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Destination Inner Space

a/k/a Terror from the Deep

     "Stick that under your microscope and examine it!"

-- Commander Wayne's awkward attempt at foreplay     




Gonzoid Cinema




"Help meeeeeeeee..."

Yes ... that there's a bug caught in the camera lens.


Watch it!




Familiar Voices /

Unfamiliar Faces:

Mike Road

a/k/a Race Bannon

Sights &
Inner Space
 Harold Goldman Assoc. /
 Television Enterprises /
 United Pictures /
 World Entertainment

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Terror from Beneath the Sea

Destination Inner Space

Island of the Fishmen

Spawn of the Slithis


When we open on a speedboat going full bore, destination, as of yet, unknown, we, as a viewer, cross our fingers, hoping it's not what I think it is and that we've stumbled upon an old episode of Flipper, or Sea Hunt -- hell, I'd even settle for an episode of Thunder in Paradise, but no, the overdramatic score cranks up a notch as the credits reveal we are indeed watching *gack* Destination Inner Space (...and that theramin thick soundtrack is sounding awfully familiar.) Meaning I, as a fellow human being, strongly suggest you crack open a couple of brews and start two-fisting it to help you through this one as a friendly warning of what is to come.

After the boat pulls up to a floating barge, clearly labeled The Institute of Marine Science, Commander Wayne (Scott Brady), USN, is greeted by the Skipper (Roy Barcroft) -- and I call it: no Gilligan's Island jokes if you please. Apparently, the Skipper runs the barge, but the real work is going on down in the Sea Lab, nestled on the ocean floor. Seems the man in charge down there, Dr. LaSatier (Gary Merrill), alerted the Navy that something strange has been going on, strange enough that they sent Wayne, a seasoned submarine commander, to investigate. (And how that makes him qualified is one of the film's many mysteries. And if you're expecting to find Captain Murphy, Marco, Sparks and the rest of the Sealab 2021 gang down there, too, keep dreaming.) As Wayne enters the diving bell/elevator, the Skipper, being the old salt that he is, offers a dire warning that the Commander might be wishing he was back on his sub before this current crisis is resolved.


Now, as it descends into the depths, I know this diving bell looks like one of those baking soda operated toys you'd find in the bottom of your Captain Crunch cereal box -- but it gets better. How? Well, because the Sea Lab its connected to looks like the bonus toy you got after sending in a dozen box-tops, $2, and a self addressed stamped envelope. And then, after waiting out six agonizing weeks, you get all pissy when it finally arrives because it doesn't resemble anything like what's pictured on the back of the cereal box. In other words: The Sea Lab is approximately three inches long -- or those are the biggest damned seaweed leaves I've ever seen. Once inside, LaSatier introduces Wayne to the rest of the staff: Dr. James (John Howard), Dr. Wilson (Biff Elliot), and their head marine biologist -- and absurd romantic subplot for this evening -- Renee Peron (Sheree North), who, due to her chick status and lack of lab coat, is never referred to as doctor. But notice how our square-jawed and paunchy hero is already giving her the old ogle-eye.

Told he's arrived just in time, they quickly escort Wayne to the main control room. Apparently, the big emergency involves a large unknown object that has been constantly buzzing Sea Lab's perimeter, and its just shown up on sonar again! Watching its wobbly but overall concentric pattern, Wayne concludes it isn't a submarine and assumes it to be a whale until Dr. Wilson points out the object must be electrical in nature because it also registers an ultrasonic frequency that humans can't hear but their instruments can pick up. In an effort to identify the thing, LaSatier tells Wayne that his head engineer, Hugh Maddox (Mike Road), and their photographer are already out in a mini-sub trying to get a picture of it. Wayne grows concerned upon hearing Maddox's name, and when Renee asks if he knows him, he worriedly nods his head affirmative -- he typed ominously...

Out in the water, the checkerboard bikini reveals the staff photographer is another chick, Sandra Wells (Wende Wagner). Spying something moving in the murky distance, the dissonant chords on the soundtrack says that's gotta be their target. When the scouting party radios in that they've spotted the target and are going in for a closer look, LaSatier reminds them they're almost out of air and orders the pair to return to base. Before they head back, as Sandy takes a quick snapshot, we can't help but notice that there's an awful lot of ambient light down at the bottom of the ocean ... Once they're back inside, LaSatier interrupts a lovers spat between Maddox and Sandy and asks to see their pictures right away. In the lab, Renee is giving the obviously bored Wayne a crash course in the ecological wonders of the deep. When Wayne finally interjects, saying there are a lot more interesting things to study around here besides seaweed, a quick retort to his lecherous come-on rightfully implies he's been serving on a sub for far too long. And after an embarrassing exchange about what sisters tell brothers about putting on the make, Renee sighs deeply as she starts to fall for the big dope.

Well, after that uncomfortably unromantic scene, how about some totally inappropriate racial humor? Yes? Well, hang on as Ho Lee (Victor Wong!), Sea Lab's cook (*groan*), intercepts Wayne and asks, in broken English, what he'd like for dinner. Then, when Wayne asks for fish instead of steak, Ho Lee frets because Where is he going to find fish for supper? See that's funny because they're in the ocean with all the fish down there -- and because he's Chinese, and ... eh, let's move on.

It had to happen eventually, and when Maddox and Wayne finally meet, they warily give each other the stink-eye while looking over Sandy's pictures of murky water. (And if Maddox's baritone voice is sounding familiar, it should. Stick around -- more on this later.) Since they still can't make out what the object is, when Wayne thinks they should shut Sea Lab down and call in the Navy until its found and neutralized, almost instantly, Maddox goes ballistic and accuses him of making another hasty decision. Ah, the plot thickens. And as those two glare at each other, LaSatier reminds Wayne that since Sea Lab is a civilian operation, he's in charge. With that settled in his favor, Maddox snipes that it's not like when they were on the Starfish -- Wayne's submarine, cluing us in on their prickly history. But before this can be unraveled any further, Dr. Wilson breaks in, warning that the object has returned -- and it's heading right for them!

...When one thinks of the 1960's and the subject of pioneering and exploration, we usually recall NASA's heyday of Gemini and Apollo and [allegedly] landing people on the moon. Yet the 1960's was also the era when people became fascinated with another area of exploration of the virtually unknown; not in outer space, but underneath the surface of the oceans. (How else could you possibly explain the success of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea -- but I kid.) 

Destination Inner Space combines both elements and comes up with one cheesy and gooey mess of a film. It is the realization of a nightmare; of what would happen if the Secret Toy Surprise inside your box of Captain Crunch turns homicidal, or your latest batch of Sea Monkeys go rogue and try to take over the world ... Does anyone else find it odd that in film's from this era, we Earthlings first instinct when encountering an alien life form is that it's hostile and to blow it to kingdom come? Sure, there's usually a token resistance put up by the scientific community to study it, and I know a lot of these invaders and visitors were allegories for the menace of Uncle Joe Stalin, but still, they've come all that way ... Howz' about a little hospitality before luring them into an electric flytrap? I guess survival instincts hold sway over our curious nature. Will the denizens of Sea Lab make the same mistakes? I don't know, but we're about to find out because the mystery object is currently on a collision course. As it closes in, Wayne thinks they should seal up Sea Lab and prepare for the worst, but LaSatier balks until Wilson points out that the object's high frequency waves could, in layman's terms, use Sea Lab's metal hull as a microwave and cook everyone trapped inside. With that prospect looming, LaSatier raises the alarm and orders everyone to emergency stations -- which leads to more high hilarity with Ho Lee.

When the object gets close enough, we see that it isn't a whale, or a sub, but a UUFO [Unidentified Underwater Floating Object], and as the startled company inside watches through a huge porthole, it passes right over the top them. The thing then moves on, until it settles to the bottom and starts pinging. Aboard the Sea Lab, when the only casualties of the close encounter are some frayed nerves of the wimmenfolk, Wayne assures them they did fine and that they're the best looking crew he's ever served with. *sigh* While the others check for damage, Sandy corners Wayne to find out what happened between him and Maddox. It seems Wayne was Maddox's commanding officer on the Starfish, and something really bad happened that caused Maddox to quit. But when Wayne refuses go into any details, Sandy gets angry and accuses him of being the reason Maddox quit before storming off.

Next, we have a jarring cut, and since there is little difference between the interiors, I'll clue you in that we're no longer aboard Sea Lab and are now inside the UUFO. (Note to the filmmakers, an establishing shot would have come in real handy here!) Slowly, a glowing disco light descends from the ceiling and starts flashing; then a hatch opens up, and a lever pushes a giant cocktail wiener, frozen in a cube of ice, out into the light, where it slowly starts to melt. Back in the Sea Lab, as Maddox suits up in the diving room, Wayne enters and announces he's going with him to investigate the UUFO. Irrational as ever, Maddox starts ranting about five men, a flooding compartment on the Starfish, Wayne refusing to open the hatch to let them out, causing all five men drowned. Ah, the plot thickens some more. When Wayne counters that Maddox somehow got out of the flooding compartment all right, the fight is really on; but LaSatier, Renee and Sandy enter before the men come to blows. Old grudges will have to wait, warns LaSatier, until the present threat is dealt with. Both men grudgingly agree and suit up. Sandy wants to come, too, but Maddox deems it too dangerous and orders her to stay behind. And after Wayne sucks in his gut and squeezes into a wetsuit, the men depart. Once they're gone, Renee encourages Sandy to sneak after them.

After an extended scuba-diving sequence, where they swim and swim and swim and swim and swim, Sandy catches up and the men let her tag along. Entering the UUFO through a big hole in the bottom that we can only assume is a design flaw (-- and how the heck those three all fit inside that little UUFO prop is another mystery), once inside, they find it very very cold but empty -- except for the now defrosted, two-foot long cocktail wiener. While Maddox and Sandy poke at it, Wayne checks the other symmetrical compartments and finds more frozen cocktail wieners inside them. Convinced the craft is of extraterrestrial origin (-- it reminds me of a bowling alley, go figure --) Wayne thinks they should return to Sea Lab and call in reinforcements. Maddox agrees and picks up the cocktail wiener to bring with them, gladly ignoring Wayne's orders to leave it behind. And when they leave, close your eyes unless you want a big old buffalo shot of Wayne swimming away.

Back at Sea Lab, when Renee determines the cocktail wiener to be organic, and quite possibly an egg, an eager Dr. LaSatier wants to crack it open and examine the creamy center. But Wayne won't let him, threatening to call in the Navy and declare martial law if he has to, so hands off. Coming to the big dope's defense, as Renee warns that whatever it is inside might prove dangerous, several beakers topple over on the examining table. No one touched anything, but the mystery is quickly solved when Renee realizes the cocktail wiener is growing! Running a sensor over it, Dr. Wilson detects an increase in high frequency sound-waves. Wanting to at least X-Ray the egg, LaSatier continues to badger Wayne as he leaves to radio his superiors, leaving Dr. Wilson and Renee alone in the lab. Suddenly, the sound output of the cocktail wiener, now over five feet long, quickly intensifies, causing Wilson and Renee intense pain. When the sound-waves start shattering all the glass test tubes and beakers, Wilson orders Renee to get out while he retrieves a container of deadly acid before it breaks, too. But Wilson is too late and it explodes in his face, and as the acid's deadly vapor fills the room, Renee raises the alarm!

Wayne and a white-shirted ensign are the first on scene. Now, a white-shirted ensign is from the same species -- deadicus meati expendable -- as a red-shirted ensign of the Star Trek genus. Both share similar traits, especially a tragically short life expectancy. Donning gas masks and armed with fire extinguishers, the men head inside and use the foam to suppress the vapor -- and find the cocktail wiener, split open and empty! And then what was inside the wiener attacks and kills the white-shirted ensign from behind! (Everyone should have seen that coming.) Kind of a cross between The Horror of Party Beach monsters and those fish men in that one Outer Limits episode, the hatchling comes after Wayne -- but he blasts it with foam, then grabs the injured Wilson and drags him outside the lab. Inside, we hear glass breaking and a rush of water before Wayne seals the door shut. When Maddox and the others arrive, though Wayne warns that something's in there and it killed one of the men, an obdurate Maddox tries to go in anyway until Wayne stops him from flooding the whole complex. Of course, Maddox doesn't believe him -- about the monster, and thinks Wayne is up to his old tricks again. Ignoring him, Wayne once more suggests to LaSatier that they abandon Sea Lab and call in the Navy. But as Wayne puts in call topside, the monster surfaces and kills everyone on board the barge. Down below, when the radio line goes dead and the power kicks off, luckily, the emergency generators kick in. What's not so luckily, Sea Lab gets it's air from a pump topside -- and they've only got about 12 hours worth of oxygen left unless they can get it going again.

Despite all the evidence to the contrary, LaSatier doesn't think the alien is hostile, was only defending itself in the lab, and wants a chance to communicate with it. But Wayne's not listening and orders another white-shirted ensign to get him a spear-gun and meet him in the diving room. Entering the pressurized chamber, the monster suddenly emerges out of the pool! Wayne and Maddox barely get the hatch shut in time but not before the white-shirted ensign gets savaged by one of it's claws and is hauled off to the infirmary ... With the radio out, the diving bell inoperable, and quickly running out of air -- and not to mention an alien monster lurking about, our trapped aquanauts weigh their diminishing options. A supply vessel is due at noon, but that's cutting it very close on the oxygen reserves. Ordered to seal off the lab to conserve the air, LaSatier protests that there are marine specimens that need oxygen in the lab. (Aren't the fish getting their air through the water? And wasn't the lab flooded anyway?) But Wayne has a different set of priorities, and after ordering everyone else to the control room to save all the oxygen they can, using the largest pithy brush he can find, LaSatier tells Wayne that he can remove Dr. Wilson from his cold equations because he has moved on to that great coral reef in the sky. Also, Renee brings word that the injured white-shirted ensign has developed a nasty infection and will die unless they get him to a hospital very soon.

The situation dire and nearly hopeless, it's time for action. But when Wayne asks for help in subduing the creature, Maddox refuses to take orders from the ruthless tyrant. Having had enough, Wayne dresses down Maddox in front of everyone, angrily accusing him of lying to himself and the others. Sure, Wayne sealed off that flooding compartment on the Starfish way back when. He had to to save the rest of the crew. But there was an escape hatch in that compartment. And why was Maddox the only one who managed to get through it? With that out of the bag, Wayne pushes further, accusing Maddox of panicking, and freezing up, while the others drowned -- and he's been transferring his guilt on to Wayne ever since. Ah, the plot comes to a boil. But then, Wayne's tirade softens a bit; he admits that everybody has a breaking point, and anybody can crack under that kind of pressure. Encouraged to stand up and admit it, like a man, Maddox confesses: he did freeze up, and that's why he left the Navy because he couldn't face his comrades after that. And just like that, Wayne welcomes him back to the fight and they're suddenly bestest friends again. Ah, the plot sputters and pees down it's own leg. 

With that crisis resolved, while the others leave to set a trap for the creature, Sandy consoles Maddox, saying it was brave to fess up -- and now that he's admitted to killing five people, she's more then willing to fall in love and marry him. (Gah!) Meanwhile, after rounding up yet another white-shirted ensign, Wayne gathers up several spear guns and sets up an elaborate trap for the creature. Arc-welding the guns to the bulkheads (-- way to conserve oxygen there, ya knot-heads), they string rope through the triggers and set a trip wire in front of the diving room door. The trap set, Wayne knocks on the hull, sounding the dinner bell, and that brings the creature a running. Tripping the wire, it takes three spears in the chest, then, roaring in pain,  stumbles back into the diving room and jumps into the water.

Believing it's only wounded, when Wayne wants to go after the creature and finish it off, Maddox and the last white-shirted ensign (-- and considering the monster's score, buddy, I'd reconsider this --) volunteer and suit up to go with him. Armed with more spear guns, they play a game of cat and mouse -- or maybe shark and tuna, considering the circumstances -- with the creature until Maddox manages to get another spear into it, and what follows is an odd underwater ballet of flailing arms, legs, and slow-motion punches as the men try to subdue the creature; kind of a precursor of future movie fight choreography, like a low-tech version of bullet time from The Matrix. Quite a sight folks, quite a sight ... Now, the outcome of this fight appears to be far from settled, but the editor saves our heroes as we magically jump-cut back inside the Sea Lab, where Wayne, Maddox and the (-- I'm as shocked as you are that he's still alive --) white-shirted ensign hold the creature down while LaSatier gives it a sedative. 

As the monster quiets down, Wayne orders the white-shirted ensign to secure the creature while he and Maddox head topside to get the pumps working again. Alas, the white-shirted ensign must have failed basic seamanship, judging by those knots and shoddy work on binding the creature -- and to make it worse, LaSatier held back on the sedative dose, not wanting to harm the creature, so if you see this ending in fire, too, give yourself a cookie ... Wayne and Maddox quickly make it to the surface without getting the bends and make a grisly search of the barge. Maddox says the diving bell is toast but the pump is OK. But that's not what's got Wayne worried: he's thinking about the UUFO -- and the other dozen or so cocktail wieners still on board! ... Almost on cue, we cut to inside the spaceship, where another frozen cocktail wiener is shoved out and starts defrosting under the disco light ... Back on the barge, when Wayne asks if they any explosives, Maddox says they have some TNT left over from when the cleared the coral reef for the Sea Lab. (Now that's conservation for ya!) With the explosives in tow, the men return to Sea Lab and start rigging a detonator for it. Seeing what they're up to, and now fully succumbed to Carrington's Syndrome, LaSatier begs them not to destroy the UUFO. Warning that it isn't a visitor but an invader, Wayne says they have to stop it before more creatures can be hatched. While those two argue, Sandy gets her man alone and they have one of those ungodly maudlin conversations that only convinces us that poor Maddox probably won't be around for the final reel ... With the detonator finished, when Wayne and Maddox submerge to deliver it, once again, Sandy sneaks after them. Entering the UUFO, the trio spot the nearly defrosted cocktail wiener and start setting the charges.

Back on the Sea Lab, Renee, feeling sorry for the creature, starts to apply water to it to keep it from drying out. With that boost, the monster, that had been stirring, rages awake and breaks it's bindings rather easily. But it ignores Renee and heads straight for the diving room and plunges into the sea ... Meanwhile, in the UUFO, the charges are set and Wayne starts the timer, just as the monster crashes through the entrance and comes after them. Igniting a flare, Maddox holds the creature off and orders Wayne to get Sandy out of there. (The poor sap, he never stood a chance -- and it's doubly hard trying to be heroic while wearing those huge-ass flippers.) Wayne grabs Sandy, who won't leave her man voluntarily, and jumps back into the water, leaving Maddox to wrestle with the creature until it knocks the flare away, where it conveniently lands on the explosives. Out in the water, Wayne and Sandy barely get clear before the UUFO detonates into a very small pieces, taking Maddox, the creature, and all the frozen cocktail wieners with it.

Weeks later, after things are repaired and brought back to normal, Wayne returns to Sea Lab, where he finds everyone packing up their gear and in a solemn mood. Finding LaSatier in the lab, staring through the porthole at the sea, he tells Wayne that they blew a golden opportunity; they had a brand new life form to study but instead they blew it up. Ignoring that, Wayne thanks him for overseeing the repair operations on Sea Lab, but now, the President of these United States wants to see him. Seems the Commander-n-Chief realizes that the first UUFO had to be destroyed, but he wants to put Dr. LaSatier and his group in charge of researching a plan to communicate with the aliens if and when another one shows up (-- and then apologize for blowing up their first ambassador before Wayne blows the second one up, too.) With that, LaSatier perks up, answering they can't keep that man waiting and leaves to gather his things. Wayne then turns his attentions to Renee and asks what's the best pick up trick her brothers ever taught her. Ready to try something different, namely the direct approach, Renee leaps into his arms and smooches him.

The End

Man, it's been awhile since I've been able to really tee off on something and Destination Inner Space is just what the doctor ordered -- and exactly what this patient needed. I have bathed in it's awful waters, immersed myself in the absurdity, and come out a recharged crap-critic.

Truthfully, the film's plot is kind of interesting and even needles into the unique with an alien invader that sends a remote controlled ship with a batch of frozen eggs, destined to be thawed out and hatched, to establish a beachhead on it's selected target. I also liked how it's high-pitched frequency poses new dangers, like microwaving everyone inside Sea Lab. Science was never my strongest subject but it appears that some thought went in to techno-jargon the players speak. There is also some question to the creatures origins. Is it from outer space? Or sent up from the deep trenches that LaSatier refers to? Unfortunately, the film's moronic subplots weigh down and eventually scuttle and sink any novel ideas the film might have had. The forced romance between Renee and Wayne is bad enough, but it pales when compared to the brewing psychosis between Wayne and Maddox. The film actually does a good job of building tension between these two, despite both actor's ham-fisted delivery, but then it all falls apart in the abrupt revelation of Maddox's delusions, followed by his ridiculously quick recovery and redemption. Wow ... that was just awful.

So. The plot will give you brain damage, but this is a monster movie, right? What about the special effects? Does it deliver the goods? Well, uhm, geez ... Where to begin: the monster, or the amphibian, as it's referred to during most of the film, is a sight to behold. Quite solid at first glance, I've seen much worse in other films, but upon further inspection one can't help but notice the brand-name flippered feet, or the big bulge on his back that's hiding the air tank. Better still are the few hilarious instances when the Monster turns, just right, and the sunlight illuminates through his two huge eyeholes and you can see the stuntman, Ron Burke's, head silhouetted inside!

I've already touched on the Secret Toy Surprise origins of the miniature work, but let's continue. The biggest problem is there's nothing to give you any sense of scale. Things are lit all wrong and you can't help but notice these props are barley inches long or built to a smaller scale. Once inside, the sets are pretty barren with rigged aquariums passing as portholes. And with all the ambient light, I'm going to assume that the Sea Lab is submersed in about 10-feet of water -- so what's the point of being submerged at all? The underwater stunt work is fine and the monster holds up in his water scenes. But keep a sharp eye out for several instances of the monster lurking about and watch the bottom of the screen, where it appears some kind of bug got caught in the lens and is desperately trying to escape.

The familiar, and overused, soundtrack was lifted from another similarly plotted underwater alien invasion movie, The Atomic Submarine. The theramin instrument has an eerie, ethereal aquatic sound, making it appropriate, but it can grow annoying after awhile The film is also chock full of stock sound-effects from the Hanna-Barbera cartoon library. The monster's war hoop began life as a pteranadon on The Valley of the Dinosaurs or Dino Boy. Speaking of which, if Maddox's voice did sound familiar to you, but you can't quite place it, let me help you out: Mike Road's unmistakable resonance provided the voice for several Hanna-Barbera staples, including Zandor from The Herculoids but he's probably best remembered, to me anyways, as the voice of Race Bannon from Johnny Quest. Coupling all that together makes something about this movie -- the sets, the props, the plot, and the actors -- trigger some latent Saturday morning memories in me. Was this thing made for TV? It felt like a live-action segment from one of those old Saturday morning anthology shows, like The Banana Splits or The Kroft Super Show. Anybody know for sure?

If you're thinking I'm being too harsh on this movie, I only do it because I love every hair-brained minute of it. It's awful -- but it's also hilarious. I can't explain it beyond that. What is the strange charm that these things hold over me? What is this mesmerizing power that keeps me coming back to them again and again and again?

Behold! The Power of Cheese! 

Thank you, movie. Thank you.

Destination Inner Space (1966) Harold Goldman Assoc. :: Television Enterprises Corporation :: United Pictures :: World Entertainment Corp. / EP: Fred Jordan / P: Earle Lyon / AP: Wendell E. Niles Jr. / D: Francis D. Lyon / W: Arthur C. Pierce / C: Brick Marquard / E: Robert S. Eisen / M: Paul Dunlap / S: Scott Brady, Sheree North, Gary Merrill, Wende Wagner, Mike Road, James Hong
Originally Posted: 05/20/03 :: Rehashed: 11/15/09

Knuckled-out by Chad Plambeck: misspeller of words, butcher of all things grammatical, and king of the run on sentence. Copy and paste at your own legal risk. Questions? Comments? Shoot us an e-mail.

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