|Humanoids from the Deep|
|Written by Bill Warren|
|Tuesday, 15 June 1999|
Roger Corman established his own empire, first primarily as director, later primarily as producer. He knows how to market a film, and has little shame in promoting even the cheesiest of titles, but with his "Roger Corman Classics" series of DVDs, at first it seemed he really did intend to do special editions of the best movies he was associated with; among the earliest releases were 'Piranha' and 'Death Race 2000.'
But then he came out with 'Humanoids from the Deep,' a clumsy, routine and crudely exploitive movie that was, despite all odds, a boxoffice success. Perhaps the success was because it combined nudity, monsters and blood -- it wasn't because the movie is actually good. It was one of several films (another being 'Piranha') that Corman remade for television in 1996, but the remake couldn't even include the blood and bare breasts that the original gleefully displays at all possible opportunities.
There's little original about the story, other than, perhaps, that the monsters may be mutated salmon. It's set vaguely in the Pacific Northwest, and was shot in northern California, mostly around Fort Bragg. We meet environmentally responsible fisherman Jim Hill (Doug McClure) and environmentally irresponsible fisherman Hank Slattery (Vic Morrow), who's constantly angry about something or other. And eventually we meet Dr. Susan Drake (Ann Turkel), the researcher who helped to accidentally create the monsters of the title.
The movie drags in side issues which it's not prepared to deal with in any way, much less resolve, such as whites vs. Indians, townsfolk vs. outsiders, the environmentally responsible vs. the spoilers of nature. These are lined up by writers Martin b. Cohen and Frederick James mostly as a means for us to tell Good Guys (for Indians, against environmental destruction) from the Bad Guys (againts Indians, for environmental destruction), as if the casting of McClure as hero and Morrow as antagonist (rather than villain) wasn't enough in the first place.
As usual with horror movies of this sort, be they science fiction or supernatural, the monster attacks begin gradually, showing very little of the creatures. At first, no one believes these low-rent imitations of the Creature from the Black Lagoon are out there; when they make themselves known, everyone seems to take them in stride, as if human-shaped fish monsters with a bent towards rape were as natural as marauding bears.
The monster suits were created by Rob Bottin, and show odd variations. There are the Humanoids with stubby little tails, who walk about bent over, as if they're about to squat on a toilet. there there are the Humanoids with long, long arms, the better to hug you with, my dear. The budget permitted Bottin only a few suits, but he makes the most of them, covering up defects and too-recognizable elements with seaweed.
The movie does boast a surprisingly lively and extensive climax, as the Humanoids raid a big shoreline festival; lots of people are killed, Humanoids spurt blood when shot, and there is fire everywhere. There's an extension of the climax as our hero Jim first saves Hank, then rushes off to rescue his wife (Cindy Weintraub) from a stray Humanoid or two.
The movie was one of the first to cheerfully mix gore and sex. First, the monsters are intent on rape (there don't seem to be any girl Humanoids), and always target the most buxom young ladies handy. They always rip off bras, exposing large, quivering breasts whenever possible. And there's a "surprise ending" that shows the result of all this sexual activity.
What with all this exposed female flesh, it's a little surprising that the movie was directed by a woman, Barbara Peeters, but that surprise stems from cultural stereotypes. Peeters knew her audience, knew what Roger Corman (excecutive producing this time) expected of her, and delivered the goods. She's pretty shameless about the nudity, as well as about how to make the audience jump. In one sequence, a terrified (and, of course, topless) young lady runs screaming along the beach, trying to elude the Humanoids that attacked her and her boyfriend in their tent. And then, quite literally out of nowhere, a Humanoid leaps out and grabs her. The only possible place it could have been hiding was behind the camera. The shock works, but it makes no sense at all.
The movie is well-produced on its minimal budget; Morrow was a fine actor, and McClure holds up his end well enough. The photography by Daniel Lacambre is way above average for a Corman movie in this period, taking full advantage of the foggy, misty, scenic locations. The unidentified sound process on the DVD is adequate, but this is not a film to test a home theater system.
The DVD includes a trailer, some filmographies mostly lifted from the Internet Movie Database (a giveaway: each actor's films are listed from newest to oldest), a trailer, and a brief, amusing interview with Corman conducted by film critic Leonard Maltin. It's obvious that the genial, smiling Corman knows 'Humanoids from the Deep' is junk -- but it was profitable junk, so he loves it.