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Monday, December 20, 2010

Destination Inner Space

Harold Goldman and his United Pictures team put out a third low-budget film in 1966. Destination Inner Space (DIS) was more sci-fi than Dimension 5, but not much as Cyborg 2087. Arthur C. Pierce again wrote the screenplay, but this time with more quick recycling than originality. DIS may have had a modest theatrical release, based on the poster, but has all the hallmarks of a made-for-TV movie.

Quick Plot Synopsis
Commander Wayne is called to an undersea lab to help identify some odd signals. Is it a sub? A secret Soviet sub? No. It's not an animal either. It turns out to be an aquatic flying saucer, which settles onto the sea floor 2000 yards away. Distracting sub-plots begin. Sandy likes Maddox but he can't make a commitment. Maddox hates Wayne for some misdeed in their past. Wayne likes Rene, but she's too cool for him. Inside the saucer, a triangular block of ice is pushed out of a compartment. The ice melts away from the capsule-pod inside. Wayne, Maddox and Sandy investigate the saucer. Maddox brings back the pod. Once in the heat of the sea lab, it grows to double its size, then hatches a hunch-backed creature from the black lagoon. Said creature kills an expendable crewman, then departs. Creature then kills everyone aboard the surface support ship and trashes the air pumps, winch and radio. Now trapped inside the sea lab, Wayne and Maddox have it out over who did the bad thing years ago. Turns out Maddox was the coward who froze and killed the five sailors, not Wayne being heartless. Thus stripped of pride, Maddox bristles no more. Sandy is impressed with him admitting he was a coward. Wayne plots a trap for the gill man. They rig spear guns to trip wires. Hungry creatures obligingly comes in and gets a chest full of spears. It leaves. Wayne goes after it, followed by Maddox and Ellis. The creature jumps the, but all three men manage to subdue it. They bring it aboard the sea lab, tie it up and have it sedated. Wayne and Maddox then swim up to the support ship. Everyone dead. Nothing working. They do find some dynamite, though. They return to sea lab. Wayne rigs up a timer for their bomb. Wayne, Maddox and Sandy swim to the saucer. Meanwhile, Rene dabs the poor sedated gill man with water like a good nurse, but this awakens the creature. It breaks the chains and escapes to chase Wayne and company. Inside the saucer, the three have the bomb almost ready, but the creature jumps in, interrupting. Maddox holds off the creature while Wayne and Sandy escape. He tries to keep it at bay with a flare, which is predictably knocked into the case of dynamite. Big explosion. The saucer is gone in a cloud of silt. Many days later, later, aboard the sea lab, Dr. Lassiter is morose about the lost opportunity to study the alien. Wayne says it's okay, the President wants him to head up a team to be ready for next time. Dr. L is happy. Rene drops her ice princess act and jumps Wayne with a big kiss. The End.

Why is this movie fun?
Fans of 50s sci-fi will see several of the classics mashed into this one script. While not new or novel, the screenplay is at least comfortably familiar.

Cold War Angle
Other than a brief worry that the mystery sub might be some new soviet technology, the analogies of ruthless invaders (which drove the 50s movies), lingers only as an echo of those more sincere days.

Notes
Medley of Your Favorites -- Pierce cobbled together his screenplay from tried and true 50s classics. There is the element of a crew trapped somewhere with a murderous monster on the loose: The Thing ('50) and It! Terror from Beyond Space ('58) There the alien frozen in the block of ice which thaws and rampages, also from The Thing. From The Atomic Submarine ('59), we get the underwater alien saucer. Of course, there is the inescapable link to Creature from the Black Lagoon ('54) with the amphibious gill-man costume. Similar gill men monsters have terrorized coastal towns and party beaches too. That's just what gill monsters do.

Value Monster -- Most of the special effects budget must have gone into the monster costume. It's actually not too bad, given some of the really poor ones that had gone before it. The monster gets a fair amount of screen time. Yes, the hunch on his back is where his scuba tank is. It is interesting to note that the credits call the creature: "The Thing."

Scuba Padding -- Viewers will probably note how the run time of DIS is padded out with extended -- and a few times repeated -- footage of divers swimming in scuba gear. Swimming, swimming, swimming.

Tedious Subplots -- Also filling out the run time with non-action, are the three (or four) human drama subplots. Maddox and Wayne have a hostile history. Maddox accused Wayne of killing 5 crewmen by sealing up a flooding compartment on a stricken sub. Turns out it was Maddox who killed them by locking the escape hatch. Whatever. Sandy liked Maddox before, but now that he knows that she knows he was a coward, there's no hope for them. He's still a coward. This makes his sacrifice in the end his honor-redeeming act. Wayne has the hots for older-gal Rene, but she's too world wise for some navy wolf. But, when Wayne is all heroic and even kind, she jumps his bones. Whatever.

Logic Gap -- Pierce probably did not have much time to work on his script. It was bound to have a few inconsistencies. He has the premise that the people in the sea lab were trapped and could escape until a rescue ship comes. Yet, Wayne and Maddox were quite capable of swimming up to the supply ship for a look around, and return with some dynamite. If it was that easy, why couldn't everyone just swim up to the ship?

Bottom line? DIS is a low budget mash-up of previous stories. That gives it some nostalgia value for 50s sci-fi fans. Fans of gill man monster movies will probably like the monster. People expecting an A-quality movie will be disappointed. DIS is a B movie made of spare parts, for TV markets. It might be interesting to do a Goldman triple feature with Cyborg 2087, Dimension 5 and Destination Inner Space.

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