Also known as: The City Under the Sea (UK)
Release Date: May 26th, 1965 (USA)
Directed by: Jacques Tourneur
Written by: Charles Bennett, Louis M. Heyward, David Whitaker
Music by: Stanley Black
Cast: Vincent Price, Tab Hunter, Susan Hart, David Tomlinson, John Le Mesurier
American International Pictures, Anglo-Amalgamated, 85 Minutes
Vincent Price starred in a lot of pictures for American International. Most people remember his Edgar Allan Poe films with director Roger Corman. Well, he did some other films for them as well, War-Gods of the Deep being one of them.
Trying to capitalize off of the success of Price’s Poe pictures, the film was titled The City Under the Sea in international markets. While it had nothing to do with that Poe story, it worked, considering the plot of the film.
The movie follows our hero, played by Tab Hunter, and his companion, an annoying British fellow who carries a chicken around, as they follow their abducted female friend into a giant underwater city ran by a madman played by Vincent Price. The underwater city is on the brink of destruction, as a nearby volcano has become very active. Price’s character is obsessed with the girl he had abducted by one of his gillmen. He also wants the hero and his idiot chicken-clutching sidekick to help him solve the issue regarding the volcano. All the while, Price executes a few traitors and sets a bad example of how to be an effective and sane leader.
In regards to the monsters, the gillmen look like really poor recreations of the title monster from the classic Creature From the Black Lagoon. These gillmen also have patches of long hair for some reason and resemble a mixture of some Sam Raimi demon creature and the toxic waste guy from the original Robocop. They are also kind of a non-event in the film other than being lower than low-level henchmen. And even then, they’re barely used.
The atmosphere of the film is great, though. It feels like most other American International horror films of its era but the undersea element gives it a unique twist. The lighting is dim but vibrant colors are used well to highlight certain things and to generate specific moods.
Jacques Tourneur was a fine director for his time. He made the classic Curse of the Demon, as well as Cat People and Comedy of Terrors (also featuring Vincent Price, plus a slew of other horror icons). Tourneur’s approach gives this film a different tone and feel than the Price-Corman collaborations, which were turned out heavily at the same time. Even though the sets and the visual aesthetic of the films are similar, Tourneur was able to make this motion picture feel like its own thing.
The only real negatives about this film, are that some parts seem a bit dragged out. It certainly isn’t boring but it needed a little more depth to the plot. Also, the underwater battle towards the end of the movie just goes on for way too long. It was also hard to follow what was happening with most of it.
War-Gods of the Deep is an underappreciated film in the long list of Vincent Price’s work. Although, it is far from being his best picture.