PictureIt Came From Beneath the Sea is brought to our screens being 1080p AVC encoded in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The interesting point to note here is that not only are we given a black and white version as per the original release of the film, but also a new colourized one as well. Don't fret though, as this is stamped “Harryhausen approved” which will settle a few fears. The last thing many would want (myself included) would be for a retrospective tinkering that disrupted the original vision, as we've seen with other sci-fi in recent years.
Even with the approval of the effects maestro I was a little hesitant to delve into the newer visuals in case it broke the 50s illusion. Thankfully my fears were almost wholly unfounded. In fact it is the colour that seems to add a certain element to proceedings giving them an almost ethereal dream like quality. It allows for a less one dimensional look and works wonders on the effects and, in particular, the beast. As one would expect for a colour treatment that was added after the fact, the skin tones are off, giving an almost clay like look to people. The spectrum falls closer to yellow and everything has an almost sepia tinted glow to it, sometimes a touch garish and others a tad washed out. However to criticise it for this seems somewhat churlish as for the most part things are as good as one could expect. There's a good depth to shadow detail and blacks are pleasing strong. The few occasions where it looks like perhaps there's a touch of posterization appears to be more down to the lighting used and the low budget of the film. The sheen on an actors face when lit incorrectly shows this effect quite well but it is present in both versions of the film and many will recognise it from other similar monochromatic B-movies of the era.
In short this is a hard film to score in terms of picture as the source material is so old and perhaps hasn't been treated quite as kindly as others. What is important though is that detail is very apparent and there are no major problems with some of the key after effects sometimes used on such material. Grain is pleasantly even and adds to the atmosphere without ever interfering. It won't knock “Speed Racer” off your system when it comes to showing off reference material but for a film of such age this is well represented, just don't expect miracles.
SoundThings are a mite less rosy on the sound front. We are given a TrueHD 5.1 mix but ultimately this adds little to what was always likely to be a pretty flat affair. Voices are for the most part clear and there are some pleasing effects, such as the announcer's voice over a tannoy being far better than I'd have imagined. However for all the positives, this remains true to the monaural nature of the original and most of the action is given to the front soundstage. The rears will kick in during a monster scene but these are few and far between. One great aspect of the mix though was the good use of bass. This being a creature feature, a healthy amount was always going to be vital to the viewing experience. As such Mischa Bakaleinikoff's four note theme has a real kick to it and asks to be turned up to the nth degree. Much like the picture, the sound is perhaps as good as one could expect, not stellar but clean, concise and with a good punch to it and it hardly hurts that it is lossless.
ExtrasCommentary with Ray Harryhausen, Arnold Kunert and animation expert Randy Cook and visual effects expert John Bruno
Covers many of the points that fans of Harryhausen or the film will probably have heard before but it's just a joy to hear him speak of a film that he made fifty odd years previously. As would be expected of a man his age, trying to remember specifics appertaining to his experiences of something so far in his past, he is often sketchy saying simply “it was so long ago” etc but Kunert, Cook and Bruno keep the pace of this commentary alive with their enthusiasm for the subject matter.
Remembering “It Came From Beneath the Sea” - 480p - 21:45
Here Harryhausen recounts the story of how the film was created from its very genesis of a simplified pitch to him. This is somewhat more concise than the commentary in that it becomes clear that in a tighter interview format Ray can give a more precise account of things. We are presented with black and white photos, colourized clips, storyboards and miniatures. It is of particular interest to hear how all the separate parties became involved in the film and how he began his partnership with Charles Schneer. We are also given the thoughts of John Bruno (a visual effects supervisor) telling us how the film had an impact upon him as a child and the musings of John Canemaker, a filmmaker and historian. This is one of the better “looks back” that I've seen as it has a genuine sense of purpose to it and it is a pleasure to hear Harryhausen speak so lucidly about the tricks he used to get his effects as he wanted.
A present day look at stop motion - 480p - 11:38
A New York University film student takes us through the procedure of creating stop motion footage. Whilst this may be of interest to those who have a real want to enter the field, there isn't much here that hasn't been seen on many a Wallace and Gromit promo film and the student in question is clearly nervous uttering um, ah, like and y'know every few seconds.
Tim Burton sits down with Ray Harryhausen - 480p - 27:09
This is pretty much self explanatory. It is great to see the sheer enthusiasm Burton has for all creations made by the effects impresario. There is a real warmth to this truly friendly interview. In fact to call it an interview seems a little cold as it feels more like we're privy to a chat between friends. A real gem of an extra.
Davis Schecter on film music's unsung hero - 480p - 22:33
Schecter tells us of the work of Mischa Bakaleinikoff, the man who created the four note monster theme that I'm sure many will recognise. It's interesting to hear the variations of it and how far and wide it has been used in the industry.
Original ad artwork - 480p - 17:52
Arnold Kunert (a producer) gives us a pictorial tour of the press booklets, advertising material from newspapers, posters, stills, lobby cards, window cards and title cards and the effects of marketing and their use/choice of imagery.
“It Came From Beneath the Sea Again” comic book
Five pages of a comic book that I presume will be in shops soon or perhaps is already out. We are given a page that is impossible to read, followed by it being split into top half and bottom so that it can be zoomed in to allow us to make out what is happening. Nothing really of any note, other than one character with an amusing name, as there are too few pages to display anything interesting.
Galleries - 480p - 29:50
Ad art photo gallery, production photo gallery and Ray Harryhausen's artwork photo gallery are all covered with shots lasting ten to fifteen seconds long. The first two are fairly standard and the images will look pretty familiar if you've watched the rest of the extras already, however Harryhausen's artwork is what enthusiasts will want to see. There are some nice early pictures showing the composition of shots and how the beast should look.
As per the title, here we have trailers of a Sony promo for Blu-ray alongside “20 Million Miles to Earth”, “Earth Vs the Flying Saucers” and “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad”. It's especially nice to see that all are presented in 1080p.
VerdictThis came as a bit of a surprise to me as I had previously assumed that all such low grade sci-fis would be relegated to cult status and thus be given the bare minimum in its transition to a new format. Here though we are given a disc that is absolutely jam packed to the gills. There are two versions of the film and I must admit I spent a fair degree of time pausing and changing “angle” to toggle between the colourized and black and white frame to analyze the differences. In all honesty it would be hard to pick between the two but for the sake of completists it's certainly nice to have the choice and know the latter version was Harryhausen approved. The picture is certainly better than anything we have seen previously of this film on home formats and once you add in lossless sound and the plethora of extras it's hard to see any fan of this style of film being in any way disappointed with this prime offering.
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