Saturday, February 15, 2014

Destination Inner Space

Low-budget monster movie is basically an underwater riff on IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE. Scott Brady, who looks uncomfortable in a wet suit, leads the cast as Wayne, a Naval commander who is summoned to an undersea base to investigate a mysterious craft. He takes crew members Hugh (Mike Road, whose voice is immediately recognizable from Hanna-Barbera cartoons like JONNY QUEST) and Sandra (the gorgeous Wende Wagner, a regular on THE GREEN HORNET) over to investigate the spaceship, where they find some small cylinders about the size of scuba tanks.

Of course the dingbats bring one back to the sealab, of course it breaks open, and of course a man-sized amphibian that walks on two legs bursts out of it. From then on, Wayne and the others, who also include Dr. Peron (Sheree North) and Dr. LaSatier (Gary Merrill), run around sealing off compartments and scrounging for spear guns to protect themselves from the murderous monster.

Considering the participation of normally staid director Francis D. Lyon (CASTLE OF EVIL, also with Brady) and writer Arthur C. Pierce, who penned such bad sci-fi as WOMEN OF THE PREHISTORIC PLANET and CYBORG 2087, DESTINATION INNER SPACE is better than I expected. Granted, it looks cheap (the miniatures of the sealab and the spacecraft aren’t fooling anybody), and the opening reels really drag.

However, Pierce makes an effort to give the main characters some sort of characterization for the actors to play. Nothing original or groundbreaking—for instance, Wayne and Hugh have an adversarial backstory involving an earlier mission that they work out—but at least the film attempts to make them people.

Lyon isn’t shy about showing the monster—no atmospheric shadows or quick cuts to hint at its menace—and while it looks exactly like what it is—a man in a rubber suit—it’s imaginatively designed with a bit of a hunchback and a large orange head-to-butt fin (this is to hide the stuntman’s air tanks in the underwater scenes). Paul Dunlap (SHOCK CORRIDOR) composed the score, and a young James Hong runs around as a Chinese cook.

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