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  Up from the Depths Clue: It's Not JabberjawBuy this film here.
Year: 1979
Director: Charles B. Griffith
Stars: Sam Bottoms, Susanne Reed, Virgil Frye, Kedric Wolfe, Charles Howerton, Denise Hayes, Chuck Doherty, Helen McNeely, Ken Metcalfe, Randy Taylor, Dave D’Martyn, Clem Persons, Pete Cooper, Katherine Scholy, Ken Petruic, Bobby Greenwood, R. Lee Ermey
Genre: Horror, Comedy, Trash
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: On this Hawaiian island, the tourists flock to spend their vacations in the sun, in the sea and on the sand, eating pineapples, watching the hula girls, and generally having a good time. What they are not there for is whatever lurks in the ocean that a local scientist, Dr David Whiting (Charles Howerton), has encountered when he sends his assistant down into the water to investigate the sea life and try to come back with samples. Suddenly, there is an ominous rumble and she sees some huge creature unleashed from the sea bed heading towards her - it's no use, she cannot get away and soon she has been devoured as Whiting looks on hopelessly...

Jaws was extremely big news in the movie world in the late nineteen-seventies, even into the eighties (when two sequels to the original were made), and after a lull a culture of junk documentaries on the subject of sharks gave rise to a plethora of lower budget, and occasionally higher budget, horror films where the fish were the threat. All of these would debatably never have existed if Steven Spielberg's 1975 efforts had never become such an enormous blockbuster, and to say they almost entirely, every one, missed the classic quality of that original would be putting it mildly, as rarely has such a superb entertainment produced so much tat.

Not Spielberg's fault, of course, and in 1978 someone thought they could follow up Jaws with a sequel; that was another hit, though nothing like the scale of its source, as meanwhile some decidedly lower ambition works continued to sneak out to the world's cinemas, and Up from the Depths, seemingly with a title inspired by the first line of the title song of Hanna-Barbera's Godzilla cartoon series from the previous year, was one of the most impoverished cash-ins around. It was produced by exploitation supremo Roger Corman, who went uncredited, as one of the movies he made on the cheap in The Philippines throughout this decade, almost always with American stars imported.

Said American star this time was Sam Bottoms, one of four acting brothers who found fame in the seventies, but not really so much after that, and here he was introduced with his credit over an image of actual bottoms - hula girls shaking their hips as the camera alighted on their derrieres. That should give you some idea of how the tone of this was going, acknowledging that there was no way this was going to be scary when the resources were not there, so the best course of action was to make it funny. Not a bad idea, but possibly a drawback when there were no real jokes of any quality, and moreover an issue when Corman re-edited director Charles B. Griffith's humorous work to make it more of a horror (one of his right hand men, Griffith said he had a terrible time making this, which went some way to souring the two men's relationship).

Alas, the only way you would be horrified at this would be if you actually paid for a ticket (or a disc, or a stream) and were forced to admit you had bought a pig in a poke, for this dragged on from attack scene to comedy scene with no grasp of what would make either worth sticking with. Susanne Reed was the female lead, trying to wrangle the business of the resort as her boss (Kedric Wolfe) grew ever more angst-ridden at the thought of driving away the tourists until he hits on the brainwave of offering a reward to anyone who can kill the fish that has been eating people. On the matter of that fish, the rather excellent poster deceptively promised something akin to the Jason Statham blockbuster The Meg from a few decades into the future: in fact, the film offered a couple of fins and an oversized fish head, complete with fanged mouth, that would not have passed muster in a sitcom, not that you would be laughing at its chronic appearance. With a conclusion that was the textbook definition of "damp squib", Up from the Depths was pretty hard to sit through.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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