Thursday, July 4, 2024


Included on Kino's SCI-FI CHILLERS Blu-ray release is the 1966 underwater adventure DESTINATION INNER SPACE. 

The story takes place in a sea lab resting on the ocean floor, crewed by scientists and civilians. The lab has picked up a strange underwater signal, and a Naval Commander named Wayne (Scott Brady) arrives on the base to investigate. The signal is actually a flying saucer-type craft, and Wayne and others from the sea lab enter the ship, where they discover a strange cylinder. The group brings the cylinder back to the base, where it grows larger, and eventually bursts open to reveal a large amphibian creature. Wayne and the staff of the sea lab must battle the creature while trying to investigate its origins. 

DESTINATION INNER SPACE may have been made in 1966, but it feels like it comes from 1956. The main reason for that is the story and low budget, but the main cast plays a part in that as well. Scott Brady, Sheree North, and Gary Merrill all had much better acting opportunities in the Fifties. 

The big twist in this genre tale is that the dangerous alien creature is underwater instead of in outer space. It is a unique idea, although it appears the major reason for it was to save money. This movie has plenty of underwater footage, but it is used in the same way as a lot of cheap sci-fi pics used military stock footage--to pad the running time without enlarging the budget. The interior of the sea lab has a generic military-scientific facility look to it, while the exterior of the sea lab and the 'swimming' (as opposed to flying) saucer are models. The problem with the sea lab and saucer models is that they are placed in actual underwater locations, which means that they are shown against real underwater plants and terrain. The result is the perspective is out of whack, and they look just like the small models that they are. 

As for the amphibious creature, it looks like a child's version of the Creature of the Black Lagoon. It's also brightly colored, so instead of being menacing, it comes off as something from either a kiddie show or an early Doctor Who episode. (One does have to give the main cast credit for keeping a straight face around it, and reacting to it as if it is a genuine threat.) More expressive lighting on the creature might--I say might--have helped a bit. (As a matter of fact, the whole movie might have worked better if it had been in black & white and in full frame. Being in color and in widescreen just exacerbates the movie's production problems.) 

Scott Brady does a decent job as the main hero, though he comes off at times as a grumpy middle-aged man (multiple times he struggles to strap scuba gear around his belly). The younger macho male hero is played by Mike Road, who was the voice of Race Bannon on the original JONNY QUEST animated TV show. The script establishes that Brady and Road's characters have a tumultuous history, which caused me to predict exactly how these men would fare at the end of the film. Sheree North and Wende Wagner play female members of the sea lab crew, and their main function is to act as romantic foils to Brady and Road, and to scream loudly when appropriate. Gary Merrill plays a scientist, who as expected wants to study the creature while Brady wants to destroy it. John Howard plays the sea lab's doctor, and he's also in THE UNKNOWN TERROR, which is also featured on the same Kino set as this film. 

The movie was directed in a generic, journeyman-like fashion by Francis D. Lyon, and written by Arthur C. Pierce. DESTINATION INNER SPACE has the overlit, bland look of 1960s television. (It feels very much like an episode of VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA.) 

Something that struck me while watching this movie for the first time--it has a lot in common with (believe it or not) James Cameron's THE ABYSS. An underwater facility staffed by civilians, an encounter with aliens, a mile-long trench located nearby, a military officer arriving at the facility and causing tension, the facility being cut off from the surface world and the people inside struggling to stay alive and faced with a time limit--both DESTINATION INNER SPACE and THE ABYSS have these things in common. I'm certainly not trying to say that both films are comparable in quantity, but it is something to think about. 

DESTINATION INNER SPACE isn't a great science fiction film by any means, but it is serviceable and watchable enough. A better looking creature would have helped things considerably. 



  1. I have a very bad bootleg copy of this movie that I picked up at a flea market years ago. It's practically unwatchable, and I have no idea why I still have it. Maybe I need to get this Kino package. Scott Brady was quite the leading man type in the 50s, but he seemed to age very quickly. He was a formidable match for Joan Crawford and Sterling Hayden in Johnny Guitar. I think Gary Merrill, at this stage, was just trying to pay the rent.

  2. This flick has never raised even a ripple of interest in me over the years until you mentioned the cast. If anyone could salvage this sunken sci-fi vessel, it's Sheree North! It would also be a real kick to see Mike Road in front of the camera after kicking ass as Race Bannon on the JONNY QUEST cartoon just a couple of years before this! I will always fondly remember Scott Brady from his shouting matches with Darren McGavin in THE NIGHT STRANGLER (1973).
    You are quite right about color versus black-and-white. Cheap films in color with bad set decoration and flat lighting always look twice as cheap as black-and-white with just a bit of lighting finesse.
    It is interesting that you noted this movie as a precursor to THE ABYSS. Many "respectable" big-budget productions are hardly pioneering in their concepts. As they say, there's nothing new under the sun--or under the sea.