Monday, January 7, 2008

Humanoids from the Deep

I’m a little curious as to why this movie is so hard to come by. Yes, it’s out of print, but it really shouldn’t be. While yes, it is pretty incompetently made, and yes, the acting, if anything is even worse than the directing, but…perhaps I should just start from the beginning.

The film was one of the last produced by Roger Corman during his grand late-50s-to-early-80s zero budget exploitation movie run, a run that helped launched the careers of such illustrious directors as Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola, and which gave us actors like Jack Nicholson and Peter Fonda. This film, directed by Barbara Peters (listed as Barbara Peeters in the film, which was her amazingly clever pseudonym), concerns a small fishing town beset by a new species of amphibious mutant fish men that are going around killing the men and impregnating the women. The fish men kind of look like C.H.U.D.s with retardedly long forearms, and they seem to have some measure of difficulty figuring out how they’re supposed to act. For starters, they kill their first victims in the daytime, only to later be classified as nocturnal hunters. Then there’s the problem of how they have such an expanded cranial capacity they look like their brains are actually exposed to the open air, and yet they keep getting caught on fish hooks. They also have the strange habit of hiding underwater that doesn’t even come up to the characters’ waists, despite the creatures all being well over six feet tall. Still, though, they’re quite capable of ripping off a bikini top, and God bless ‘em for it.

There’s a subplot involving a new cannery that will supposedly bring in lots of revenue and jobs to the town, but which is opposed by the local Native Americans because it’s set to be built on their holy lands or something. It wasn’t all that well explained, and never gets resolved, perhaps because the writers realized the whole plotline should be dropped if only they knew how to stretch the film out to feature length without it. Heaven forbid they actually fill up extra time with more violence and nudity or anything (Bonus trivia: Barbara Peters got replaced near the end of filming by uncredited director Jimmy Murakami for reportedly not putting enough nudity into the film. This despite her directing career having begun by making softcore lesbian films a decade prior), that would have just been crazy.

The cast is every bit as laughably bad as the writers and director. Led by Doug McClure (who IMDB tells me was half of the inspiration for the Simpsons character Troy McClure, the other half being actor Troy Donahue), this intrepid crew of actors mumbles and stammers their way through the whole film, pausing only to give an appropriate amount of blank stares. There really isn’t a single person who lands in front of the camera here that did not in some way deserve to be beaten repeatedly with a brick, so the fairly high body count of the film (starting off with an annoying child, always a nice way to get on my good side) was nice.

This film is a confused, jumbled mess. Outside of the really terrific looking women and the wonderfully poor monsters, there is nothing to recommend about it. So why am I rating it so highly, and why do I think it needs to be brought back to DVD? Simply put, it’s one of those movies that’s so bad that it transcends itself and becomes well worth watching. It’s almost like watching an early Troma film, if Troma hadn’t actively been trying to be funny. If this ever gets a proper release (the only DVD ever made for it was full screen and has been out of print for roughly half a decade), I highly recommend anyone with an interest in film trash to check it out. You won’t be disappointed.

Rating: ** ½

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