Sunday, August 29, 2010

Humanoids From The Deep

Not every movie can be a big-budget affair with a prestige director and Leonardo DiCaprio as the star. Some have to be more modest, low-budget fare, and they generally rely on one of the twin attractions of sex or violence to get an audience. No one understood this better than legendary producer Roger Corman, and his 1980 film Humanoids from the Deep may well be the ultimate intersection of cinema sex and violence.

The setting is a fishing village in the Pacific Northwest that has fallen on hard times. The fishing industry is suffering, and the community is torn between two factions, one which favors bringing in a cannery owned by the stock greedy corporation to provide jobs, and the other which wants to preserve the nature of the town, most represented by the local Native Americans. Well, Native American, since only one is seen in the movie. The two town groups are joined by a small party from the big corporation, including a scientist (Ann Turkel) who has come up with a way to make fish grow faster (uh-oh). All this backstory is presented in a perfunctory, by-the-numbers manner, which is okay, since we started watching this to see sea monsters kill people, not feel guilty about raping the environment. The lead, of sorts, is a sympathetic local fisherman played by Doug McClure, several years and many pounds removed from his heyday, and the villain is a hard-nosed local portrayed by the ill-fated Vic Morrow, sporting an unfortunate white-fro. But enough of that.

A series of attacks begin, of strange humanoid creatures arising from the, er, deeps. They rip men apart, while attacking women sexually for breeding purposes, ignoring the inconvenient biological fact that two different species find it difficult to interbreed, or that a fish-man would find a human woman as sexually attractive as a human man would a flounder (let’s not go there). The attacks increase in severity and culminate in an all-out assault at the town’s Salmon Festival. Irritatingly, despite salmon being the backbone of the local economy, none of the cast can pronounce it. The “L” is silent, folks. We are also treated to a scene of exposition as the Turkel character explains the situation is basically her fault, as one of her experiments has gone very wrong. She seems generally unconcerned with this, but that may be the limitations of the actress, other than callousness of the scientist, since the movie follows the old rule that an attractive woman can’t be to blame in these things. Must be the corporation instead.

Much blood is spilled, many breasts are bared, and we are treated to the unfortunate ultimate effect of the creature’s attacks on women.

Roger Corman is one of the most prolific producers in movie history, with a staggering 393 producing credits listed on imdb, although that number may change daily. Although his reputation is that of a guy who could make an exploitation flick as quickly and cheaply as possible, a number of big names went to “school” on his productions. Through the years, he gave work to Martin Scorcese, Francis Ford Coppola, Jack Nicholson, Jonathan Demme, Joe Dante and James Cameron, all of whom seem appreciative for Corman giving them a shot. He understood what attracts an audience to such a cheaply made film, and his terse instructions to director Barbara Peeters for the movie was supposedly “Kill the men, rape the women.” When Peeters turned in a cut with plentiful gore but mostly suggested sex, he fired her, and got a second unit director to shoot more nude scenes.

So there you have it. The movie is a lot of cheesy fun, in a SyFy channel movie way, but it is mostly gore and nudity. I think most people with a sense of humor would like it, but if you give it a try, you do know what you are letting yourself in for.

In some markets, the movie is known by the more unimaginative title of Monster, which must have shocked some viewers expecting a serious drama with Charlize Theron in uncomfortable prosthetics.

1 comment:

Craig Clarke said...

I have very fond memories of watching this movie and others one night as a youngster of about 7 or 8, having to stay up all night(!) in order to be asleep the next morning for a medical procedure.

I think it's probably best watched that way: hopped up on Mountain Dew with that perspective that only forced wakefulness can bring. :) The final birth scene is seared into my brain.