Once again hubby and I fell victim to false advertising. I mean, look at that poster. Octopus getting over-friendly with a woman, the weird creature with the spear, the volcano in the distance - it looks like it has all the makings of a good creature feature, right? Yeah, that’s what we thought too.
This black and white movie, filmed in 1957, begins with footage of what we’re supposed to believe is a storm tossed sea. Cue the suspenseful music. Now we see a squid and a shark duking it out on the ocean floor while the storm rages above. And I feel the need to point out, this was the only appearance by a squid in the whole movie. The suspenseful music speeds up - looks like the shark won.
The narrator starts talking about a “phantom layer” in the ocean that rises to the surface at night, and descends back to the bottom during the day. It’s filled with luminescent fish that apparently have the ability to turn their glow off and on at will.
La la la - boring description of these black and white fish that look like they’re swimming around in some big aquarium. Okay, now the lights come up and we see the narrator is actually a rich dude showing a film in a library. He talks about this diving bell he’s financed, to be used to explore the ocean depths and how there’s another one being tested in the Caribbean as they speak.
This diving bell was created by Dr. Wyman, and he’s really excited that the divers will be going deeper than anyone has ever gone before. The bell, which is pretty much a big water tight metal sphere, is manned by two men, Paul and Craig, and two women, Lauri and Dale (because you have to keep the numbers even, right?). Paul, Craig, and Lauri appear to have some kind of scientific background, and Dale is a reporter.
Down, down, down they go. At 1700 feet the lights start to flicker and the diving bell is rocking. Communication between the ship and the bell is lost. Dr. Wyman feels really bad because, you know, it was his bell and all and was lost so deep there’s not a chance of rescuing it ... or the people inside it.
Meanwhile, the bell is resting on the bottom of the ocean and the groggy crew are just waking up. Dale immediately goes into hysterics until someone slaps her. They realize the cable the bell was attached must have broken, but they couldn’t be as deep as they thought because there’s light outside the bell. If they’re high enough to see light through the water, then obviously they’re high enough that the pressure won’t kill them, so they get into their wet suits (which they just happened to have packed in a suitcase), and abandon ship - or sphere.
They start to swim slowly (VERY slowly) to the surface. The radar on the boat actually picks them up, but Dr. Wyman doesn’t think they have a prayer of making it to the surface, what with the pressure and all. They’re just too deep. More footage of them slowly swimming. La la la. Oops! They surface in a cave. I’m kind of impressed. Despite hours of swimming, the girls’ hair is not only dry, they retained their fancy hair-dos.
Meanwhile, on the boat, the captain asks Dr. Wyman how long it’ll take the bodies to surface. They decide to wait another five hours. The men from the sphere decide to leave the women in the cave and go back to the bell for their shoes so they can climb to the surface through the cave system. They go pick up shoes for everyone and one of the guys sharpens a stick to bring back with him.
On the way back to the cave, the guy with the stick manages to kill enough fish for them to dine on for dinner. Then they all take a nap. The next day, dressed in perfectly dry street clothes (no idea where they came from), they begin wandering through the caves. They see a lizard that hisses at them (showing us how loudly Dale can scream) and continue to wander. It didn’t occur to them that they could have eaten the lizard, but they do stumble across a small spring to drink from.
Leaving the women at the spring to rest, the men wander off to explore a bit. Lauri wants to be friends, but Dale is a bit of a snarky bitch. It’s at this point I have to wonder where the light in the cave is coming from. I mean, in the ocean we could say it was the luminescent fish the narrator made a point of talking about, but the cave is pretty well lit without there being a source.
Wandering, wandering, and more wandering. It all looks pretty much the same to me. Ruh, oh Shaggy, the gang found a human skeleton. Eek! There’s an old bearded man spying on them through a hole in the rocks above them. They yell up to him but he doesn’t answer, so they climb on up to see him.
He tells them he’s the survivor of a ship wreck and he’s been there for 14 years. There’s a volcano nearby that provides air, but there’s no way out. Not sure why the volcano means they can’t escape, haven’t any of them ever read Jules Verne’s Journey To the Centre of the Earth? Everyone settles in to make the best of things.
Meanwhile, Dr. Wyman has gone to the rich guy from the beginning. He heard he cancelled the launch of his own diving bell and persuades him that he knows what went wrong with the first bell and how to fix it on the second one. Blah, blah, blah, way too much technical explanations. Wyman’s younger brother worked on the second bell, and together they fix the new bell.
Lots of machinery spinning, lots of consulting. Finally they’re back on the boat. The second bell has launched, just in time because they spot the two guys from the original bell as they’re swimming back to scavenge for parts and one of them has run out of air. They make it to the second bell where the guy is revived by a cup of coffee from a handy dandy thermos.
Back in the cave, the creepy old dude is putting the moves on Dale and he must have angered the volcano gods because the earth starts to shake and an eruption is imminent. He gets buried by rocks and the two women run back through the tunnels. More running, more rock falling. The guy who came back for the women gets knocked out slightly. Now we’re seeing some really fast moving lava and the earth pulling apart.
Um, I guess he’s okay because they’re all aboard the second bell now and before you know it they’re back on board the ship. Happy, happy, joy, joy - smiling faces all around. As the ship powers off into the sunset I’m left wondering two things - if they really were on the bottom of the ocean, as we were led to believe, why didn’t the pressure kill them? And where the heck was the volcano that erupted? There wasn’t so much as a hint of it on the surface of the water - no rock sticking up out of the water, not even a puff of smoke.
This movie wasn’t even that bad, it was just incredibly boring! The incredible part of it was that we sat through the whole 70 minutes.