For Reel


Below the Sea (1933)
August 20, 2016, 12:03 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Albert S. Rogell
3 Stars
Below the Sea1933 was an unusually productive year for Fay Wray. Not only would she star in the film that made her a genre film icon in King Kong, but she starred in an additional ten pictures—ranging from the feminist drama Ann Carver’s Profession to horror classic Mystery of the Wax Museum. Below the Sea came right after King Kong and once again found her tangling with a monster: this time a giant octopus! Ralph Bellamy is the unlikely romantic lead in this pre-Code adventure that finds crooked divers searching for gold from a German U-Boat that was lost in World War I. The earliest scenes with Bellamy show him playing the brute complete with beard and eyeshadow. It’s a ridiculous performance—his best work would take advantage of his awkwardness rather than try to mask it—but his scowls and groans produce much entertainment. Wray, on the other hand, is quite good as the scientific explorer who seduces him, as is Esther Howard in a small role as a prostitute (she resembles and plays her scenes with the same sass as Miriam Hopkins). Although the film is by-and-large a standard actioner, director Albert S. Rogell shows a playfulness in the presentation, including a lengthy sequence in German without subtitles and a creative editing transition using a diegetic camera. The climax sees a well-handled use of miniatures and some sly editing as an octopus attacks a diving bell, but the film’s real pleasures have nothing to do with a sense of realism—Below the Sea is a delightful blend of pre-Code brazenness and adventure schlock, complimenting each deep diving scene with innuendo-laden dialogue.

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