On 17 June 1945, PCU [Pre-Commissioning Unit] CUBERA (SS-347) was launched at Electric Boat Company in Groton, CT. Although she joined the fleet too late to take part in World War II, she made her mark on the silver screen in Ray Harryhausen’s 1955 science-fiction film It Came from Beneath the Sea. Much of the movie was shot at San Francisco Naval Shipyard, so several real Sailors played supporting roles. But CUBERA was a central character, portraying an atomic sub (which, in reality, she was not) that tangles with a giant octopus (which, in reality, had only six arms because of budget constraints). What follows is a brief summary of the plot of the movie that made an unassuming diesel-powered sub into a Hollywood star.
A nuclear submarine on her shakedown cruise in the Pacific is damaged when she comes into contact with something massive. After the boat frees herself and returns to Pearl Harbor, workers find huge chunks of animal tissue jammed in her dive planes. A team of marine biologists determines that the tissue is part of a gigantic octopus. Military authorities scoff at this explanation, but are finally persuaded to investigate after receiving reports of missing swimmers and ships pulled under by an unidentified living being. The scientists eventually conclude that the octopus is from the Mindanao Deep and has been forced out of its natural habitat by hydrogen-bomb testing in the area. The testing has rendered the octopus radioactive, which drives off its natural food supply.
As the octopus continues its rampage, the government is forced to evacuate all sea traffic in the North Pacific. When the creature attacks a local sheriff on the coast of Oregon, the government mines the waters along the entire Pacific coast; officials retreat to Navy headquarters in San Francisco. An electrified safety net is strung underwater across the entrance to San Francisco Bay to protect the Golden Gate Bridge. A special jet-propelled atomic torpedo, with which the government hopes to destroy the creature, is prepared, and not a moment too soon. Later that same day, the giant octopus demolishes the net across the Bay and heads toward San Francisco.
The Navy orders the Golden Gate Bridge abandoned, which turns out to have been a good idea when the creature catches sight of the bridge, becomes enraged, and attacks. Scientists and Navy personnel launch a submarine, loaded with the atomic torpedo, and prepare to attack. But when the creature is shot, it retaliates by grabbing the submarine. Using an aqualung, the boat’s commanding officer swims out to the octopus and places explosive charges on it before being knocked out by the creature’s flailing arms. One of the scientists then swims out and shoots the octopus in the eye, forcing it to release the ship, and pulls the C.O. to safety. Back at the base the torpedo is remotely detonated, destroying the giant octopus as it heads back out to sea.
2,546 viewers on the Internet Movie Database give the film an average rating of 5.9 out of 10. One reviewer, who titles his remarks “I Left My Tentacle in San Francisco,” calls it “a fine piece of classic science fiction entertainment.”