Tuesday, August 19, 2008
#43: Humanoids from the Deep (Barbara Peters, 1980)
Reasons why Humanoids from the Deep provides quality B-movie value for money:
1) It was produced by Roger Corman.
2) It stars B-movie legend Vic Morrow, the father of Jennifer Jason Leigh. He was later decapitated on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie in a freak helicopter accident.
3) It also stars another B-movie legend, the late Doug McClure. McClure, along with Troy Donahue, provided the inspiration for the character of Troy McClure on The Simpsons. You may remember the real McClure from such films as Omega Syndrome, Cannonball Run II, Firebird 2015 AD, and Wild and Wooly. In this film, he and the actress who plays his wife have matching sleeveless vests.
4) It contains the only seduction-by-ventriloquism scene I've ever seen. The ventriloquist and his dummy charm all the clothes off a nubile co-ed in a tent on the beach, but their coitus is interrupted by a humanoid! From the deep!
5) Ann Turkel, who plays Dr. Susan Drake, was once married to Richard Harris and helped invent the tan-thru swimsuit. Honestly.
6) Shot on location in northern California, the film includes a seedy small-town atmosphere, sailboats, beer drinking, an epic fistfight, Molotov cocktails, bodies of water, and a musical performance by Jo Williams and Her Whitewater Boys.
7) Amphibious humanoid fish-men, aka actors in partly shitty/completely awesome rubber suits.
8) Brazen rip-offs of scenes from Jaws and Alien.
9) This movie is not afraid to kill children.
Science runs amok with the help of corporate greed in Barbara Peters' film, another ridiculously entertaining installment from the Roger Corman assembly line of high-quality schlock. In a small northern California fishing village, a large corporation plans to build a cannery. Evil jerk-off Hank Slattery (great evil jerk-off name), played by Vic Morrow, is the local bigshot who partners with the corporation. Native American man Johnny Eagle (Anthony Pena) opposes the cannery for its environmental destruction and usurpation of native land. Jim Hill (Doug McClure) stands around in his sleeveless vest and attempts to keep the peace. Dr. Susan Drake, a scientist who works for the corporation, has helped invent a chemical that, when released in the water, increases the size and amount of salmon. However, coelecanths have been eating the salmon, which causes all kinds of freaky hullabaloo. The chemical speeds up the evolution process dramatically in coelecanths, who start to become half amphibian/half human. They want to make the next evolutionary leap, so they naturally come ashore, kill the men and rape the women in an attempt to mate with humans. Unfortunately, the annual salmon festival is underway, and these humanoid monsters are crashing the party.
The rest of the characters spend most of the film's running time drinking beer, fighting, having sex, swimming, fishing, mourning their dogs which have been killed by the mutated coelecanths, and getting smushed and/or sexually assaulted by the monsters. The finale is especially satisfying, in which the humanoids bust up the salmon festival's big carnival.
When Peters turned in her final cut to Corman, he told her he wanted her to add some more nude scenes. She refused. Corman said OK, then hired Jimmy T. Murakami to shoot some scenes of girls getting their bikini tops ripped off by the monsters, a woman lathering herself up in the shower, and the aforementioned ventriloquist seduction (I can't believe they didn't use the line, "Want to see my wood pecker?").
I really have nothing else to say about this film. I enjoyed it immensely, but it hardly invites detailed analysis. I first saw it on the big screen seven years ago, when it was part of the Austin Film Society's Women Directors of the 1970s and 1980s series. On repeat viewing at home, it suffered a little, but not much. I'd hardly call it essential, but it's way better than Atonement.