Thursday, December 24, 2009

Movie Review: Tentacles

Tentacles
Rated PG
1 ½ Slimes
Copyright American International Pictures 1977

THE CHARACTERS

Ned Turner: John Huston! The town’s news reporter who is very interested in the events happening to the little town. Provides nothing to this film and is mostly there to eat up time.

Tillie Turner: Shelley Winters! Ned’s older sister who, surprisingly for her age, has a young son named Tommy. She almost gets him killed by constantly talking on the radio to him.

Will Gleason: A marine biologist that looks like Roger Ebert with a cigarette. His wife gets eaten by the octopus, so he sends his two trained orcas after the beast to kill it.

Mr. Whitehead: Henry Fonda! He runs Trojan Tunnels corporation that makes underwater tunnels for whatever reason. Henry seems a bit bored playing this part in the film.

Tommy Turner: Tillie’s son?! She’s old enough to be his grandmother!

Jaime: Tommy’s friend. How nice! He becomes octopus chow in front of him and leaves everlasting childhood scarring.

Vicky Gleason: Will’s wife and coworker at a Sea World knockoff. She cares deeply for her husband and is promptly killed off for very little good reason.

John Corey: Whitehead’s vice president of the company who just provides exposition.

Sheriff Robards: Typical sheriff character who doesn’t believe anything until he gets proof.

Octopus: Damn, this thing is one hungry son of a gun. In less than 3 days, it eats over 10 people! We never find out why it eats anyone, but luckily, I wasn’t expecting a reason so there was no harm done on my part. 2 orcas rip the thing a new one.

LESSONS LEARNED
+ Trojan not only makes condoms, they are involved in underwater digging operations.
+ Octopuses have their own synthesizer music.
+ Octopuses have glowing yellow eyes and can moan & groan.
+ Octopuses don’t like radios.
+ Octopuses are gorgers.
+ Octopuses can create giant tidal waves that can sink boats when they surface.
+ Shotguns sound like cannons.
+ Training orcas for 2 years may make them like you enough to kill for you.

STUFF TO WATCH FOR
1 min – If this opening is any foreshadowing to future events of them, I’m going to very bored.
4 min – Well… that wasn’t pleasant.
9 min – Great, now I’m not going to be able to forget that.
22 min – Poorly made Jaws music is kicking in.
26 min – There’s a pleasant last image to see before you die.
31 min – Must you wear that hat? It looks like it belongs in a Dr. Seuss book.
38 min – How the heck did that moped get there?!
43 min – It was only effective the first time.
45 min – WHAT?! You got to be kidding me. The octopus isn’t full from eating those 2 guys, especially the huge guy? What a greedy pig!
54 min – Watch out! A sea geyser!
56 min – Oh no!! A crappy green screen effect! Run away!
60 min – What turnout? There’s barely anyone around!
64 min – Squid? We’re talking about an octopus here! Stay focus.
74 min – Look you moron, you don’t shrug when people may be dead!
81 min – Wha…?
90 min – Hey, those air tanks have Italian written on them!
92 min – That’s right! Kill him Free Willy!
97 min – It’s official, orcas are awesome!

NOTABLE QUOTES
Ned Turner: Will, I've heard the suckers on a tentacles are like the claws on a tiger.
Will Gleason: Compared to suckers on a tentacle, claws are nothing Mr. Turner.

Tillie Turner: (To Jaime after he comes from the bathroom) Did everything come out alright?

THE PLOT

There aren’t many good killer octopus films out there. The only one I can think of is It Came from Beneath the Sea, but that came out in the 50s so it has been a while. The only real recent octopus films have been the Octopus franchise (I’m not going to even dignify that franchise with a witty insult) and Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, which kind of says it all. However, this film came out during the 70s and it might be good… with the key word being might. It’s an American International Pictures film so I am not expecting anything.

The film opens up with us at Solana Beach, which seems rather peaceful and looks like a nice vacation spot, like Amity Island during pre-shark years. Of course, like Amity Island, hell breaks loose almost as soon as the film begins. A mother is next to the water’s edge with her baby in a stroller and then she walks off to talk with her friend, leaving her baby all alone. Stupid movie mothers! With a simple moment of neglect, the baby and its stroller are pulled into the water by probably the octopus. This is not seen clearly, but you can probably guess what happens. Also, seems a bit risky for a movie to kill a baby. It doesn’t make the movie better or interesting (Like Feast 2) and it is very ethically questionable.

So, the film then switches over to a cigar smoking guy doing something with a bucket on his fishing boat. His partner briefing chats with him and walks off for lunch. He then hears a splash and returns back to the boat to find the cigar guy is gone. Well, at least the fine is getting to the point about killer octopus. Switching scenes again, we find a girl and guy doing some fishing and then discovering the dead head of the cigar guy. Gees, you think the monster would have eaten everything.

Skipping ahead to later that night, the police have arrived to check on the body (The police sure move slowly). Ned Turner, I think a reporter, and Sheriff Robards discuss the situation about the dead guy and the baby. They both don’t know what is going and what happened to the two victims, but Robards wants Nate to keep quiet about the situation to the press. He doesn’t want to worry the town.

We then get some exposition scenes between Ned and his sister Tillie and some curious dialogue between Mr. Whitehead (Seriously, that’s the best name you got?) and one of his employees. It doesn’t really provide anything to film, but at least it builds up some background for the characters, better than most AIP films do. We then cut to some scuba divers doing some underwater work for Mr. Whitehead’s company, Trojan Tunnels. While they are working, we get some underwater stalking footage. Guess who?

After that, we cut to Sea World, where Ned is visiting Will Gleason, a marine biologist, and his wife, Vicky Gleason. He wants to get some help for his investigation into the mysterious incidents. While this is happening, the two drivers from before check out some sort of tunnel system created by Whitehead’s company. They randomly swim around the ocean floor, looking at weird cables and boxes, until the octopus pops up and eats one of them. The other diver swims back to capsule that brought them down to the floor earlier, but the octopus attacks and kills in it. Alright, to be fair, this is sort of interesting.

Nate, meanwhile, talks to John Corey, one of Whitehead’s employees about the tunnel system the company had been making for some reason. Then after that, we have Tillie entering her son, Tommy (He’s way too young to be her son), and his friend, Jaime, into a sail boat race! The race is going to involve contestants from all over the area as well. Oh boy! I know where this is going to head already! Also, aren’t those kids a bit too young to enter a race alone, even if parental authorization?

Sheriff Robards and Ned meet again to discuss the event of the case, now that we have two more dead bodies to add to the count. Ned thinks all four cases are linked to together by radios, since there was radio nearby all the cases. Speaking of radios, Tillie gets Tommy and Jaime a pair of walkie-talkie, aka radios! Ah, foreshadowing. Don’t we all love you?

The following day, Will Gleason and another guy do their own investigation, to the incidents happening, since the divers were friends of his and Ned asked him too. During their swim, they run across a fish graveyard, a sunken moped wreck, and a bunch of random junk, but nothing really else. How pointless of that scene and the build up to it. We cut away from that to a scene of the octopus stalking a brown hair chick (Vicky’s sister?), a fat Mario character, and a blond Carrot Top. The radio on their boat is on to give us a reason for its appearance. The octopus eats the guys in the water and then gets the girl on the boat. You think it would be full after devouring the Mario clone.

Back to Will and his friend, who discuss their findings under the water. Judging from the stuff they found and how it was ripped apart, they figure a giant octopus did it. Talk about your leap of faith, even if it is correct. Then in a completely unexplained scene, Vicky heads off onto the water for some explained reason. Seriously, we just see her on a boat heading out on the water and that’s it. Nothing is told, just that!

It isn’t for a few minutes after the fact that we find out she was searching for the 3 people that got killed her… I think. It’s not explained at well and there is barely any dialogue to give us that fact. So, she finds the boat with a couple of random guys and then they head off to report to the coast guard their findings. Along the way, the giant octopus pops up and attacks the boat (The radio was on and that is a big no-no of course). In a few brief of moments of the attack, you can actually see the boat turn into one of those kid toys you play with in the bathtub!

So, the boat sinks and Vicky is now stuck in the water. The octopus then kills her in a matter moments. You know, this is starting to get a bit annoying. In the film I watched a bit ago, The Rats; I was demanding more death scenes, since the film was really lacking them. Now with this film, death scenes are so frequent that they lost all terror or horror value. This is just bad as the Final Destination series, but less gruesome.

Then we cut a large group of people standing by the shore for some reason unexplained for a good 2 to 3 minutes, with no dialogue and just bubbly sounding music. I think by the end of it, Will finds out his wife is dead, but with no body to show for it (considering the piggish octopus probably ate her by now), I wouldn’t know how he would think that at the moment. So the day turns and it is now the sailboat racing competition! Ah yes, more death scenes to come! Can’t we slow down for a bit and develop the plot? So, Tillie takes Tommy & Jaime to the contest and they sail off this boat, with their little radios as well. Trouble’s soon going to be a brewin’.

Ned and Will tell the sheriff about the octopus and their theory about it. They manage to get the coast guard to block off the area so that no one goes out into the water, but they somehow missed that whole sailboat competition. How can you forget that during a killer octopus situation!? The 3 of them rush to the area and have the coast guard round up the sail boaters.

Of course, the octopus is in the area, still hungry somehow, and goes off after the boaters. During this time, we keep cutting between the Tillie, the octopus, and the boaters over and over for a good 4 minutes until something finally happens. The octopus charges at the boats like a shark, seriously, and starts knocking over some boats and goes directly at Jaime & Tommy, since the radio is on and Tillie keeps calling them. It then pulls them and the boat into the depths of the sea.

Ok, seriously, Tommy gets out ok, but is in some sort of shock. Jaime is dead though. With all this in mind, Will heads to where the octopus’ lair may be to kill the creature with two trained Orcas, that he hopes will kill the octopus! Damn, I didn’t know you train Orcas to kill sea life for you! However, they swim off and leave him. Well, so much for trust and training.

So, Will and his buddy drop into the water and swim around for about 5 minutes or so until they run into the octopus. It’s about to kill his Will’s friend when the orcas show up and take a bite out of the octopus, causing it to shriek (?!). Will saves his friend, while the orcas kill the monster; tearing its tentacles to pieces and ripping it to shreds for a good 5 minutes or so. Just simply amazingly great!

The film then ends with Will and his buddy, with the orcas sailing off back to land, reflecting on everything that has happened. Alright then… what about everything else? Don’t we get to find out what happened to everyone else that matters or what happens now that the thing is dead? I feel so unanswered!

Well that’s Tentacles and what an odd ride that was. I’ll say one thing, that film was surely was better than the usual crap I see from AIP. Some of the characters are actually developed, the setting was good, the picture quality of the films was definitely good for the year, and the biggest shockingly good surprise is that the octopus effects are pretty good. They blend the real use of octopus shots and fake tentacle use for a good convincing effect, given the time period and limited special effects at the time. My personal favorite was the final scene with the octopus being torn apart by the orcas.

There are a bunch of problems with the film of course that hurt. You can tell that sometimes the actors are pretty bored with what they are doing, since they don’t seem very interested in what they are saying or how they are acting. Some of the music seems a bit strangely composed and is often over used too much. Sometimes I hear synthesizer, combined with a keyboard and electric shock noises in certain pieces. Also, some of the music seems to be lifted from Jaws, but with different instrument and different variations. However, when the music works, it works rather well. Editing and special effects are on the weak side too, with film makers sinking a toy boat to make it look like a real boat. Another thing that irks me is that the radio thing is never fully explained. Why does the octopus go after anyone with or near a radio? My final compliant is that the movie can be boring to watch and sit through. It is remarkably uninteresting at points, especially during the sailboat scene.

Overall, I can say that this wasn’t too bad. It’s not something worth sitting through over and over again, but it was pretty interesting for a one time deal. It’s really one of those movies you have to be in the right mood for if you want to see it and put up with it. Also, you could watching do worse for an octopus film. Ever see Octopus 2?

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