Terror Beneath The Sea (Japan, 1966)

Before Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba was the Street Fighter. Before he was Jubei Yagyu, Lord Conquer, or Hattori Hanzo. Before he was even “Sonny” Chiba, he was Ken, erstwhile journalist and (probably) boyfriend of Jenny, the hottest white chick in Japan in 1966. Before Chiba became the unstoppable action hero of Japanese—nay, worldwide—film, he starred in a crappy little Japanese/American co-production called Terror Beneath The Sea.

Apparently a lot of people like this movie, although I can’t really see why. It’s not super bad like some Gamera films are, nor is it the kind of subversive science fiction that sneaks in as a genre picture and then blows your mind. No, it’s just a run-of-the-mill B-movie with run-of-the-mill special effects and a depressing unwillingness to make the most of its star.

Ken and Jenny (Peggy Neal, an especially hot blonde who probably made her way to Japan to model, ended up in film, and then disappeared into specialty hostess bars for the better part of the ’70s) are journalists covering the Navy’s latest submarine torpedo tests. During the test, a strange figure swims past the underwater camera. The Navy claims innocence so Ken and Jenny don scuba gear and head for the deep themselves. Turns out there’s a kind of underwater city down there off the coast of Japan that’s cranking out android fish men like they were going to serve them as sushi.

Right, so let’s cut to Sonny Chiba kicking some cross-eyed fish man butt. Unfortunately, Ken and Jenny spend most of the second half of the film strapped to a lab table, with white glue applied to their chins and hands to approximate fish scales. Meanwhile, the US Navy bungles its way through the ocean, with the seamen all standing way too close to each other. Don’t ask, don’t tell is fine, but please, one and a half feet, OK? The city falls apart when the fish man mind control thingy breaks and the same three fish guys riot and get shot over and over again so it looks like there are lots of them. Finally, Sonny kicks a few gills but then it’s over and Ken and Jenny head back into the sea for a little interracial scuba bliss.

I have to say, I liked the fact that Terror Beneath The Sea paired a white woman with an Asian man, rather than the other way around, as per usual. I mean, he’s Sonny Chiba! What woman wouldn’t melt at the site of his black swim trunks?