No, I didn’t watch the Kurosawa movie again, although I did watch one of my favorites from back in the day. A Criterion box set arrived the other day, four movies in all, from the late-50s, and I cracked open the box and watched one of the films this evening. It had an interesting cast … Dick Foran, known as the “Singing Cowboy,” whose dad was a Senator … Bob Steele, a high-school classmate of John Wayne who made his first film in 1920 and appeared in classics like Of Mice and Men, The Big Sleep, and Rio Bravo (the same year he made tonight’s movie) … George Sanders’ brother Tom Conway. The producer was Alex Gordon, who later was an important figure in the restoration of classic movies from 20th Century Fox. The original music, fitting right into the exotica of the day, was by Alexander Lazslo, and was billed as “electro-sonic music.”
I think you can see why Criterion would want to get the rights to this film. And we haven’t even gotten to the dialogue, including one line spoken by the narrator that pretty much sums up the movie: “It was foolish. It was insane. It was fantastic.”
Yes, I’m talking about The Atomic Submarine, a sci-fi movie made for an estimated $135,000 in 1959. I musta watched this movie a dozen times on TV when I was a kid. I was terrified by the alien outerspace monster, an octopus-looking creature with a big giant eye in the middle of its … well, I’m not sure what to call it, it’s like when the monster meets the hero and says “we meet as your people say … face to face,” and the hero replies “That’s a face?” The special effects didn’t seem so bad when I was a kid watching a fuzzy picture on the old TV on a Saturday afternoon, but thanks to the “restored, high-definition digital transfer” Criterion offers, the fx are now more obvious … the title machine looks an awful lot like a toy in the bathtub. That’s not all Criterion gives us. There’s a fifteen-minute interview with the immortal actor Brett Halsey, and let’s not forget the crisp and clear Dolby 1.0 mono soundtrack. Oh, and a nice booklet with an essay about the film.
The entire box set also includes two Boris Karloff movies (The Haunted Strangler and Corridors of Blood) and the “classic sci-fi adventure” First Man into Space. The box is called “Monsters and Madmen,” and the discs can also be purchased separately, I believe. A bargain at any price. It’s not exactly Jean Renoir, but hey, Criterion did two Michael Bay movies, and if they can do that, why not give us some crappy 50s sci-fi, too?