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Fish Don’t Walk!
In 1975, Steven Spielberg & Universal Pictures unleashed the classic film “Jaws” onto an unsuspecting movie audience populous. Besides being a huge blockbuster that spawned 3 sequels, and keeping a lot of viewers away from the water for years to come, it also spawned a long and continuing line of rip-offs and copycats. Among those “copycats” was 1978’s “Piranha“, which was directed by Joe Dante and produced by the legendary Roger Corman. Spielberg was even prepared to sue the duo over the film’s similarities, but later changed his mind after actually watching and enjoying the film. This, in turn, would lead to Spielberg’s decision to bring Dante onboard years later to direct “Gremlins“.
It would appear that the threat of lawsuit is something that doesn’t phase Corman very much as he would continue to churn out other “Jaws” clones or variations. Among those knock-offs is today’s featured film, 1979’s “Up From The Depths“. While “Jaws” took place in the cool waters of Massachusetts, “Depths” takes place on the warm, sunny beaches of Hawaii, here played by the Philippines. The film was produced by prolific Filipino filmmaker Cirio H. Santiago (The Big Doll House, The Big Bird Cage), and was directed by Charles B Griffin. Griffin was also the writer, producer, and/or director on damn near every one of Corman’s early films.
Fun Fact: In what would unintentionally later turn into another similarity to Spielberg’s films, the film was released in Japan as “Jurassic Jaws”.
A marine biologist and his young female assistant, Sandy, are out on the water in a small boat. She’s equipping scuba gear in preparations for a dive. As this is a Corman flick, she’s also very “well endowed” and not wearing a bra. (Thanks again, Rog!). She also doesn’t speak the English very well. She does, however, speak it well enough to ask the Dr. for a “good luck” kiss. His kiss is decidedly NOT lucky, and she is quickly eaten by an unseen creature shortly after diving in. Her tank floats to the surface, followed by a bucket of blood.
Coincidentally, “A Bucket of Blood” was also written by Charles B Griffin. Eh? See what I did there?
The camera pulls WAAAAY out to reveal an island resort. A luau has begun. Guests are dining and drinking. Kids play in the shallows. Forbes, the resort manager, walks around greeting and checking on his guests. You can tell that he’s staff from the repulsive pink suit that he’s wearing.
A group of kids see something pink floating in the waters. Mr. Bennett, a guest at the resort, walks into it, getting it tangled up on him. He is now covered in globs of this chunky, fleshy goo. Bennett seems to think it’s chum. And he’s correct. We just aren’t exactly sure what kind of chum and from where it came. It could easily be “Sandy-flavored”.
His assistant manager, Rachel, floats to shore while standing astride a native paddle boat. Rachel is a sexy blonde in a white bikini top. It’s a scene straight out of some old jungle adventure film, the island queen making her appearance. The image is nothing more than cheap sexploitation and it’s friggin fantastic!
Forbes rushes Rachel down the beach, away from their guests, to tell her about the Bennett incident. He believes that some locals, the Sullivan’s, are out to ruin his business. In his frantic state, he almost sits on a severed shark’s head before Rachel stops him. Despite Forbes’ attempt at privacy, the scene is played for a laugh with a resort guest standing right behind him for the entire conversation. The man is even taking pictures of the shark’s head. Take note of this folks. This just may be the highlight of the film.
The Bennett’s are out walking the local market. They stop to look at some small, wooden statues. The vendor has put a “not for sale” sign on one of them. He tells the tourists that it’s “magical” in the hopes of baiting and reeling in a “suckerfish”. He tells Bennett that he wants $100 for it. A younger, American man approaches Bennett and warns him that the statue is a fake. He tells Bennett not to pay more than $50 for it, and he then walks back to his seat at the small bar across the street.
The Bennett’s do indeed pay $50 for the statue. They approach the man at the bar to thank him for the “warning” on the statue. The man introduces himself as “Greg Sullivan” (Sam Bottoms- Apocalypse Now, Dolly Dearest), who is actually a local con artist. He mentions that he lives on a boat with his uncle, a charter boat captain. Mr. Bennett asks to see the boat as he is interested in doing some fishing. Greg gives them the address and tells them to stop by later. Before Greg leaves, the statue dealer slips him his “cut” of the sale.
The Bennett’s arrive at the harbor to find that Greg and his uncle, Earl (Virgil Frye – Graduation Day, Revenge of the Ninja), actually live on a fairly small, rundown boat. Earl is pretty much just a drunk. He offers them some rum and asks them what kind of fish they hope to catch, rattling off a few different types of fish for them. I’m almost certain that at least 3 of them were actually strains of pot. Not that I’d know such things.
Earl is trying hard to sell the “drunken, ol’ sea dog” act, and Mr. Bennett is surely buying. They get the couple out on the water and tell them stories of sunken ships that took their treasures down with them to the ocean floor. Mr. Bennett, gullible fool that he is, offers to pay them to take him diving for the loot.
Sandy’s severed hand is eventually pulled from the sea by a resort employee. He takes the hand to Forbes to advise him of the finding, but Forbes orders the man to dispose of it and to keep hush. The scene will be mentioned again later, but for now it’s one of the first examples of just how hideous the performance is from the actor playing “Forbes”.
Unaware that a couple more resort guests have been eaten by the shark, Bennett still has the Sullivan’s take him out treasure hunting. He has recruited another resort guest, Mr. Holland, to do the diving for him. What both men are unaware of is that all the “treasure” has been planted by Greg prior to the boat trip. Holland starts retrieving the gold and pearls completely oblivious to just how new and untarnished they look. He’s also oblivious to the shark that soon eats him. Bennett and the Sullivan’s must now return to the harbor to report his death.
A supermodel arrives at the resort. She quite dumb, and honestly, she’s also not that attractive. She does, however, spend most of her role naked. So, yeah, there’s that.
After what I’m pretty sure has been a few days, the staff member that found Sandy’s hand reports it to Rachel. When she asks what he’s done with it, he replies that it’s been sitting on ice in the resort’s kitchen’s walk-in freezer. Ya know, just hanging out with most of the food that will be used to make these guests’ over-priced meals. I’m kinda surprised that no one has made a bigger deal out of that.
Greg, Rachel, and a couple of members of the resort’s staff head out on the water to hunt down the shark. The shark finally reveals itself, and quite honestly, I didn’t find it very “shark” looking at all. To me, it looked more like a goliath grouper (or to the less easily offended, a Jewfish).
The grouper shark lunges out of the water to capsize their boat, eating the non-essential characters. It then also turns its sights on some kids cliff diving, the harbor master and the marine biologist (in his boat), and on a yacht on which Iris is doing a nude photo shoot. This provides this fish with his own “naked lunch”. (Heroin not included)
The creature approaches the beach of the resort. This causes all of the guests that were swimming to run screaming from the water. It’s a little over dramatic, but understandable. What isn’t all that understandable is the reaction by the guests currently on land. Ok, sure… most of the characters are drunk, but the sheer panic that sets over everyone is something that I’d think would sober you up a bit. People are running in every direction, tiki torches knocked over as they flee. Mr. Bennett seems to be the only one aware that fish don’t walk. Well, most don’t.
The next morning, most of the guests leave the resort. In an attempt to drum up a little publicity and, hopefully, save the resort, Forbes offers $1,000 to anyone that can bring him the shark. Dead or alive. This obviously brings in every opportunist around, including some of the remaining guests.
It’s also right around this point that everyone involved with the production just kinda gives up. The actors appear to stop trying as each one’s performance bottoms out. As quite a few of these performances were quite pitiful to begin with, that’s really saying something. It also appears that we’re given what is essential filler to carry us over until the 2 minute conclusion.
I will credit the film for having a rather cold-blooded ending. I’m not spoiling anything for you when I say that it involves using a now-deceased character’s body as bait.
Let’s just be direct here. Other than that shitball Corey Feldman flick (6 Degrees of Hell), Up From The Depths was the worst of any of the films I’ve watched for review. That’s a pretty big statement, even this early in the game. There’s really nothing redeeming about it. It fails in all 3 of the Vitamin “B” essentials. The BEAST is not shown much, and when it is, it’s not very impressive. There’s not much BLOOD to whet the appetite. And finally, there aren’t enough BOOBS to hide the lack of the first 2 “B‘s”. This one is strictly catch and release.