Designer Fred Miller (Tony Randall) is allowing his boss, T.R. Hollister (Jim Backus) to see his latest project that they both hope will bring them fortune - and Miller believes it will be of benefit to mankind as well. And where is this latest project? It's under the sea, and Miller and T.R. are in a small submarine heading towards what the boss describes as looking like a huge "green onion". T.R. is extremely sceptical about the future for a house that's so far underwater, but Miller has faith, even if T.R.'s attempts to light his cigar are doomed to failure in the carefully controlled atmosphere of the sub. Not wanting to see his brainchild dismantled, back on dry land he offers his boss a deal: if a family can stay there for thirty days, then it can be judged a success, if not, he'll admit defeat. Now whose family would be willing to go?
Hello Down There was a Ivan Tors production, and as he was the creator of the Flipper television series he must have thought returning to the Florida coast for this film was a great idea. The whole project plays like an expensive television pilot, mixing broad comedy, thrills, undersea photography (directed by The Creature from the Black Lagoon himself, Ricou Browning) and that ideal way to sell your film to a younger crowd, pop music. Miller's two teenage children are part of a band called Harold and the Hang-Ups (whose name sounds like an intense monologue for experimental theatre), and they take every opportunity to regale us with their oeuvre, sounding like the kind of thing that gave The Archies their biggest musical hit.
However, first Miller needs to persuade his frightened-of-the-water screenwriter wife Vivian (Janet Leigh) that spending a month in the new home is a desirable option, and, as this film's humour is on the level of sitcom, she flies into a rage in one scene and the next is all lovey-dovey and willing to make sacrifices for her man. Then the kids have to be won over, and there's a hitch as the band are about to secure their first recording contract to svengali Nate Ashbury (do you see what they did there?), played as only he can by Roddy McDowall. Ashbury relies on that staple of sixties science fiction, the big computer with reels and lights and a slot to spew tape from, and it's told him that Harold and company are going to be the next big thing.
A note on Harold, as he's played with conviction by a pre-fame Richard Dreyfuss, displaying a keen guitar skill and a rich, stunning baritone. No, only joking, he's pretty obviously miming through the songs which include the unforgettable "Hey Little Goldfish" (the other band members point out that goldfish don't live in the sea, but to little regard). So the band get their time to rehearse underwater, and a succession of calamities hits the Green Onion that makes you wonder whether life beneath the waves is all Miller cracks it up to be. Sharks attack, a hurricane hits and disables the minisub with the band inside, and a seal sets off an alarm by having a shower. All through this, Miller remains convinced of his dream, and the humour, mainly concerned with drenching Leigh, takes a back seat to adventure. And that music (by Jeff Barry), of course. Hello Down There looks as if it was made at the beginning of the sixties rather than 1969, but for wholesome, if unwittingly bizarre, entertainment it's not too bad.