The Road – Cormac McCarthy (2006)

November 17, 2017

Pulitzer prizes handed out to genre works are rarer than hen’s teeth, the excellent alternate world The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and Art Spiegelman’s anthropomorphic  holocaust graphic novel Maus being exceptions. While I’d read some rave reviews in horror magazines (primarily in Rue Morgue) I was surprised to learn that Cormac McCarthy’s The Road was a Pulitzer recipient, but that was enough to seal the deal and add it to my read pile.

While not strictly a genre novel, the account of a man and his young son wandering a dystopian ravaged Earth can be considered a science fiction novel despite no mention of what exactly occurred to render our planet one vast desolate wasteland. On the other hand some of the gut wrenching abominable acts found within could easily categorize this as horror. But it is speculative fiction regardless.

While I have never read anything else by McCarthy, I was immediately taken by the writing style which bent a number of grammar rules. But after reading a bit further I understood that the occasional dropped apostrophe was symbolic of the similar yet irreparably changed world. Cormac also extends bleakness of the situation by some of literary choices. The novel is nameless, timeless, even chapterless, continuity breaks only denoted by asterisks. There is sparse use of spoken words and the third person perspective also diminishes the reader’s insight into the character’s frame of mind and thoughts.

There is no grand, overarching plot. The sole goal for the two characters are to reach the coast hoping that there is something better. You would think that this novel would rely on encounters with other characters but there are hardly any and even those few are always brief and often distant. Despite all that the drama is constant and the protagonists are always just one step away from death or some life threatening predicament.The desolation within their souls as evident as the desolation of the road.

I did find that the author took a few liberties with some near incredulous luck being bestowed on the journey, but as addressed within the novel ‘luck’ is relative and survival under such circumstances may not even be considered lucky at all. But overall the novel is fantastically riveting and poignant and while addressing such a bitter story.

I’ll be honest in stating that I didn’t even know a movie was already made in 2009 which evidently slipped my radar. From what I gather from my limited reading of reviews it appears to be a fairly accurate adaptation and I do hope to watch it before too long.

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Movie Reviews 320 – PTU (2003)

November 11, 2017

Rather than arbitrarily selecting movies to review as I used to do when I started this blog, I’ve been trying to emphasize those that I do consider worthy of viewing, whether it be those that are outstanding or those that are quirky enough to have some redeeming entertainment value. Most of those I watch for review purposes are either ones I am already familiar with having seen them long ago or those that I have heard of through word of mouth in a positive manner. But every now and then I look at my library and pick a random title that I am unfamiliar with but bought based on decent ratings such as IMDB (which was probably a factor in my getting the title for my collection in the first place).

I say all this to explain how I ended up with Hong Kong director Johnnie To‘s police drama PTU here which has a bafflingly generous 6.9 IMDB rating and 80% Rotten Tomatoes audience score, both grades usually associated with the ‘crème de la crème’ of films. While I wouldn’t be so harsh as to assess PTU with it’s own title sans the “T” (That would be Pee-Yew, you know), I would hardly call it a classic either.

The plot about a police detective losing his issue revolver and then having to track it down seems somewhat a staple in asian movies being the main elements in earlier films like The Missing Gun (2002) and Kurosawa’s Stray Dog, (1949).  Sargent Lo Sa (Lam Suet) loses his gun after being ambushed by a triad gang after pestering them at a local restaurant. When the Police Tactical Unit arrives, (hence the PTU title which stumped me for a while) their leader Mike (Simon Yam) a friend of Lo’s agrees give him until morning to find the gun before reporting the fact which would irreparably harm his career.  But even Mike’s PTU squad members have reservations and to make matters worse both Lo and Mike have to dodge a suspicious Inspector (Ruby Wong).

The entire sequence takes place over one night from the jarring start at the restaurant which leaves one triad member dead to the comic twist of the final solution to the gun puzzle as dawn approaches. But the tale itself plays out like a Tarantino plot with more and more characters drawn into the ever increasing complex story. While I enjoyed some of the twists other elements like stretched out scenes were straining. One example was an endless flashlight drawn search in a stairway. Forgivable if there was any actual tension, but it in my eyes interminable especially given that the whole movie is only 88 minutes long.

The characters are interesting and when the scenes do work this movie is fun especially the first half. But when it drags it kills the atmosphere that has been built up to that point and you basically have to wait for the next interesting event. I think this is a hit or miss depending on your tolerance level and patience. For those that do enjoy it the good news is that this was popular enough to have spawned a whole series of Tactical Unit sequels, although I am in no hurry to seek them out myself.

Movie Reviews 319 – The Dark Half (1993)

November 3, 2017

When it comes to halves The Dark Half is equally parsed from both from the story content point of view and from the legendary creators behind the production, teaming a Stephen King story and putting it in the directorial hands of George Romero.

While I haven’t really validated any official metrics I’m fairly confident in saying that when it comes to movie and television adaptations, Stephen King is the one writer whose works have been used as source material more than anyone else. If IMDB is any indication, easily more than one hundred of his novels and short stories have been used as a basis, but that includes some which have been remade or those that have spawned an entire series of films, The Children of the Corn series having ten entries alone. His screen adaptation legacy basically mirrors his actual literary prolificacy.

Filmmaker George Romero who recently passed away will forever be noted for creating Night of the Living Dead which gave rise the modern zombie mythos, and he too has a rather lengthy acumen with horror although with fewer successes over the years, most being sequels to Night of the Living Dead.

But while The Dark Half is a film that combines the talents of these two heavyweights, its reception does not fall into the superior output of either creator and sadly must be considered a second-rate film, but one that does have a few merits.

As a young lad Thad (Timothy Hutton) occasionally suffered from seizures and when doctors investigate they find a partially absorbed parasitic twin growing within his brain which they remove. Years later and now writer, Thad enjoys enormous success as a trashy mystery writer using the pen name “George Stark” while languishing as a serious writer and part time professor using his real name. When a spunky kid figures out George Stark’s real identity, he tries to blackmail Thad hoping the stigma of being labelled a tawdry author is one he would prefer to remain secret. But Thad decides not to cave in and instead of burying the fact reveals himself to the world, even going so far as to glamorize the announcement by staging a hokey ‘George Stark’ burial photo op at a cemetery.

When the photographer of the photo op is killed in an accident and Thad’s fingerprints are found at the scene making him a prime suspect, the faux cemetery plot in which George Stark was figuratively intered is found to have been unearthed. The apparent animation of George as an corporeal entity begins to hunt and murder all of those involved with the prank, and soon Thad finds himself under deeper and deeper suspicion despite a sympathetic local Sheriff (Michael Rooker) trying to give him some leeway. Thad has to convince everyone of his innocence and put a stop to George, but how do you catch yourself?

Part of the problem with this film is that the evil doppelganger plot only goes so far and parts of the story are muddled. The movie first seems to play with the notion of a physical being at the start (that parasite), but then switches gears and opts for psychological entity taking human form. Some of the other characters including Thad’s wife (Amy Madigan) who play major roles end up being totally inconsequential. Other characters who figure into the plot are only loosely utilized. Hutton puts in a double shift playing both the roles of Thad and George but to his credit it took me quite a while to figure out if it really was him playing George given the remarkable contrast in voice, style and mannerism. I confess that I wasn’t one hundred percent sure until I read the end credits.

There are quite a few decent kill scenes that fans of the genre will find satisfying but the one truly shocking scene doesn’t even have a hint of violence. Aside from some those few moments the rest of the film is rather slow going and tedious. There is a recurring reference to a flock of turbulent sparrows that is supposed to be symbolic of Satan, but it comes off as silly rather than serious.

So I’d have to say this one is more for completists of either of the master creators, but if you’re a devotee to both men then I suppose it is mandatory viewing regardless.

Movie Reviews 318 – Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)

October 27, 2017

I’ve been looking forward to watching Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte ever since reviewing Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? which is probably my favorite Bette Davis movie. So successful was Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? that it inspired an entire subgenre of so called ‘psycho-biddy’ films of which  Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte is probably the most well known besides the progenitor.

The movie begins with a young Charlotte (Davis) having her plans of eloping with a married man (Bruce Dern) shattered on the eve of a lavish ball hosted by her wealthy father (Victor Buono). Her father did not approve of the romance and earlier in the evening coerced and bribed the young man to end the affair. Soon after Charlotte’s heart is broken she dazedly stumbles into the house full of celebrating guests and shocks everyone wearing a bloody dress and raving.

Presumed guilty but managing to evade prosecution on a technicality (and some southern hand greasing) Charlotte, now a spinster thirty years later, clings to the last legacy of her wealthy upbringing, the quickly deteriorating mansion. Alone except for the company of her wretched servant Velma (Agnes Moorehead) Charlotte maintains a low profile until a demolition crew comes to raze the homestead to make room for a bridge. This entices Charlotte to call upon her one last remaining relative, Miriam (Olivia de Havilland) to help her out of the predicament.

Miriam is shocked by Charlotte’s dire state and enlists the help of the local country physician Drew (Joseph Cotten), a former beau of Miriam’s, to tend to Charlotte’s physical and mental well being. But Charlotte begins to be haunted by the events of that dreadful night so long ago. She knows that everyone believes she killed her lover although she herself does not seem sure.

Suspicions of the murder vary between Charlotte, her angry father, the man’s widowed wife (Mary Astor), Velma  and a few other possibilities. But identifying the guilty party is just part of the intrigue here as we chip away at her present descent into madness and discover an even ghastlier surprise. This double mystery, one from the past and one in the present and how both are interconnected elevates the film thrill factor far beyond any mundane thriller.

No slouch herself under normal circumstance, de Havilland pales under the stellar Davis who makes magnificent use of those legendary eyes in numerous scenes. Perhaps understandably so given that de Havilland was a last minute substitute for Joan Crawford, the original choice for the role and who began the shoot until succumbing to Davis in their legendary offscreen war. The rest of the cast are all also in top form here, Buono (ironically playing Davis’ father here after playing her younger suitor in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?) and Moorehead in particular. Another surprise inclusion is the use of some fairly graphic gore in a few select scenes, but at the same time not quite gratuitous and genuinely adding to the suspense.

While this wasn’t nearly as savory as Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? it certainly merits a viewing. Now I’m tempted to seek out more of those other psycho-biddy movies. I need to know Who Slew Auntie Roo? Don’t you?

War for the Planet of the Apes: Revelations – Gregory Keyes (2017)

October 21, 2017

Gregory Keyes is no stranger to writing Planet of the Apes movie prequel novels having penned the prequel Dawn on the Planet of the Apes: Firestorm which I really enjoyed. These prequel novels, when done correctly, provide a little more substance and background to the main event they are foreshadowing, and give us that little extra for those who want more than what a limited time film can deliver. Much like Alan Dean Foster was in his day, Keyes writes both original novels and franchise supplements, in this case also dipping his pen into Star Wars, Independence Day and Babylon 5 universes aside from my beloved simian series. I point this out to delineate the fact that he is not a new writer trying to find his groove and I do have expectations despite the fact that many would consider such an novelizations self indulgent fluff. But with War for the Planet of the Apes: Revelations bridging the Dawn on the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes movies, I must admit that the end product did little to satiate my hunger for more.

To briefly recap where we are in this storyline, the emergence of sentient simians due to a human intelligence serum has killed of most of mankind and plunged the planet in a post apocalyptic largely barren world. Caesar, leader of the apes hopes to leave the few remaining humans to their own devices, but the renegade bonobo Koba started a war with the residents of San Francisco. Caesar defeated Koba, but not before word of the battle got out to other distant human colonies.

The novel draws on the events immediately following Dawn and is a direct lead up to the movie War. (Note: I also have the novelization of War and will be reviewing it at some point). Having seen the last movie and noting that the human contingent befriended by Caesar, Dreyfuss and his family, are nowhere to be seen, I figured that this novel may be explain how that family and the apes parted ways. Sadly, while Dreyfus is included here, the matter of how he separated was dealt with in just a few lines and basically matter of “We’re going in this direction. See ya.”

What this movie does address in greater detail is the role of Colonel McCullough who leads the forces of the military that approached San Francisco at the tail end of Dawn. In this plot line McCullough, a hardened war vet from a family with a long line of military allegiance knows little of his adversary leader Caesar. He slowly comes to realize that is dealing with a highly intelligent and tactical savvy opponent when his battleship locates the apes on the Golden Gate bridge and environs. Limited in artillery, McCullough awaits reinforcements from another ship while Caesar and his troupe attempt to escape.

However the majority of the novel deals with an insurgent group of apes once dedicated to the deceased Koba and the anti-human sentiment he sowed. The rebellion could not come at a worse time for Caesar, already short on fighters, with the women and children separated as they seek a secure hideout, and with his son Blue Eyes sent on another reconnaissance mission.

A common theme of father and son strained relationship prevails, not only between Caesar and Blue Eyes, but also that of McCullough and his son and subordinate. It is also a coming of age tale as Blue Eyes and two other apes have a long journey in which he encounters both sympathetic and combatant humans, even having to deal with some rebellious apes on his own. Largely focused on Blue Eye’s adventures, the novel occasionally shifts to Cornelia, Caesar’s wife, and the party of women and children who are temporarily on their own. While it was satisfying to seeing an expanded role for her, having largely been a minor character so far, having her deal with rogue apes as well became a somewhat tiresome thread.

There are a few nods to the original series from the 70’s with the inclusion to the Alpha and Omega from the Book of Revelations, and characters named Armand (Armando from Escape and Conquest), Evans (a tribute to Maurice Evans the original Dr. Zaius).

While there is abundant character development I found the book largely unsatisfying, shocking as I’ve enjoyed a lot of PotA drivel over the years. The one evident thing that this novel was missing was Caesar himself who is used only sparingly and then often wondering about the others. Even the duel of wits against McCullough is largely predictable and tame.

The novel lacks grandeur in the plot and is just one stretched threadbare setup to War without really giving us much that is new or revealing. Unlike Firestorm those few new characters introduced here are imminently forgettable as is the entire book. Usually at this point I would just recommend this for PotA diehards, but in this case even those fans may want to skip this one and just watch (or read) War.

Movie Reviews 317 – Terror Train (1980)

October 6, 2017

A bunch of college students hire out a steam engine train for a short New Years eve trip with a lot of booze, music and some hanky panky. The students are all members of premed school and the organizers are some of the seniors who have past history of frat house hijinx. But a stranger has boarded this particular ride, taking advantage of the costume attire being worn by the partygoers. Before long students start disappearing and grizzly murdered bodies start appearing.

Basically a siege horror plot with the students stuck on the train, it stars Jamie Lee Curtis who was just beginning to foster her horror queen status at the time. The movie begins with an event that happened three years earlier in which a then sorority pledge Alana (Curtis) was used as a bait for a prank on a male frat pledge. We then learn that the misguided prank led to the victim having some long lasting psychological damage. So given this looming beginning sequence we pretty much know who the interloper is so a number red herrings in the plot are pointless. However we do have to figure out where he is hiding among the crowd and despite a twist intended to throw off viewers, it was easy for me to figure out who that was as well.

One of those red herrings is real life magician David Copperfield who plays a hired Illusionist to entertain the kids during the ride. No thespian, Copperfield does make up for it and adds some entertainment value with his sleight of hand and parlour tricks. The real treat however ends up being veteran actor Ben Johnson as the conductor who has as much screen time as Curtis and just as essential to the plot.

Once the killer has dispatched all the other seniors that were involved in the prank gone wrong the movie basically becomes a battle between Alana, the mystery killer and a race to get to the next train station. Basically your typical 80’s slasher with plenty of nubile women and a touch of disco glitter.

As the end credits rolled with a fair amount of French crew listed I suspected, and then confirmed that this was shot near my hometown city of Montreal. Alas, since the entire film takes place on the train there was no distinguishing landmark or backdrops.

A unique take on the college campus horror motif and with enough suspense to keep this one chugging along …

Movie Reviews 316 – Flatliners (1990)

September 29, 2017

Led by a driven rebel (Kiefer Sutherland), a quintet of med students and interns begin experimenting with inducing temporary death with the intent to answer the everlasting question of what, if anything, exists in the afterlife. Working at night in a what looks like a colossal roman chamber set in a museum under construction, Nelson (Sutherland) is the first to go under, pumped with drugs and having his heart jolted by a defibrillator normally used to revive people. Once reawoken, the thrill of the groundbreaking scientific achievement is quickly lost by the members of the group, each now jostling to be the next one to undergo the experience.

Part of the drama and tension is focused on how the members begin to pledge to remain lifeless longer than the previous volunteer and others vying for the opportunity, both advancing the boundaries of their scientific discovery and increasing the danger factor for the next experiment. But the repetitive “I want to go next” declarations with increasingly longer pledge times soon become tiresome.

Some members like Rachel (Julia Roberts) have personal reasons and seek specific answers regarding lost family members, while the others seem to simply seek the thrill. Despite assurances by Nelson that there were no aftereffects of the procedure, those who do undergo the lethal maneuver start having hallucinations of past tragic events and the people adversely affected by those events. Nelson himself is plagued by dreams of a little kid who tragically died. Joe (William Baldwin) is tormented by all the women he secretly videotaped while having sex, David (Kevin Bacon) is haunted by a young girl he bullied in school and Rachel is afflicted with visions of her dead father. Things then get a lot more complicated when the victims in those dreams soon become corporeal, and in the case of the kid tormenting Nelson in particular, start inflicting real injuries.

The discourse dallies around religion, the possibility of an afterlife and both philosophical and moral ramifications, but those are overshadowed by the plot devices centered on the guilt of past indiscretions and the terror of the macabre manifestations released. But the fact that almost each of the members have such dark pasts strains belief. The only credible role ends up being that of Randy played by Oliver Platt, the only one in the group who has no desire to join the others and undergo the ritual and not coincidentally the one character whose inclusion in the story is only to inject a bit of comedy.

My memories of this film were that of a far better viewing experience than watching it this time around and my current assessment falls to that of the title itself.

Beep, beep, beep, beeeeeeeee………

Movie Reviews 315 – Blue Velvet (1986)

September 22, 2017

David Lynch‘s unique and often disturbing storytelling style was already well established when he wrote and directed Blue Velvet. After his debut Eraserhead had patrons scratching their heads he briefly turned to mainstream cinema with the highly successful Elephant Man and then followed that with the disastrous Dune adaptation. Blue Velvet was his triumphant return to his personal twisted turf, garnering accolades as much as controversy.

The tale of how a small town local returns when his father suffers a heart attack, Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) stumbles upon a bloody human ear in a field. The local police detective effectively turns him away from the investigation, but the detective’s daughter Sandy (Laura Dern) proves to be much more insightful and leads him to spying on a woman (Isabella Rossellini) in a nearby apartment building. Breaking into her apartment one night Jeffrey discovers that Dorothy is being tormented by someone, but the reasons are unclear, and only later does he learn that she is being abused and debased by a Frank (Dennis Hopper), a crazed drug lord holding her family hostage.

Dorothy is a nightclub singer whose signature song is Bobby Vinton’s Blue Velvet with Frank being regular patron for her performances, always clutching and salivating over a piece of blue velvet fabric that he has cut from her housecoat. When Frank encounters Jeffery he strong-arms him into joining him and his motley crew of thugs who are nearly as insane as Frank into a night of audacious whorehouse and bar visits. All during this time Jeffrey is vying for Sandy while being seduced by a masochistic Dorothy who is never fully hinged.

Lynch’s suburbia noir, rumoured to be a partial biopic, is equally repelling and viscerally fascinating. A movie that begins with sunny white picket fences transitioning to Dorothy’s dark dingy crimson apartment, and then back again. Hopper’s portrayal of Frank is equally bipolar, one minute a sleazy screaming brute who regresses into a babbling baby when seducing Dorothy, only to snap back if she so much as looks at him directly. Dorothy’s torment goes beyond mere abuse and at her lowest point dazedly walks the evening streets fully unclothed, one of many scenes eliciting scorn from critics for having Rossellini put through such an ordeal. The fine line between art or exhibitionism is razor thin.

Marking the triumphant return of Dennis Hopper to Hollywood after a stint in rehab, Blue Velvet really must to be seen to be appreciated. Full of nuggets and subtleties like the organ music score playing as Sandy explains her dreams of robins to Jeff with street view of a church as a backdrop. The film never explains how and why Dorothy’s family got into the predicament with Frank in the first place, but this ambiguity and other non-traditional indiscretions to film storytelling ‘rules’ enhances the mystery of the film and part of what make them ‘Lynchian’.

No review of Blue Velvet is complete without mentioning Angelo Badalamenti fabulous score which aside from Vinton’s song equally effectively uses Roy Orbison’s “In dreams” hauntingly being lip synched by Dean Stockwell.

My MGM Special Edition DVD contained a documentary made a number of years after the movie that I found to be almost as mesmerizing as the movie itself and further mystifying the enigmatic director. He reportedly found the brutal rape scene uncontrollably funny and laughed throughout the filming. Another surprise addition was the wildly divergent review by Gene Siskel and Robert Ebert from one of their old “At the Movies” episodes, which really completed my time machine viewing experience.

Movie Reviews 314 – Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970)

September 15, 2017

Preceding the movie Shaft which arguably ignited the blacksploitation explosion of the 70’s and theaters subsequently being flooded with films based on the grittier aspects of African American ghetto’s, Cotton Comes to Harlem was one of the earliest efforts to test those waters. Directed by Ossie Davis (who also co-wrote the screenplay and provided some of the soundtrack) it delivers all the facets of sleaze, corruption, poverty and crime, but parcelled in the stereotypical slang and funk of the period and setting.

A slick urban preaching semi-messiah is scooping up donations from the poverty stricken residents of Harlem promising them a piece of land ‘back home’. But neighborhood cops “Gravedigger” Jones (Godfrey Cambridge) and “Coffin” Ed Johnson (Raymond St. Jacques) aren’t buying it. The police higher ups and even the municipal officials think self proclaimed “Reverend” Deke O’Malley (Calvin Lockhart) is clean, but when the money amassed is stolen by hooded thieves, Coffin and Gravedigger set their sights on O’Malley.

What follows is a twisted chase for a bale of cotton involving O’Malley’s girl Iris (Judy Pace), mobsters, bumbling cops and a ragged street scavenger (Redd Foxx), all culminating in Harlem’s famed Apollo theater.

This film brings out both the worst of the seedy New York neighborhood of that era including the crime, dingy housing, littered streets, and drugs, while at the same time exemplifying the pride and self respect of most of those living there. Their general distrust of cops and authority is cooled by the respect they have for Gravedigger and Coffin who end up showing their prophet for what he really is.

This was a movie I was looking forward to rewatching, not having seen it in over thirty years. Watching it now I found that some parts did not age as well. While the comedy works fairly well  for the most part, a number of attempts at slapstick feel visibly forced and fall flat. The message is also a mixed bag, Gravedigger and Coffin delivering on their promise to return the money but relying on a partnership with seedier elements to do so. Surprising for a comedy, Davis also injected quite a lot of nudity and sex into the story, something that was probably considered ‘de rigeur’ for audiences at the time and helping it at the box office. But that too is an indicator of how time have changed. I thought that introducing the Apollo as part of the story was probably something not given as much thought at the time, but now serves as both a great tribute and a memorial for anyone watching the movie today.

Certainly one of the better movies of the genre and worthy of viewing, but if you want to watch a more typical and representative movie, one with more flash, action and pezzaz, stick with Shaft or Coffy.

Movie Reviews 313 – Destination Inner Space (1966)

September 10, 2017

Every now and then I take one for the team. I watch a movie I have absolutely no hope of being anything but formulaic, lame, and dumb. Destination Inner Space fit that bill and delivered on all accounts. Or would that be ‘fail to deliver’?

The story is about a remote ocean research platform and joining undersea facility that have been recording some odd sonar blips in the last few days and enlist the help of the military to try to narrow down their guess as to what it may be. It turns out to be a crashed space vessel of some sort containing bread loaf sized  frozen capsules. When the researchers enter the ship and bring back one of the capsules it starts growing at an alarming rate, eventually rupturing and releasing a man sized creature.

After killing the crew on the floating platform above, the creature battles the others below leaving them trapped with a dwindling air supply. The scientists hope to keep the creature alive for study while the military commander simply wants to destroy it. Which faction will win out?

Aside from the lame dialogue and silly, clearly evident miniatures used for some of the underwater structures, this movie has one thing going for it: a (poster accurate) badass looking

creature. The colorful rubber suit is a cross between the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Humanoids from the Deep. The one annoying thing about the costume was the huge hump on the back used to conceal the scuba air tanks for the underwater scenes. Kind of made me wonder how they filmed other all those other movies with underwater creatures. Hold their breath and many short takes I guess. But I digress…

The only person that can act in this movie is veteran character actor James Hong who has a minute role as Ho Lee (I think there is a joke somewhere in there with that name), the cook in the crew. But this was a very early role for him and he is barely on screen, and then only for comic relief.

Other than the plot directly related to the creature, there is a clash of characters between the military commander and one of the research crew, a former military man himself who has a personal beef with him. But even that is resolved so awkwardly you really have to question what the writer was thinking. With so little to go in the way of the story they decided to include not one, but two women to add some romance to the proceedings. I have to give credit in that they didn’t just stick with the barely-out-of-high-school hottie mentality and actually included one flirtatious middle aged woman. While the underwater scenes repeatedly use the same locations over and over, there is a cool looking two-man sub and some nice underwater footage.

The problem here is that all of the above can be had by just watching episodes of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea but with better scripts, better actors, similar monsters and a lot cooler tech. So if a great looking monster is all you need, you’re OK with this one. Anything more and you’re out of luck.