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Rated R
Copyright 1967 Reynolds-Vetter Productions Ltd.
Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 17 April 2012

The Characters:  

  • Cmdr. Shaw - His experimental underwater laboratory imploded, so he is assigned as senior testing official, U.S. Navy Forces Out to Pasture, Ashore.
  • Tila Yung - I bet she gets tired of servicemen asking what a pretty girl like her is doing in a hole like this.
  • Dr. Arnold Kramer - Part anteater, part scientist, and all-American. He's also mad as a hatter, though I doubt he's ever worn a felt hat and presumably has enough sense to avoid drinking quicksilver.
  • SgtMaj. Mulberry - "Sir, if you call me 'sergeant' one more time, I am going to get Bataan on your a**."
  • Cmdr. Cassidy - Computer technician who flies a desk. Because this is 1967, his computer is so big that it dwarfs his house.
  • Dr. Kengh Lee - You look just about as Chinese as Tony Randall.
  • Gen. Chan Lu - You look more like Tony Randall than a Chinese person.

Buy It!

The Plot: 

This review is for William Russell.

As the film begins, Las Vegas' finest (meaning the police, not strippers, showgirls, or escorts) are called to the site of a disturbance. They find Dr. Arnold Kramer, eminent scientist, with his ear to the sidewalk, yelling about something digging underneath their feet. Arnold is not half as crazy as he appears to be. There are not giant ants making a nest under Las Vegas, even though I would happily pay money to see a movie about giant ants. What is slowly crawling below the Earth of free America is much more insidous.

Hold on, I'll tell you what it is in a minute.

Elsewhere, Commander Shaw is not enjoying his reassignment to shore duty following an accident of undetermined nature that destroyed his pet project, SeaLab VII, and killed twenty-seven men. Instead of actual research or having a ship to command, the Commander finds himself testing pipes. It's not exactly rewarding work for one of the brightest minds in the U.S. Navy, but at least he is not a guest at one of the military's correctional facilities, peeling potatoes next to mother stabbers and father rapers. Nor is he experiencing the hospitality of a state mental institution, like Mr. Kramer. He goes to visit Arnold, because the two have known each other for years. The visit causes Shaw to think that his old buddy is as crazy as the psychiatrists say.

Later on, a random news report about a tragedy at a deep mine in Oregon gets Shaw to thinking. He takes a trip to personally investigate the mine collapse and discovers something fantastic: a mysterious medallion and an unexplained tunnel with smooth sides. Taking some samples back to the Navy lab only creates more questions. To find out what is really going on, the Commander leads two squads of Marines down into the hole. They discover a room filled with Chinese and atomic bombs! The Marines attack and easily defeat the Chinese in a decidedly one-side battle. The outcome is not surprising, since most of the Chinese are technicians who are only armed with clipboards.

What is surprising is that the Marines quickly set to work rendering the atomic weapons unusable. All of the bombs look like stainless steel milk tanks turned on their sides. Making them inert involves uncapping one end and reaching in to remove a small cylinder that is resting in a cradle. The cylinders appear to be 9 oz CO2 tanks. My trouble is knowing what they are, but not what they are supposed to be. They cannot simply be the fuse, because that would be easy to replace. Perhaps the cylinders are supposed to be the plutonium or tritium. If that is the case, then those Marines should not be handling the cylinders with their bare hands.

Deactivating an atomic bomb is not the sort of thing that you should rush. Unfortunately, the return of a Chinese tunnel-making machine means that the Marines are out of luck and out of time. Commander Shaw and his compatriots finish removing the tritium cylinders from the bombs, but then have to deal with the tunnel-making machine. While not a military vehicle, it is not the sort of thing that a Marine wants to run into in a dark tunnel. It does not have a huge drill on the front, because the tunnels are created with a super boring laser thingamajig. So, the Chinese tunneling machines look like armored zambonis. The Marines do what Marines always do when faced with armored vehicles: they throw grenades at it until it explodes.

Actually, that only happens in video games. When Marine infantry is forced to engage enemy armor, we like to use just about everything besides grenades. This makes everybody happy, except the crew of the armored vehicle. Especially thankful are the 0352 TOW gunners who finally get a chance to expend one of the missiles they have always wanted to shoot, but which are too expensive to use for training.

After conducting a tactical retreat from the Chinese tunnel, Commander Shaw returns to the laboratory so he and the other brass can plan their next move against the subterranean red menace. Gentlemen, this is not a matter for discussion. There is a Red Chinese tunnel under the United States! You should divert the Colorado River into it or else send in a lot of Marines to clear the artificial cave system room by room. Imagine how much fun a battalion of Marines would have in the Underdark. Well, except for encountering all sorts of weird creatures that could only be dreamed up by nerds with too much time. Having my skin turned into slime by an aboleth or my brain puréed by an illithid would suck (yea, mightily). On the other hand, a movie about a squad of Marines fighting beholders and cave fishers would be a lot of fun.

I know that the SyFy folks read the site, so consider the suggestion officially submitted. It will probably be made, get turned into a series, become extremely popular with a group of hardcore fans, and then get cancelled after the first season. That's just the way the SyFy cookie crumbles. To be honest, that's the way that every SyFy cookie crumbles.


While the Americans scramble to figure out what is going on under the purple mountains and fruited plains, the Chinese continue their tunneling activities. General Lu and Doctor Lee are only mildly concerned that the United States has finally discovered their tunnels. They are nearly ready to proceed with the final phase of their plan. The thermonuclear weapons are, of course, intended to be detonated below every major American city and military installation. I would guess that the Chinese intend to dig upwards and leave their little present inside someone's basement, then set the timer and retreat to a safe distance until the "All's Destroyed" signal. After the bombs are detonated, the Chinese are prepared to conduct a military invasion to overpower what is left of America's military forces.

This tunnel stretches all the way from China to the United States. Where are they getting their fresh air? Heck, where are they getting the genuine imitation Chinese restaurant decor?

There is one huge, glaring problem with this movie. No, it is not the general premise. Nor is it the Marines (even the Private) all looking like they reached retirement age ten years ago. It's not even the idea that the Chinese use big vacuum tube capsules like the ones you see in a bank's drive-through to get from one end of the tunnel to the other. The biggest problem with "Battle Beneath the Earth" is that the Chinese do not look Chinese; not even by my standards. I am talking about the two main characters, Lee and Lu. The job that makeup did on the two actors makes it appear that they are old men who have had way too much cosmetic surgery. They look more Botox than Chinese.

General Lu's second in command does look Chinese, but the general shoots him for incompetence. Meaning that we're right back to square one. Hrumpf!

Back at the American lab, Dr. Kramer and the others are making good progress is replicating the Chinese tunneling technology. What they are having a problem doing is finding the existing tunnels. Even using the giant government computer, with its reels of magnetic tape and army of support technicians, proves fruitless. There is too much extra noise going on to pinpoint the relatively silent Chinese tunneling machines. What the scientists finally do is order the entire country to be quiet for ten minutes so the computers can listen for the Chinese moles. Amazingly, it works. Mass transit grinds to a halt, construction workers stop jackhammering, farmers stop plowing, and rednecks stop fishing with dynamite. The last state to go quiet is Texas, which is probably on account of some idiot out in bumf**k digging out a stump. Stop digging for ten minutes, ya durn fool. The Chinese are coming! Nobody cares about that stupid stump. It's almost time for supper anyhow.

The moments of silence work. The computer maps out the network of Chinese tunnels under the ocean and the United States. Commander Shaw and Doctor Kramer know where the Chinese are at, meaning that our national foundation has a fighting chance. Hooray for American ingenuity! Hooray for the big-a** computer! Hooray for all the female employees in white blouses and gray skirts!

Remember when science was all about big rolls of magnetic tape, pretty women in tastefully fitting skirts, and beeps? Man, I miss those beeps.

With the location of the Chinese tunnels mapped out, the Americans are finally ready to go on the offensive. Using a prototype tunneling machine built by Dr. Kramer using bits and pieces of the destroyed Chinese vehicle, the American forces intend to disrupt the tunnel at it's most vulnerable point near Hawaii. I can hear the Marines now, "What? We have to go TAD to Hawaii? Oh, no!" Unfortunately, once the Americans descend into the tunnels things go terribly wrong. The small strike force is ambushed by Chinese troops and either killed or taken prisoner. In the end, it is up to the main characters to escape from their cell, hijack an underground atomic bomb train, and destroy the Chinese tunnel system.

Oh, and Commander Shaw hooks up with Dr. Yung, because she is hot.

Things I Learned From This Movie: 

  • Never, ever follow any advice that you get from the sidewalks in Vegas.
  • The Department of the Navy has jurisdiction over all military operations that take place below sea level.
  • Marines are trained to defuse nuclear bombs while they are at Boot Camp.
  • The space race was a Red Chinese herring.
  • Both paper and halogen headlights beat rock.
  • The only tool needed to arm or disarm a nuclear weapon is a 5.5mm allen wrench.
  • If a Chinese person and an elf conceived a child it would look exactly like Mr. Spock.
  • Atomic bombs make a ticking sound when they are about to explode.
  • Radioactive fallout causes the most beautiful sunsets.

Stuff To Watch For: 

  • 19 mins - It's a genuine Fu Manchu belt buckle with decoder ring! I got one of those in a box of Count Chocula cereal when I was a kid.
  • 26 mins - "Oh, don't shoot them."
  • 38 mins - Paint cans filled with soy sauce. How diabolical!
  • 47 mins - You'd think that they would have unrolled a spool of comm wire as they went.
  • 56 mins - Ah, back when the Air Force was so poor they couldn't even afford paint for their aircraft.
  • 61 mins - I would have died laughing if she replied that she had a doctorate in home economics.
  • 68 mins - Their handheld fan technology is years ahead of our own!
  • 82 mins - You just passed those same guys, with that same cart, a few minutes ago.

 Audio clips in wav formatSOUNDSStarving actors speak out 

Green Music Note battlebearth1.wav Dr. Kramer: "You fool! They're twenty years ahead of us! They've got tunneling machines! They're coming in under us and you sit there like an idiot!"
Cmdr. Shaw: "Easy..."
Dr. Kramer: "Don't you understand they're after us? They're going to wipe us out!"
Green Music Note battlebearth2.wav Scientist: "Your tunnel samples are a mixture of rock and soil, typical of the place or area, and fused under extemely high temperatures."
Cmdr. Shaw: "By some kind of tunneling machine."
Scientist: "It can't be ruled out as a possibility."
Cmdr. Cassidy: "But that would require a fantastic amount of heat."
Scientist: "Exactly, and such a machine is beyond our scientific knowledge at the present time."
Green Music Note battlebearth3.wav Dr. Kengh Lee: "Each tiny plant contains the entire spectrum of vitamins needed to sustain the human body."
Gen. Chan Lu: "You have planned well, Kengh Lee. Very well, indeed."
Green Music Note battlebearth4.wav Cmdr. Shaw: "Mulberry, I think we're close, very close. Frank, let's split up the men and check all these passages. One of 'em should go where we want to go."

 Click for a larger imageIMAGESScenes from the movie 


 Watch a sceneVIDEOMPEG video files 

Video Clipbattlebearth1.mpg - 11.2m
The Marines battle a Chinese tunneling machine. Watching them fire a bazooka inside of a narrow tunnel makes my ears hurt just thinking about it.

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