Monday, June 27, 2011

Movie Monday: Tentacles

I thought we were done with the whole "killer animals" thing, but then I saw on Netflix Watch Instantly the 1977 classic Tentacles!

Of course, Tentacles is no classic; its yet another cheesefest rip-of coming off the heels of Jaws. But octopi are kinda scary, so let's give this a look!
This film has an...eclectic cast, to say the least: Bo Hopkins, John Huston, Claude Akins (reunited from Battle for the Planet of Apes), Shelley Winters and, once again cashing a check, Henry Fonda!

Tentacles is set in a tourist spot known as Ocean Beach (clever!), which is under attack by a giant octopus.

Director Ovidio G. Assonitis (here credited as Oliver Hellman, presumably to hide the film's Italian roots?) knows to rip-off Steven Spielberg right from the beginning, with a scene of two women talking, with one of their babies off in the background.

As cars whiz by, we see the kid suddenly disappear, in a scene very similar to the beach scene with Roy Scheider in Jaws:
No one knows how the kid got into the water--stroller and all--in just seconds. But they figure out something is wrong real fast when two kids go fishing, and one of them reaches for his pole which has dropped into the water:
Soon after, a reporter (John Huston, improbably) is on the case, and he quickly gets a hint that the excavation of a nearby underwater tunnel by a large corporation named Trojan (no snickering!) has maybe upset the giant octopus, making it mad...real mad.

There are several scenes of Shelley Winters, playing Huston's blowsy sister, not really doing much of anything having to do with the plot. There are even more scenes of Henry Fonda, as the head of Trojan (I said no snickering!), literally phoning it in:
Most of the giant killer octopus scenes are fairly dull, but there are some occasional moments of well-executed horror. One involves a boat that is attacked by the octopus, and one of the passengers gets dumped overboard. She makes her way to a nearby dinghy, and its red light provides the illumination as we see the squid rise from the water:
There's a long, long, long sequence involving a boat race, with very non-scary music and endless scenes of Shelley Winters looking for her grandson, who has gone out on the water.

There is another scene that's a little creepy, when the octopus tries a more frontal assault:
Later, Bo Hopkins, playing a sea-life trainer, takes it upon himself to hunt the octopus when it kills his wife. Hopkins gets a long, impassioned speech to his two whale pals, telling them he needs them to help hunt the octopus. It's like Orca crossed with Knute Rockne.

All the other characters are pretty much forgotten as Hopkins takes center stage, as his two whale pals do the deed to the octopus, via some very murky, if real, footage:
The whales kill the octopus, The End.

Compared to the other killer animal films I've been looking at the last couple of Movie Mondays (Frogs, Tintorera, The Swarm), Tentacles is a near-classic: there are some genuine scenes of tension, and some of the effects aren't bad. But it still suffers from slack pacing, a Love Boat-ish cast, and a lack of any real genuine horror.

I can only imagine what kinds of crazy stories were swapped among John Huston, Shelley Winters, and Claude Akins between set-ups; I think a documentary of just their hellraising would have made for a more interesting film than Tentacles.

1 comment:

Caffeinated Joe said...

Also would be interesting to see the stars real reactions to being in this movie. I can guess they weren't cheerleaders of it.

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