Released in 1962, the science fiction feature directed by Vladimir Chebotaryov and Gennadiy Kazanskiy is a quirky yet gratifying cinematic experience. Mixing political sentiments, a fantasy setting, an unreasonably romantic love story, and mad science in keeping with the best traditions of American sci-fi movies of the 1950s, “Amphibian Man” became an instant hit in the USSR, selling over 65 million tickets in the year of its release.
The film is based on the novel of the same name by Alexander Belyaev and follows the story of brilliant scientist Dr. Salvatore, who, while curing his son Ikhtyander of lung disease, gives him the ability to breathe underwater. Envisaging the possibility of a new utopian society at the bottom of the ocean, Salvatore does his best to guard Ikhtyander from the sorrows of life among people. However, all this comes to a tragic end when the young man falls in love at first sight with the beautiful Gutiere and challenges her fiance Don Pedro Zurita, a corrupt businessman profiteering from the local pearl divers.
In its own rather naive and straightforward way the film deals with many social issues while still managing to surprise sci-fi genre nuts and evoke emotions with its love story. Dreamy and poetic underwater sequences are followed by tense portrayals of the coastal city at night, numerous musical numbers, comical episodes and a dramatic finale, all working together to create an unexpected gem of a Soviet movie, which was one of the likely influences on Luc Besson’s classic “The Big Blue.”
The feature is available with English subtitles via Lenfilm studio official YouTube channel, alongside many other Soviet and Russian classics.