Up from the Depths (1979)
Your vacation is about to end!
Year of Release: 1979
Running Time: 86 minutes (1:26)
Director: Charles B. Griffith
Sam Bottoms ... Greg Oliver
Susanne Reed ... Rachel McNamara
Virgil Frye ... Earl Sullivan
Kedric Wolfe ... Oscar Forbes
Charles Howerton ... Dr. David Whiting
Denise Hayes ... Iris Lee
Chuck Doherty ... Ed Bennett
Helen McNeely ... Louellen Bennett
R. Lee Ermey ... (uncredited)
The beautiful shores of Hawaii are a sun-worshipper's paradise - and a lure of vacationers the world over. But that was until the fateful day when "it" arrived - hungry and mean - Up from the Depths!
At the start of this exciting thriller, a Hawaiian hotel is busy struggling to achieve luxury status, when suddenly a huge, ravenous fish invades its beach waters. The hotel manager, in his greed, wants to lure the beast to someone else's shores. The local beach bum plans to turn the disaster into a popular tourist attraction. The scientist wants to study the creature's hostile behavior patterns. That leaves the real work up to the beachcomber Greg and the hotel's beautiful publicist, Rachel, the only two willing to meet the killer head-on.
But, this is by far the largest, meanest, ugliest fish to ever invade human shores. As Greg and Rachel prepare to meet their foe, be prepared for a thrilling undersea encounter such as you've never witnessed before!
Up from the Depths, remindin' us that trollin' for sea monsters with the corpse of a marine biologist is permitted by the fish and game commission, provided you can prove that it was their dying wish.
And speakin' of bein' chewed up and spit out, why is it that when guys get into a serious relationship they suddenly think it'd be immature to go moonin' tourists on Main Street? I'm only askin' 'cause it seems like ever since Cleave Furguson started datin' Roxanne Bigelow he never has time for life's simple pleasures anymore. Like, a few weeks back I invited him and Roxanne up to the projection booth at the Grime Time to swat bats with tennis rackets and he pretended like he didn't hear me. Then, the night before the start of this heatwave, I asked 'im if he wanted to sneak into the city hall and stick a coupla dead perch inside their air conditionin' unit before the city council meetin' and he claimed he was too busy with work; think I liked the guy better before he was gettin' some.
But this week really got interestin' when the Sadies decided they wanted to go campin' out at Swine Lake since it was only supposed to be 92 there instead of 107 like everywhere below 4500 feet. Mrs. Sadie even made a guest list and campin' itinerary, which is a concept that reaches levels of absurdity typically reserved for a 3 Stooges sketch, even before you notice she'd set aside half an hour to commune with the Earth spirit at precisely 4:30pm. I'da preferred to dissect everything wrong with what she'd done in detail, but figured I'd better deliver the bad news before she got too invested in this plan of hers.
"Cleave's whipped; ain't allowed to come out and play anymore. Might as well cross 'im off your list, and what in the hell is macrame?" I demanded, pointin' at the 2pm - 3pm block in 'er activities schedule.
"What do you mean, whipped? He and Roxanne barbecued with us Sunday. And, oh! Macrame is like knitting, only instead of--"
"Okay, new rule: anybody packs anything with more artistic capability than a suture needle for this trip and you're gonna be down another guest. And you can forget everything you've got on here that occurs after 7pm, 'cause that's bedsheet movie projection time, right Sadie?" I hollered as Sadie tried quietly slinkin' about the back door.
"Uh, well, I think..." Sadie stammered.
"And to answer your question, that's what bein' whipped means," I explained as Sadie searched in vain for her spine.
"Oh. Well, I guess that's fun too," Mrs. Sadie mumbled disappointedly into her comically large chest. "They will come, though, watch."
So I did, and sure enough, she dialed Cleave and he signed on for him and Roxanne and even volunteered the use of his generator.
"We leave at 6am, don't be late!" Mrs. Sadie squealed as she skipped off to start packin' their bags.
Next mornin' it finally hits me while Billy and me're loadin' lawn chairs into the trunk of the Topaz.
"That yuppy-in-training's *ashamed* of us, Billy," I snarled.
"Whah?" Billy murmured, still half asleep.
"That's the only explanation. He's hangin' out at Chateau Cameltoe with the Sadies on the regular, but when WE call 'im up he's always got plans," I elaborated.
"Mayve Roxanne doh' wanna ve 'rouh uf," he suggested.
"Roxanne brought cheese fries to our Nightmare on Elm Street marathon last year," I reminded him.
"Oh, yeah. Guef ih prowy nah her idea," he concurred.
I knew I was right the moment we pulled in and Cleave looked at Mrs. Sadie like she'd ordered a vegetarian pizza, and the playful noogie Roxanne gave me that temporarily cut off my oxygen supply further solidified my theory. Obviously, action was called for if we were gonna stand any chance of pullin' Cleave back from the brink of Doc Martens footware and restaurants with the word "chez" in 'em. And I reasoned that the only way to do it was to prove to 'im that Roxanne was just one of the guys and that she wasn't gonna go dumpin' 'im just for havin' friends who occasionally forget to put on pants before drivin' down to the Jiffy Mart for a burrito.
Everything went accordin' to plan right up until the... actually, lemme back up a minute. So, once we got all our gear unpacked and set up everybody went off with Mrs. Sadie and learned how to make "humane" fish hooks with a hot glue gun and hemp or some other hippy nonsense while I hung back and pretended to be car sick. Or truck sick. Ramcharger sick, that's what it was; very dangerous, strikes in an instant and can send a shower of vomit up to a distance of five feet.
Anyway, once they were all gone I crushed up a bag of Cheetos and sprinkled a trail of dust from the treeline over to Cleave and Roxanne's tent figurin' I could lure a pine squirrel in there and zip it inside, ya know - just to make 'im wet his pants a little. But after about an hour I hadn't managed to entrap anything useful and so I went and learned proper rock skippin' technique with the rest of those poor saps and kinda forgot about my little petri dish of mischief over the course of 16 cans of Pole Cat.
Now, I'd like to point out that we were not drinking irresponsibly because I can prove, scientifically, that this exact volume of alcohol was necessary to avoid the killing of Mrs. Sadie after she went and rubbed some kinda home-made mosquito repellant that smelled roughly like copulating muskrats on my person.
Actually, once we ditched Mrs. Rogers' Guide to Fun in the Forest things both loosened and livened up quite a bit, and by the time Roxanne shrieked the words: "Oh my God! She's a dude!" loud enough for all the firefighters in Western Idaho to hear at the conclusion of Sleepaway Camp, we were all in good spirits, if pretty beat. I guess Roxanne was still a little too wound up to sleep, so she and Cleave went back to their tent to make the sign of the double-decker beach barnacle, only while we'd been watchin' the movie a porcupine'd found my line of Cheeto dust and gone to work like Keith Richards with a cocaine straw.
Once he'd gotten inside the tent he musta found Roxanne's edibles and decided to take a little siesta on the upper right corner, and he prolly woulda been able to sneak outta there without incident if there'd been a little more warning. But when Cleave and Roxanne flopped down on that air mattress it sent ole Pokey Pants flyin' three feet into the air and back down right on toppa Cleave's hairy white hinder. Hard to say what deflated faster - Cleave or the mattress, but 38 miles of bumpy Forest Service road and four hours of surgery later Doc Hynek finally got all the quills plucked from Cleave's backside.
I really don't see any reason to tell 'im exactly how our little friend found 'imself inside that tent though. Wouldn't really change anything, so I'm trustin' everybody to keep this little unfortunate accident under their hats. So the wrong person got poked, these things happen. I'm not on trial here. And besides, any woman who'll sit in the emergency room waitin' area until 4 in the AM while you get your cushion de-pinned without gigglin' 'erself into a hysterical fit has probably accepted you for who you are without judgment, so I'm callin' this exercise a tentative success.
It wan't all bad, though. Doc Hynek's staff let me set the projector up in the waitin' area and put Up from the Depths on the blank dry erase board they bought to schedule appointments for corona borealis vaccinations. I dunno what it was, but there just seemed to be a sense of synergy between our little mishap and a movie that was supposed to be Jaws, but turned out more like Gums. You've all seen Gums, right? The one where the mermaid sneaks up on unsuspectin' skinny dippers and... well, I don't wanna spoil it for ya. That one's kinda hard to swallow anyhow. Like I was sayin' though, Roger Corman hadda cut six, seven hours of slapstick comedy outta this thing to try savin' it, but even that didn't work and so he ended up havin' to stick it on the back end of a double feature with The Brood to get his $18 back. That's the kinda guy Roger is - he NEVER quits on a picture, and that's why we'll never quit him. In any event, a pretty smart guy whose name I can't pronounce once said that: "nothing is a waste of time if you learn from the experience," and learn we did. So I'm payin' it forward with the following seafaring sagacity. First, seaside resorts pride themselves on their decadent ambiance, and as such, any man who finds himself slopped by oceanic entrails while swimmin' near the shore is entitled to a complimentary cocktail. Second, tropical ports of call are constantly striving to meet the needs of the modern American tourist, and are now pleased to offer semi-automatic weapons in the gift shop for all your coconut felling needs, as well as on site instruction on proper firearms handling by Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey. And third, offering bubble gum to koi is considered classially insensitive, as these fish have neither suitable chewing teeth nor the lungs necessary to blow bubbles.
The movie begins with this marine biologist (David) sendin' his underwater demolitions intern into the ocean to blow up a coral reef so they can collect the shrapnel and make cute tourist baubles for the gift shops in Panama City Beach, only while she's doin' that this cuisinart with a dorsal fin swims over and chomps 'er sea-faring booty shorts and makes the ocean look like grandpa's supper bib after all-you-can-eat gazpacho night at the Olive Garden. This results in tragic consequences for the job creators on land, 'cause about two minutes later the leftovers wash ashore at a tropical resort in Hawaii and end up slimin' this hairy tourist from Belmont, Massachusettes, and things get so heated that the ulcer-ridden manager (Oscar) hasta comp the guy and his wife a coupla Barracuda Shootas at the bar to smooth things over. Then Oscar almost sits on a dead shark's head that washed up on shore and purt'near tizzies 'imself into an oceanic panic and orders his executive in charge of hula relations (Rachel) to find the fishermen responsible and string 'em up by their dinghies. The usual suspects include her boyfriend (Greg) and his uncle who looks like Anthropophagus just got released from drug rehab (Earl), but she can't find 'em right away 'cause they're busy connin' this couple who look like they've been rootin' around in Jim Jones' wardrobe into goin' out on their boat to dive for sunken deck furniture from the Pearl Harbor attack to sell to antique dealers in Fort Wayne, Indiana. When Rachel finally finds Greg she tells 'im he and Earl need to quit griftin' the tourists and plantin' severed shark heads upwind of the entitled assholes stayin' at the resort, 'cause if they don't have a good time they won't go home and bore their neighbors to death with slides of their pasty white hides eatin' roasted pig meat with their fists and help perpetuate the cycle of half-assed cultural enlightenment by way of free advertising.
Then some pot-bellied Frenchman gets eaten in three feet of water but Oscar doesn't wanna call the harbormaster 'cause it'd be bad for business and his irritable bowel syndrome, and this leaves the door open for the beach bamboozelers to salt the ocean floor with phony treasure in advance of their scuba rubes' descent into beer bottle bay. Unfortunately, this leads to Greg's hired hand gettin' Hawaii Five-Owned by Honolulu'thulhu, and the dive hasta be postponed on account of sharkness. So now Greg hasta organize a sea serpent safari in a Chinese dragon boat he bought at Roger Corman's garage sale until Gnarly the StarKist Tuna pulls a reverse Fonzie (that's when the shark jumps you) and eats the sea chummer they keep on retainer to distract any man-eatin' ogopogi they may encounter throughout their travels. Fortunately the marine biologist shows up to scoop 'em outta the drink and they motor on over to this catamaran where an international supermodel's havin' 'er buoys photographed for the cover of Muff Diver Monthly, only by the time they get over there everybody's already been processed into kraken crap and next thing you know the critter swims up next to the beach and everybody tramples each other to death tryin' to get to the complaint counter at the same time. Oscar has only two choices - move to San Francisco and accept a district managing gig with Budget Inn, or take up arms against the pisces de resistance, so he offers $1000 and free leis to whoever brings 'im the head of Barry Cuda. Then the gift shop sells outta guns like a Democrat was just elected president, and consumerism triumphs over adversity/self-preservation in a show of American patriotism rarely witnessed outside an FBI standoff. Makes ya downright misty-eyed just watchin' it. From here on out it's pretty much Hee Haw on the High Seas, with every chunkhead from here to Puerto Rico takin' their boat out in search of fame and all-you-can-eat sushi, but I'm not gonna tell ya how it ends 'cause that'd be extremely unprofessional and moderately hilarious. Just trust me - you've come this far, and another eight minutes won't kill ya.
Alrighty, well, that certainly happened. I don't wanna say this movie's uneven, but Pablo Picasso wouldn't use this flick to prop up the low end of his sofa. There's really no big mystery as to what went wrong here, but the short version is that Roger Corman sent one of his go-to screenwriters (Charles Griffith) over to the Philippines to direct an incredibly unpolished script, and instead of doin' a suitable rewrite (likely due to time constraints), Chuck decided to make a comedy/horror picture in the vein of Creature from the Haunted Sea. The only surprising thing is that after working for Roger for two decades Chuck didn't seem to realize Roger was never gonna go for that, as his philosophy on genre films is to always give the audience what they're expecting from the title/trailer. By the time Chuck made it back to the states, Roger had already chopped 75 minutes of comedy out of the film and started planning new scenes to help pad out the runtime, and even after all that you can still see the precise moment where Roger ran out of useable footage and had no choice but to include some of the goofier stuff just to get a respectable running time. Honestly, even after hacking out that much celluloid I still don't think he went far enough, because the movie plays more or less straight until an hour in, at which point it turns into an Ernest-esque slapstick comedy and goes completely off the rails. I tend to agree with Roger's mantra where it concerns comedy in low-budget genre movies, because if you're not careful you reach a point where there's so much of it that it becomes apparent the filmmaker is trying to hedge their bet in case the movie flops. If the flick fails they can just tell everyone that it was *supposed* to be silly, instead of giving it a serious go and putting their butt on the line. To me, that is the absolute worst route you can possibly take, because it's the *only* one that guarantees a lousy result. The other two options are to do your best and produce a genuinely entertaining movie, or, do your best, fail, and make an ironically entertaining movie; either way you end up with a film that eventually finds its audience. They were on track to achieve the latter right up to the one-hour mark, and it's just really disappointing that there just wasn't enough there to save even with creative editing and reshoots. Admittedly, it was never going to be a New World classic in the vein of Piranha, or Humanoids from the Deep, but you can see the wasted potential and it's kinda depressing. And yeah, that was the short version. Believe me, you don't wanna hear the long version - it requires an intermission.
Nonetheless, we're gonna strap on our snorkels and brave the briny deep in search of redeeming value. And don't go makin' that "as if" face either, 'cause I see you, and I know you've already Googled Denise Hayes' melons. The plot is cliched and a bit predictable, but broadly speaking there's really nothing absurd enough to sink it straight away. It's almost a spot-on retread of Tentacles, except that movie didn't give up on itself right outta the chute and add in an entire resort's worth of comic relief characters for use as human shields against scornful critics. The bottom line is that the big picture is fine, but the execution and relentless tone-deaf comedy blows chunks. Basically, this is the screenwriting equivalent of tying your shoelaces together before running an obstacle course; the first face plant is kinda funny, but the next 28 times are just sad. That said, the screenwriters should sue the guy who wrote the script for Leprechaun 2, 'cause the scene where Charlie Heath suckers Kimmy Robertson and Clint Howard into takin' his "darkside" tour is pretty much shot for shot pulled from this flick.
The acting isn't easy to gauge as much of the dialogue was dubbed in later, but I will say that Kedric Wolfe is amusing as the resort manager perpetually on the cusp of losing his job/shit, and Virgil Frye is likable as the alcoholic conman uncle whose dialogue includes such gems as: "lose that toe if you pick at it," after Wolfe accidentally shoots his foot trying to kill the monster. Sam Bottoms and Susanne Reed are alright in the lead roles, but there's a lotta piss poor delivery on the part of the dubbers where it concerns the supporting cast, and it doesn't help that the badly dubbed characters tend to be some of the least pleasant and gratuitous people in the film.
Here's who matters and why (less R. Lee Ermey in a role you won't even notice unless you Goggle it): Sam Bottoms (Dolly Dearest, Hunter's Blood), Virgil Frye (Graduation Day, Xtro 3, Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype, The Cat Creature, Garden of the Dead, Nightmare in Wax, Queen of Blood), Kedric Wolfe (UFOria), Charles Howerton (Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype, Demon Hunter 2015, Wolfen, Alien Nation), Denise Hayes (Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype), Helen McNeely (Naked Vengeance), Ken Metcalfe (Warriors of the Apocalypse, Dynamite Johnson, The Thirsty Dead, The Twilight People, The Beast of the Yellow Night), Clem Persons (Dynamite Johnson), Pete Cooper (Warriors of the Apocalypse, Stryker, Dynamite Johnson), Bobby Greenwood (Equalizer 2000, Robo Warriors, Daughters of Satan), Don Gordon Bell (Wheels of Fire, Equalizer 2000, The Devastator, Naked Vengeance, Warriors of the Apocalypse, Stryker).
Sam Bottoms managed to get his career on the right track after playing Lance Johnson in Apocalypse Now, Jamie in The Outlaw Josey Wales, and Billy in The Last Picture Show, so I don't wanna see anyone givin' 'im crap about a few missteps in the early part of his career. The important thing is he got his life together, and for that, I salute him.
The special effects are few and poorly executed, although I've gotta give credit to whoever's idea it was to use what appears to be octopus leftovers to represent viscera, because the way it clings briefly before oozing off a person actually works really well. The monster, unfortunately, is incredibly stiff, with virtually no range of motion. The editor does their best to hide its inadequacies, but there's just no way to cover it up without refusing to show it at all, and I'll again give credit where it's due: they show the monster enough to keep ya at least half-interested when they could have hidden it away completely. A bad monster is *always* better than an unseen one, so they get a few points for trying. Beyond the monster there's a pretty pitiful boar that looks to have been constructed from cloth, a little blood here and there, and a few severed limbs that're alright.
The shooting locations were always going to be the high point, with Batangas City in the Philippines standing in for Hawaii. Not exactly the same kinda beaches and a little lacking in palm trees, but the tropical backdrop is nice and the resort comes across as reasonably authentic. New World Pictures produced quite a few flicks in the Philippines due to the extremely low production costs, and while things never *quite* match up to the location they're supposed to be, they were usually able to get the right atmosphere and create the illusion of a much larger production than they actually had by filming in these exotic locales. Charlie Band would employ the same technique when he started filming his flicks in Romania in the late '90s, but it just never quite worked as well as Corman's time in the Philippines, which features prominently in the Machete Maidens documentary for anyone interested in that era of New World Pictures.
The soundtrack is tricky as far as scoring goes because it actually matches up pretty well with the tone of the movie. The menacing piano score that plays during the attack scenes a la Jaws is reasonably suspenseful, the hackneyed Hawaiian luau music that's been utilized in American sitcoms since time immemorial is slotted in appropriately, and there's suitably racist stereotypical Asian-tinged music for the gratuitous samurai warrior goin' out to slay the beast with his katana, so... technically they achieved what they were goin' for. Obviously this shouldn't have been the objective, but because it was, I suppose it earns the movie a few points on a technical level. It's not catchy, it's not memorable, but it's on point. Overall, Up from the Depths doesn't fare nearly as well as New World's other creature features of the same period, and the uneven tone of the third act sends it into a tailspin from which it never recovers. Only completionists of the Jaws-clone cycle need bother with this one, 'cause it makes Tentacles look like a summer blockbuster.