By Rich Lynch: Somewhere around 60 years ago I had the bejeezus scared out of me.
I recently read in the File770.com newsblog that November 29th was the 60th anniversary of the premiere of the Cold War-era sci-fi movie The Atomic Submarine. I didn’t see it until probably a year or so later, when it was shown on one of those Saturday afternoon scary movie matinees that were popular on television stations back then. And boy was it scary! I was not yet a teenager and I remember that at the most intense point of the movie I had covered my face with my hand and squinted through the gap between my fingers.
Six decades later I’m trying to figure out why it seemed so frightening to me. The plot was fairly pedestrian as B-grade sci-fi movies go – a U.S. Navy atomic submarine (which was pretty new real-world technology back then) was sent on a mission, under the Arctic ice pack, to find out why ships had gone missing in that part of the world. It turns out that an undersea UFO was the cause, which is not much of a spoiler since the promotional poster for the movie shows a flying saucer. Why the UFO was hanging out and destroying ships that passed by its vicinity was never explained, but it all was just a MacGuffin to get the submarine and the UFO next to each other so we could get to see the alien monster.
And a nightmare-inducing monster it was! One-eyed, ugly, and truly evil – it killed off the redshirts of the boarding party in terrifying ways, and was planning to bring samples of humanity back to its own world to dissect in preparation of a large-scale invasion of Earth. How in the world (literally!) could the U.S. Navy prevent that from happening?
I expect that this movie is obscure enough that probably only the scary movie aficionados have ever seen it. But it turns out that if you want to see it, you can – it’s apparently now in public domain, and there’s a pretty good digital transfer available on YouTube. So you know what? I’m gonna watch it again. I know it’s not going to be very much of a “Keep Watching the Skies!” sense-of-wonder experience, but I still want to see if I’m even remotely as scared as I was way back then. And I’m kind of hoping that I will be. Well, maybe just a little anyway.