When I received my copy of Raiders from Beneath the Sea in the mail, I knew I by the artwork alone I was in for a real exercise in tedium. As soon as I popped the disc into my player late one evening after having consumed not nearly enough Guinness, the words “Lippert Incorporated Presents” appeared onscreen – giving me an even graver indication that I was about to slide into an obscure B-Movie Hell. I was right, of course: chock full of wooden acting, production values that seem even lower than that of a rushed Del Tenney feature, and featuring some truly funny rip-off music to boot, Raiders from Beneath the Sea is a laughably bad scuba heist drama from a group of clueless, underfunded filmmakers that undoubtedly never heard the expression “sink or swim.”
Taking what somebody on the crew must have fancied to be a lead performance, the big lumbering talent of Ken Scott plays a hapless schmuck named Bill – who schemes to rob a bank in Catalina via scuba diving equipment. In order to do so, he has to band together with his hotheaded and horny boozer of a brother, (Garth Benton, in his second and final big screen performance); an old diver with a weak heart named Tucker (B-Movie veteran Russ Bender, who almost sounds like he was living up to his last name), and a shady Okie crook named Purdy (Booth Colman). Second-billed Merry Anders is on-hand to serve as the ethical (she goes to church after soaking up martinis and sun in her skimpy bikini, after all) side of Scott’s conscious, but is utilized about as effectively as, well, a plot to rob a Catalina bank in scuba gear.
By the time the film actually gets to the heist portion of its pitiable excuse for a story, it is executed as swiftly as a victim on a freshly sharpened and oiled-up guillotine – with an ending so pathetic, you’ll have to rewind it all just to make sure you didn’t blink and miss any of the hilarity. I speak mostly of a truly side-splitting underwater death scene by boat propellers: and the poor kid who lost his beloved scuba diver action figure in the process. Frankly, I’m amazed this movie even had a budget big enough to shoot what little underwater sequences there are in the film. Most of the film stock was used by director Maury Dexter to shoot his awkward actors just sort of sitting around reciting their lines as best they can.
And speaking of dialogue, where else can you hear something as memorable as “Whenever I say something, I get about as much attention as Whistler’s father!” – delivered in such a fashion that it makes Ed Wood’s entire filmography combined seem like BAFTA winning material. Now, as for the rip-off music I mentioned earlier, let me just say this: imagine, if you will, what might happen were someone to take “More” – the theme from Mondo Cane – fuse it with “Telstar” by The Tornados, and perform it in a style that showcases what a Hammond organ can truly bring to a waning ’60s lounge act, and you’ve pretty much got the music from Raiders from Beneath the Sea sussed. And is it a coincidence both tunes had come out well before this movie and were still popular on the charts? Hardly. And does such music work when our thieves are learning all-too late that crime doesn’t pay? Of course not – and that, my friends, is why this movie is funny.
Naturally, the demand for a movie as epically awful as this 1964 dud has never been extremely high (if there wasn’t so much theatrical artwork available of the movie on the Internet, you could swear this movie was produced solely to be late night television fodder), so the addition of it to the Fox Cinema Archives lineup is a nice one indeed – though only cinemasochists should apply. The Manufactured-on-Demand DVD-R release is a barebones affair (what’d you expect?), with the feature presented in an above-passable but fairly grainy 1.33:1 aspect ratio with a satisfactory 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono audio track. Honestly, it’s more than a movie like this deserves. That said, however, I hope the movie’s rip-off soundtrack gets released on vinyl someday: it would be a wonderful way to clear a crowded room. But then, so would just putting on the movie itself.
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