strange humanoid figure on the underwater monitor, which causes the press to freak out. Later, journalists Ken Abe (Sonny Chiba) and Jenny Gleason (Peggy Neal) decide to revisit the dive site, and Jenny snaps a picture of one of the sea creatures as it chases her to the surface. Unfortunately, in her panic she drops her camera. Accused of being a "delirious and hysterical female," the offended couple makes another dive to retrieve the camera, only to be kidnapped and brought to a secret underwater laboratory. The mad scientist in charge of the operation has been turning people into mindless "marine cyborgs," which can breathe underwater and do his bidding. He controls them via radio waves with a switch that has three settings: stop, work, and fight. Refusing to join the mad scientist's twisted dreams of an underwater utopia, Ken and Jenny are prepped for surgery to become cyborgs themselves. Will they be able to escape their fate, and will the Navy get off its butt to investigate their disappearance?

It's pretty cheesy and has all of the charm of a Japanese kaiju film, except without any giant monsters. The acting is pretty poor and extremely inconsistent. Sonny Chiba's particular brand of extreme overacting doesn't mesh well with the other actors, and he comes across as a bit of an overly animated clown. The visual effects are decent for the most part, but the action scenes are downright embarrassing. The cyborg costumes look very similar to the gillman from "Creature From The Black Lagoon" (1954), but they're rigid and completely expressionless. Peggy Neal is pretty, but her hair is a mess and she has little to do other than scream and fawn over Sonny Chiba as he fights the bad guys. She also becomes outrageously hysterical when she discovers that her good looks have been ruined as part of the cyborgization process. If you're a Sonny Chiba enthusiast or enjoy tacky sci-fi from the 1960's, it's marginally enjoyable. Otherwise, it might try your patience.