Each year 10,000 tourists visit Ocean Beach. This summer Ocean Beach has attracted SOMETHING ELSE!
Year of Release: 1977
Genre: Horror/Science Fiction
Running Time: 102 minutes (1:42)
Director: Ovidio G. Assonitis
John Huston ... Ned Turner
Shelley Winters ... Tillie Turner
Bo Hopkins ... Will Gleason
Henry Fonda ... Mr. Whitehead
Delia Boccardo ... Vicky Gleason
Cesare Danova ... John Corey
Claude Akins ... Sheriff Robards
Henry Fonda portrays the president of a company drilling an underwater tunnel in a California bay, using illegal radio sound waves to speed his project. After several mysterious deaths in the area, reported by newspaperman John Huston, a marine scientist (Bo Hopkins) is called in to investigate. What he finds may mean the end of them all: a mammoth, raging octopus, whose tentacles are the touch of death!
The story reaches its fateful climax on the day of the annual youth sailboat regatta, as authorities try to return the youths to port... and the huge, ferocious beast vents his wrath on the young sailors. The marine scientist and his trained killer whales are the only hope left, as they prepare for a titanic undersea encounter!
Tentacles, remindin' us that sometimes even the most iconic symbols in movie history simply don't translate well when the formula gets tweaked. For instance, the exposed head of an octopus just doesn't inspire the same level of terror as a shark's dorsal fin. Specially when said head looks like a toad that got squished crossin' the highway. I mean, sure, when somebody yells "shark!," you've got a panic on your hands. But when somebody yells "octopus!," about all that happens is a buncha Japanese guys rush the beach with forks outstretched an woks under their arms. An speakin' of suckage, I figured that with it bein' Earth Day an all I'd plant a six food Ponderosa out back between my rapidly decayin' Dodge Coronet an the old claw-foot bathtub I been meanin' to install for the last seven years. In retrospect I suppose that wasn't the best possible place for it, since that's where Apollo likes to nap while I'm pokin' at the Coronet an bein' sprayed in the face by various automotive fluids, cause it didn't take long for Apollo to dig it up an try runnin' through the house with it. Broke two lamps an my limited edition Rory Calhoun autographed Motel Hell piggy bank before eventually steppin' on Shankles, who immediately latched onto his tail an got drug all over the house an mosta the yard like a Van Camp's Pork 'n Bean can attached to some newlyweds' bumper. But that's kinda beside the point.
The thing about Earth Day that really scours my sink is that, realistically, most average citizens could prolly act sensibly about things like; what sections of timber need to be cut. Cept the whole discussion's been hijacked by the Dick Cheneys on one side an the Ralph Naders on the other, an so nothin' ever gets done. Seriously, I think all us sensible folks can agree that it's beneficial to the loggin' industry, an the woods, if certain areas get thinned so that the first lightenin' strike don't burn outta control like a grease fire in John Travola's hair. It's not a pretty sight once that happens. Hundreds of acres end up blacker'n the audience at a Spike Lee movie premier, an you've got more dead animals sprawled out on the ground than that time Aesop Marlin got arrested for deer huntin' with a minigun. Then you've got these other guys who wanna chop down anything taller'n Gary Coleman an leave the place lookin' like a dirt farm in Rumpwaggle, Kansas an force everybody to carry around ferns in the floorboard of their crummys just to keep the oxygen flowin'. These're the people causin' all the goll durn problems. I say we hog tie 'em an pitch 'em out into the alfalfa fields the night before the swather goes a harvestin'; problem solved. Cripes, I must hear this argument every time I go into the Gutter Bowl to get some nachos, an the weird thing is that it's never the same two people. For instance, last night it was Mark Skidman an Richard Fawner, an by the time I'd wolfed down my molten Cheetos I figured it was about time to get between 'em before things got any uglier, which is no easy feat bein' that it was women's league night. So I shoved the two of 'em apart an shouted Mark into submission long enough to explain to 'im that there weren't gonna be any liberal commie ninjas sneakin' into his shed under cover of darkness to confiscate his Poulan. Then I slapped Richard around awhile til he stopped callin' me an "uncouth hooligan" an calmly threatened to bloody up his Culture Club t-shirt if he didn't quit claimin' Glenn Beck was gonna send in a buncha Nazi lumberjacks to napalm his greenhouse fulla orchids. I think it was right about that point when Richard stomped my big toe with that size nine maroon pump he was wearin', which distracted me long enough for Mark to land a sucker punch. Next thing I know, I'm wakin' up to Bambi Pankins (she plays with the Ball Busters) givin' me CPR an half the alley singin' that K-I-S-S-I-N-G in a tree song from 3rd grade at me. I guess I can at least say that I got two guys on separate sides of the issue to get on the same page for a minute. Or at least I coulda said that if Bambi hadn't swallowed mosta my tongue.
One of these days I'ma learn to just stick to safer subjects, like Italian flicks where mutated giant octopi do battle with killer whale hand puppets. Seriously though, this movie is absolutely bizarre when you look at the cast, and then the plot. I musta looked back and forth between the two for half an hour before stuffin' this thing in the VCR an one thing I'll say for it; you won't find a better flick anywhere that features John Huston, Shelley Winters, Bo Hopkins, an Claude Akins battlin' the Kraken. Henry Fonda's in there too, but he's mostly just there to stand in for Laurence Olivier from Clash of the Titans, cause somebody hasta release the Kraken else or we've got no movie. Anyway, here're a few things I learned watchin' Bo Hopkins race Richard Harris to be the first joint American/Italian crew to try scoopin' up some of that Jaws spillover money. First, if you think you're lost at sea, make sure to swivel your head all the way around to check for landmarks first. The Coast Guard gets real P.O.'d about havin' to fly all over the Pacific lookin' for near-sighted people three miles off shore who haven't mastered the act of turnin' theirselves around. Anybody who did the Hokey Pokey in 1st grade aughta be able to handle that. Second, dead fish often anchor themselves face first in the sea bed, an after a thorough investigation I've determined that they do this cause they don't wanna end up floatin' belly to the sky an havin' everybody think they're British on account of their pasty white underbellies. An third, nobody thinks it's funny when you refer to a candle light vigil for somebody lost at sea as a "wake."
Now you'd think after hearin' all that, that there's no way this movie could steer you wrong, but the thing I really didn't care for (aside from seein' a 57 year old Shelley Winters in 'er jammies) was how the octopus is immediately cast as the villain in all this. Can we hold the harpoons an tiki torches at bay for just a minute here an take an OBJECTIVE look at the situation, please? In reality, the octopus is only strippin' the meat offa ugly children *reactively* in retaliation for Henry Fonda blastin' Tangerine Dream music into the ocean's depths at 5000 decibels. So let's be fair about this, the octopus put up with the noise for God knows how long, until it just couldn't stand the Christopher Franke sonic keyboard aneurisms anymore an snapped. Period. So let's not start tossin' blame around like Liz Taylor at a swinger's party just yet, I mean, we've all been there. Like, remember when you were a kid sittin' in the back seat with your little sister, an you'd make faces at 'er an burp in 'er face til she got fed up an knocked out two of your baby teeth with 'er Nurse Barbie? Then what happened? Right, your parents pulled that Rambler over an proceeded to spank 'er butt right there on the side of the highway where all the sun dried potatoes tryin' to hitch a ride to Santa Monica could see it happenin'. It's always the REACTIVE person who takes the heat for some reason. Course, now that we're all older, we know darn well that if the roles were reversed we'da dislodged sissy's retainer with our View Master an completely ruined the Hoover Dam slide reel stickin' outta the top of it, so we can all laugh about it now. But it's still a crock when you get right down to it, cause the octopus in the movie has no way to defend itself against the charges bein' levied against it. Plus it ain't exactly the cuddliest member of the animal kingdom, so even if it got Cesar Millan workin' its case an a sympathetic Judge Wapner behind the bench, it'd still have an uphill slither ahead of it. I guess I just struggled with this one, what with the director tryin' to portray the octopus as the heavy, when really the octopus is only exercisin' its 2nd Amendment rights to bear snotty kids in its eight arms an chew their heads off like a Cajun restaurant patron who ordered the crawdad platter.
The movie begins with this tomato sittin' next to the ocean with 'er baby, hopin' the sea breeze'll work like an Epsom salt an get 'er little snot monster's nose valve to close til she abandons it to go gab with some other broad about how non-Italian they are. Only when she finally feels good an Americanized, she turns around an 'er baby stroller's turned upside down in the surf like a 1974 Plymouth Satellite in the Chicago River. Which is real bad cause the baby forgot its snorkel up on shore, an besides that it was a loaner she'd borrowed while hers was away at a pox party, so she's in some pretty deep doo-doo right about now. Then, not too far away, this salty seaman's out on his boat swabbin' the poop deck in case anybody wants to climb aboard, cept while he's tryin' to scrape the barnacles off of his dinghy, somethin' comes along an pulls 'im overboard an then starts draggin' his keg around like a giant Heineken to see if there're any Dutch guys drunk enough to try reclaimin' it. It takes a few hours before anybody gets too alarmed by all the skeletons washin' up on shore, but once they do John Huston an Claude Akins decide to go hang around the docks for awhile an get real grossed out by what they see down there. Then they take a look at the corpses cause they can't hardly stand the sight of the fungi growin' on the Italian hookers, an Claude tells John not to go sensationalizin' any of this in the newspaper. I kinda like Claude Akins cause he looks like Ronald Reagan after somebody soaked 'im in salt water for about two weeks. But John says he'll do whatever he wants, an that these paisanos're lucky his agent agreed to do this flick without consultin' 'im. Then John goes home an Shelley Winters comes outta the can an tells 'im all about how she mickey'd another twenty somethin' an managed to stave off gettin' stuck in the nursin' home for another week, til this kid (Tommy) comes downstairs an tells Shelley to get 'er rump roast in the kitchen an fry 'im up some clamburgers. Shelley's one of those women that you don't have sex with so much as hang on an try to make sure nothin' gets broken. Elsewhere, Henry Fonda's on the phone with that same look on his face that Dubya had when the secret service interrupted his storytime with with the elementary school children on 9/11 , an once he gets off he starts bitchin' out his flunkie about how he don't want no negative press for his company an that if he doesn't have a check from the Italians within about five minutes he ain't gonna finish his scenes.
While that's goin' on, John heads over to talk to the warden at the local Orca penitentiary (Bo Hopkins) an ask for his help solvin' the case, but Bo says he can't help 'im cause the last time he dove he got The Bends an now he's all washed up on shore with swimmer's ear. Meanwhile, out at sea, these two divers're bein' lowered into the ocean inside this big ole Mello Yello can so they can go pokin' around Henry's tunnel construction, cept all they find is a gigantic P.O.'d octopus takin' a nap inside the tunnel an pretty quick the place ends up lookin' like the Gulf of Mexico after BP got ahold of it, an the octopus slurps down one of the divers like a Fettuccine noodle. The other guy makes it back to the safety of the beverage container an starts screamin' at the radio to get DeepStar Seven-Up the heck outta there but it's too late, cause about that time he looks over at the porthole an realizes the gills have eyes. Back in town, Shelley's tryin' to sign Tommy an his friend up for the big annual sailboat race, only it takes forever cause the broad workin' the booth's givin' 'er grief over the fact that 'er hat's so big it's actually interferein' with the Coast Guard's ability to patrol the bay for drug smugglers. Then she takes 'em out for lunch an the kids tell 'er she can't come on the boat with 'em because all the other kids'll make fun of 'em an because 'er hind end'd cause 'em to sink quicker'n Coca-Cola's stock after they changed their formula. This gives Shelley sad face an she hasta order the chocolate mousse to regain 'er composure. Then we head back over to Bo an his wife (Vicky) who're basically havin' the same fight that Rocky an Adrian have when Rocky decides he wants to come outta retirement, an Bo hasta mansplain to Vicky that if he refuses to wetsuit up an help John out that it'll mean he's essentially a nautical eunuch an that he'll never hear the end of it from the porpoises back at the office. So Bo (an his first an only mate, Mike) heads down to French Cut Bikini Bottom in the yellow submarine an takes some pictures of mopeds turned coral reef an some oil drums, til they come across all these swordfish that got themselves stuck in the sea bed like lawn darts. While that's goin' on, Vicki's sister an brother-in-law're out on their boat returnin' some beached whale friend of theirs to his natural habitat.
Unfortunately when Moby Thick cannonballs offa the boat, it creates about eight separate tsunamis that start makin' their way towards Japan, an even worse, sends a shock wave down into the depths that gives the Hentai Senpai Excedrin headache #39 an he gets so P.O.'d he ingests his recommended caloric intake for the next six months. Good grief, I'm callin' it right now, this octopus has had it. That's like callin' up KFC an orderin' a bucket of skin an a 55 gallon drum of gravy for dippin' purposes. Then the Kraken has a mild stroke an starts wiggin' out an tears off the rear end of the boat an eats Vicky's sister, hopin' she's got enough HDL cholesterol in 'er system to act as arterial Drano an clear out the Crisco clog that's wreakin' havoc on its circulatory system. Back on land, John's talkin' to Henry on the phone an expressin' to 'im in no uncertain terms that if he doesn't use his pull over at Warner Bros. to get 'im the Gandalf gig in The Hobbit that he might hafta let slip what he knows about the nuclear Tangerine Dream sound experiments goin' on offshore, an Henry gets this look on his face like he just flashed back to 1972 an saw Jane hangin' with the Viet Cong on the front page of The New York Times. Later that evenin', Vicky takes a boat equipped with dugong blindin' halogen headlights out to look for 'er sister, cept by the time they find the boat it looks like a buncha drunk Cubans tried dynamite fishin' in it an pretty quick the ocean erupts like violence after the Stanley Cup finals. Suffice to say, Vicky's boat ends up on the bottom with the sturgeon general, an Vicky gets the purplest nurples the world's ever seen when Doc Oc attaches itself to 'er doodle bops. But because Vicky was very much on the hot side news of 'er demise travels quickly, an before long everybody in town's hangin' around the beach holdin' a vigil for Bo an the loss of any hope that he'll ever be able to get with a woman that attractive again on account of his Arkansas drawl. The next day, Bo's still real P.O.'d about the loss of his imported Italian nookie an he tells John that they're either dealin' with somethin' outta H.G. Wells or H.P. Lovecraft, til John remembers it's the day all the prepubescent beach bums're gonna be out in the bay racin' their soapbox floaters, an pretty quick his eyes bulge out of his head like a Chinese Pug that just hosed down an electric fence.
So John phones ahead an tells the Coast Guard to get out there an earn their $6.75 an hour an round up all the Elian Gonzali, only John's about a step behind Squidward, who proceeds to go chargin' through the water like a Chubb Fricke skid-snap knockin' over boats like 7-Elevens in the ghetto, til only Tommy an his buddy're left stranded like a defiant 10 pin. Fortunately, the Coast Guard's out there haulin' up kids like the financial anchors they are, cept once they get back to shore it would appear that the only one who never made it back was Tommy's buddy an things start lookin' real bleak for Shelley's babysittin' business as the corpse's mother blows hysterical woman snot all over John's tweed jacket. Then we check back in with Bo, who's got this snare drum solo playin' behind 'im as he sails out to challenge the octopus on its home surf. By this point, Bo's pretty much gone full Ahab an has this look on his face like he's figurin' on openin' up an all-you-can-eat sushi buffet. Then Bo starts blastin' this 8-track tape of manatees havin' orgasms into the depths to try lurin' in the octopus while he hangs out in the galley discussin' an octopus' psychic sense of foresight with Mike, an promises 'im that the mother sucker'll eventually come back to its cave cause it's "special." Plus when he went down an checked he noticed the beast'd left its coffee maker runnin', so really all they gotta do is be patient. But after the first day, it becomes clear(er) that Bo doesn't know diddly about man-eatin' mutant octopi, an even though what they really aughta be doin' right now is callin' up Roger Corman for advice, they end up havin' Bo beg his trained whales for help. The whales make noises like a hemorrhagin' inner tube twice for "yes," least I think that's what happened. Unfortunately, once they put out to sea, Bo's mobile whale cage gets cracked quicker'n a security code at Sony when Bo runs into the Cabo Pulmo reef an the whales end up escapin' an gettin' so excited that their dorsal fins straighten up like they just got a Cialis injection as they swim into the distance squealin' "Born Free" in whale talk. Gonna end it here cause quite frankly, if I try describin' the conclusion nobody'll ever watch it.
So this one's just a smidge on the bizarre side. The first question that comes to everyone's mind when they watch this is how the hell they were able to get Henry Fonda, John Huston, Shelley Winters, Claude Akins, and Bo Hopkins to sign on for this. The logical conclusion is money, but that would suggest that the movie had at least a decent budget which... actually looks to be the case. If you were to believe the IMDB trivia for the movie, and I'm not sure that I do, it would suggest that there was a very large octopus model involved that cost about a million bucks. It also claims that said model sank, though that's not really important for the purposes of the point I'm laboring to make. But even if that's not true, the estimated budget is about three quarters of a million, which in 1977 dollars is pretty spendy for an Italian flick. So in all likelihood there was at least a reasonable budget, which brings me to my next question; (spoilers incoming) how come the climax of the movie is a coupla Orca puppets attackin' a dead, standard sized octopus purchased from the local seafood market? All things considered, up to that point, the movie at least gives the appearance of professionalism, then all of a sudden the epic battle comes down to a Punch and Judy show with a Japanese entree. Did the money run out or something? I was actually looking at passing this one for about the first hour, at least until it became clear that a lot of the subplot was completely irrelevant. Course, that was also before the special effects hit the toilet. Actually, that's prolly too kind. That's about the point where the special effects hit the floor around the toilet. The other thing that's strange is how the emphasis shifts from John Huston, who at least appears to be our main character for the first hour, to Bo Hopkins who takes over in the final act. Seriously, after the conclusion of the boat race, we never see John Huston, Shelley Winters, Henry Fonda, or Claude Akins again. And realistically, the plot involving Henry Fonda's business ventures that get the octopus all stirred up is completely unnecessary. They could have used just about anything; an earthquake, chemical spill, atomic testing, or whatever else to release the Kraken. The movie runs 1:42 and having watched it, they could have easily trimmed at least fifteen minutes from it and lost absolutely nothing of value. So not only does it run on, and on, and on, but it doesn't use any of that running time to wrap up the loose ends with John Huston and Shelley Winters once the octopus gets its hash settled. It just kinda peters out and leaves you sittin' there wonderin' what the heck just happened. I've read that they only had one day with Henry Fonda, so it stands to reason that the other principals may have had similar deals worked out, wherein they were only going to be on set for a day or two, which would explain why its so uneven and why we never get back to Huston and Winters' characters. Who knows though, I've probably spent more time thinkin' about it than the director at this point so let's just move on. Heck, if you really wanna be a jerk about it, octopi don't actually even have tentacles and... yeah okay, I said I'd shut up.
Alright, calamari sammich time. Who wants a bite? The plot is needlessly complicated by what I'd guess was the director's desire to get his money's worth out of the borderline star-studded cast he'd acquired, but isn't completely broken or anything. As I mentioned earlier, they could have used just about anything to rouse the octopus, and the only thing their catalyst really does is tangle up the plot and give us more characters (that ultimately don't matter) to keep track of. We paid for giant octopus action you mooks, quit tryin' to pad the goddamned movie already. In short, they took something simple and complicated it. The acting from the main cast is decent. Decent in the sense that you can deduce from watching it that they knew there wasn't much reason to really give it their all. John Huston is probably the best of the cast, as the crotchety old newspaperman who wants to sink his teeth into Henry Fonda's keister. That said, they're pretty much all wasted in something like this, and I'd imagine that anybody who attended a screening when the movie was originally released was probably a little confused by so many of the supporting cast members' dialog not matching their lip movements. Really, there just wasn't much for the gifted cast to work with, with the script being what it was. I shouldn't need to explain to even the normals out there who Fonda, Winters, Akins, Hopkins, or Huston are, so here's who else matters and why: Delia Boccardo (Hercules 1983), Cesare Donova (The Astral Factor, Valley of the Dragons, Tarzan the Ape Man 1959), Alan Boyd (Encounters in the Deep), Sherry Buchanan (Crawlspace 1986, Escape from Galaxy 3, Zombie Holocaust, Eyes Behind the Stars), Franco Diogene (The Stendhal Syndrome, The Sweet House of Horrors), Marc Fiorini (Red Riding Hood 2003), Helena Makela (Hysterical, Stranger in Our House), Philip Dallas (Warrior of the Lost World), Alan Scharf (Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!), Ross Gordon (Hollywood Vampyr), Ron Shapiro (Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!), Joseph Johnson (It Came from Somewhere Else), George Montage (Beyond the Door). People who raise their pinkies when drinking tea might recognize Cesare Donova as Giovanni in Mean Streets, and as Apollodorus in the 1963 version of Cleopatra.
The special effects are generally going to be regarded as terrible due to the climax when, frankly, they'd need to be a little better to increase their reputation to the rank of "terrible." There are some decent ones, at least in terms of appearance, and these would include the octopus's exposed head above the water during the attack on the racers. Doesn't make a damn bit of sense, but it doesn't look too bad. The corpse that pops up to alert John and Claude that something is amiss isn't too bad either. But for every decent shot, there're two or three goofy shots of a standard sized octopus near a miniature boat, so I'll just quit beating around the bush and state that the effects are pretty lousy, for the most part. The shooting locations I'll have to consider the high point, what with the bar being set so high up to this point. Seriously though, the movie has decent underwater photography, and some nice shots of the California coastline, as well as scenes at Marineland in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. There's also a nice shot of a city in the background while one of the supporting cast is radioing the Coast Guard claiming to be lost at sea. The soundtrack... eh. I get what they were going for, but the 5 notes of harpsichord whenever there's danger afoot just doesn't work on the same level that the iconic Jaws theme does. Realistically, there's very little soundtrack to this movie at all, and what there is doesn't do much to help or hinder the movie. Pops up now and then and vanishes for 15 minutes at a time. Not much in the way of variety either, most of the time it's just that harpsichord, although toward the end we get a track that sounds like a cymbal being drug behind a taxi cab. Overall, there's just not much nice to say about this one. I really wanted to like it, but the script doesn't allow for great performances out of the fully capable cast, and the special effects sink any remaining chance for redemption. Tentacles is probably best left strictly to the hardcore monster movie aficionados, because there isn't much here for anybody else. The crew that worked on this make me think of a teenager who got ahold of their Dad's sports car for the night, and proceeded to wrap it around a telephone pole after tossin' back 18 Tequila shooters. They had the money, but not the know-how. So unless you just really wanna see a textbook example of why a good cast doesn't necessarily equate to a good movie, skip it.