Thursday, September 7, 2017

Bloodtide (1982)

Written by: Richard Jeffries and Nico Mastorakis
Directed by: Richard Jeffries
Martin Kove as Neil
Mary Louise Weller as Sherry
Deborah Shelton as Madeline
James Earl Jones as Frye

It has recently come to my attention that at least one of my friends passed this movie by because he had dismissed it as a Jaws knockoff and felt his life did not need another one of those. That being the case, we'll consider this review a public service announcement of sorts. If you own some of those Mill Creek 50 movie packs (and let's face it, who doesn't?), there's a better than even chance you own at least one copy of Bloodtide. You should watch it. Cue The More You Know Music

You're probably wondering, If it's not a Jaws knockoff, then what the hell is it? Have you ever wanted to see drunken, Shakespeare-quoting Thulsa Doom get his junk bitten off by a demonic Greek gill man? Ah, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Neil and Sherry Grice have come to the small island of Jalapenopopperdopoulis (not really) to locate his sister, Madeline. She was an art student who had come to the island to study its ancient religious iconography, but no word has been heard from her for a worrying amount of time. The islanders are none too welcoming to outsiders, and for some inexplicable reason offshore diving is strictly prohibited, even though the waters are perfect for it. Things get even weirder when they meet Frye, an alcoholic ex-thespian-turned-treasure-hunter, who constantly quotes Othello and is convinced the islanders are guarding an enormous trove of riches in the ruins of a temple submerged somewhere at the base of the island. He intends to find it, diving at night to avoid detection, and blast his way into the treasure vault with a load of explosives he's been hiding.

Eventually Madeline turns up, and she has made some exciting but frightening discoveries in an old church. In trying to restore some of the oldest icons, she uncovered layers of older and older art beneath them. The head nun implores her to give up her study, take communion, and leave the paintings be, and does not take kindly at all to the suggestion that the wood some of the icons are painted on is older than Christ. This would be a short and boring movie if Madeline and Frye let sleeping monsters lie. You see, thanks to the opening sequence and the odd flash of imagery up until now, we know full well that what those icons depict is a monster that was kept docile in pre-Christian days by feeding it virgins, and that what's behind the door in that old temple is damn well not gold.

When Frye blasts the vault open, the explosion nearly causes the underwater cave to collapse, so he skedaddles and is not present to witness the awakening of the creature, but before long people start dying and Madeline begins to exhibit some disturbing signs of hostile mental takeover by an unknown force. When Frye's girlfriend Barbara is killed by the creature, he switches modes from Othello to Ahab, and he and Neil set out to save Madeline from being the next sacrifice.

It's amusing that people blow this movie off as a Jaws cash in, because there's a scene in the movie that I'm fairly certain was the filmmakers acknowledging this very thing. After Barbara's death, the villagers, led by Jose Ferrer, attempt to pass it off as a shark attack. Frye snaps back that it was no shark attack, there aren't even any sharks in the waters around the island, and you can practically hear Matt Hooper saying, “This was not a boat accident!”

The one thing Bloodtide does have in common with Jaws, though, is the dearth of monster scenes working very much in the movie's favor. The creature is always present in the background as a threat, represented by the religious icons Madeline uncovers, by the deaths in the water, by Madeline's strange behavior, the hostility of the villagers, and the overall sense of impending dread hanging over the proceedings, but we are afforded very few clear looks at the creature, and the glimpses we do get are fleeting. While I am all for getting a good solid eyeful of monster in a monster movie, sometimes less really is better. That isn't to say that the creature suit doesn't look good. From what I can tell, it's actually pretty damn cool. But this thing is supposed to be a literal demon that held an island in thrall for millennia. No foam rubber dinosaur costume is going to hold up to those expectations, so Jeffries wisely lets the atmospheric locations and the audience's imagination do most of the heavy lifting for him.

When I say atmospheric locations, boy are they ever. You don't see a lot of horror flicks come out of Greece, so the unusual geography and architecture lend the flick a very different flavor than something from, say, Italy or Spain. It's little wonder Jones was willing to take what was surely a significant pay cut from his last few projects in order to have an all-expenses-paid vacation to the land of Hercules (and now I really want to see a movie where Hercules and Conan have to team up to fight Thulsa Doom).

I'm a little baffled by how this movie has managed to continue wallowing in relative obscurity despite its fairly impressive cult film creative pedigree. Okay, so Martin Kove is basically the K-Mart store brand version of Reb Brown (contemplate that on the Tree of Woe) and Mary Louise Weller's biggest claim to fame was getting second billing in Forced Vengeance with Chuck Norris (or I guess she was in Animal House if you're into that), but come on, James Earl fucking Jones! One of the most instantly recognizable actors of the last century slumming in a cheap foreign monster movie (and being really damn good in it, too)! How does that not warrant some attention? And this wasn't even before he got big. He'd already done Conan the Barbarian and two Star Wars movies, so people damn well knew who he was. Behind the camera, the movie was produced and co-written by Nico “Island of Death” Mastorakis and co-produced by Brian Trenchard-Smith!

If that doesn't make you want to see it, I don't know what would. Oh wait, yeah I do. The best glimpse we get of the creature is right at the end of the movie, just before Frye blows it to pieces, when it bites his fucking junk off and shakes it around like a dog worrying a chew toy! There, now go grab one of the seven or eight copies you inevitably own and watch the damn thing!

Bloodtide Ate My Balls.

No comments:

Post a Comment