Thursday, January 14, 2010

Up From the Depths - 1979 - Dir: Charles B. Griffith
Location: The Comfort of My House

I do love films involving killer creatures in the sea. My favorite, along with everyone else, is sharks but I don't discriminate. Any sea monster will do fine. After the genius that is Jaws so many films went on to rip it off all over the world. Italy has some especially interesting versions, but I'll get to that another day. Stop me if any of this sounds familiar. A big tourist attraction hotel in Hawaii known for the wonderful beach begins to struggle as things turn up dead in the water around the area and something large is seen beneath the waves. I was hoping to see a knock-off Quint offering up his services to capture the beast, but, alas, it never happened. What does happen is that we learn that the rubber fish monster is basically a killer sturgeon. Scary!

One of the great things about this film is the dialog. Not only is it extremely cheesy and over acted but it's practically all done via ADR in post. According to someone on IMDb who was in the film, something happened to the soundtrack and script so everything had to be dubbed. Some not even by the original actors. How the hell do you lose both the soundtrack AND the script? No one held onto a script? It is a genius piece of work after all, written by someone who never really did anything else and a production designer/art director with this as his only writing credit. Firmly at the helm of this picture was the late great Charles B. Griffith. While he directed a few things himself he is best known for his writing work for Roger Corman films such as Death Race 2000, A Bucket of Blood and, most notably, The Little Shop of Horrors. I have not seen any other films he's directed (with the exception of The Little Shop of Horrors where is was uncredited) so I don't know if this is his typical kind of work. He did make a hot rod chase film, Eat My Dust (1976), starring Ron Howard. I might have to seek out his other films because this was ridiculous fun. You just don't see enough topless scuba diving sequences these days.

My advice - watch this film with some friends and mass quantities of beer. Pre-order the DVD here with a bonus Corman classic, Demon of Paradise. Release Date: April, 13, 2010

Shakma - 1990 - Dir: Tom Logan & Hugh Parks
Location: The Comfort of My House

It worked out perfect that I have two films in a row with the crazy animals. I have BTS Junkie to thank for this gem since it's part of his weekly Horror Movie Night programming. Pretty much all you need to know about the plot is there is a crazy killer baboon in a med school lab building that is thought to be dead, but isn't. What do the cool med students do on a Friday night? What any college age kid does, they play some elaborate Dungeons & Dragons style game in the multi-level building with their professor as the game master. Awesome!

So the movie isn't going to win any awards, except for maybe 1990 crazy animal flick of the year, but it is full of great things. A large portion of the runtime is spent with characters walking or running down hallways which all look pretty much the same. I guess this really saved some money and time location wise. All they had to do was add/remove a plant and maybe switch a number on a door and you're ready for the next shot. All kidding aside, the titular Shakma baboon is pretty freaking creepy. The way this screeching animal runs down the hall and thrashes about against doors would be terrifying. Would you want this coming at you?

I didn't think so.

The film's directors (that's right, there are two of them) never really did anything of much merit and the writer, Roger Engle, has this listed as his only credit. Maybe he never did anything else because studios and audience goers alike were confused as hell by this highly involved role playing game. I'm not entirely sure what the goal was, aside from saving the princess, but it involved scrolls, a computer system with bitchin' late-80s graphics and Roddy McDowall (Fright Night's Peter Vincent, vampire killer) as the game master/med school professor. The cast also includes the lovely Amanda Wyss, the girl who is slashed while flying through the air in front of her boyfriend in A Nightmare on Elm Street, and The Blue Lagoon's heartthrob Christopher Atkins is the male lead here named Sam.

Unfortunately the DVD of this is out-of-print currently, but if you can find a copy somewhere it will make for a good watch with some friends and beer like Up from the Depths. Why not make it a double feature? You can watch the whole film, in eleven parts, here on YouTube.


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