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Tentacles


Title: Tentacles
Year Of Release: 1977
Running Time: 101 minutes
DVD Released By: MGM’s Midnite Movies
Directed By: Ovidio G. Assonitis
Writing Credits: Steven W. Carabatsos, Tito Carpi, Jerome Max and Sonia Molteni

Starring: Bo Hopkins, Shelley Winters, John Huston, Henry Fonda
Taglines:
1. It's Turning the Beach...Into a Buffet!
2. Each year 10,000 tourists visit Ocean Beach. This summer Ocean Beach has attracted SOMETHING ELSE!
Alternate Titles:
Tentacoli

Review Date: 4.28.08 (updated 12.1.11)

Shadow's Title: "Octosucky"

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Empire of the Ants / Tentacles (Midnite Movies Double Feature)

Characters
Mr. Whitehead – Henry Fonda! The president of Trojan Tunnels, the construction company that is building some sort of tunnel under the Solana Beach harbor. He’s not in the film very much…just long enough to put a face on corporate greed and carelessness.
John Corey – The utter bonehead that works for Trojan Tunnels who made the dumbass decision to use forbidden high pitch frequencies in submerged equipment. This has some unfortunate side effects for the local underwater fauna, like driving a giant octopus absolute apeshit.
Sheriff Robards – The head of local law in Solana Beach. Sheriff Lobo here always has some scheme he is running, though his buffoonish deputy, Perkins has the bad habit of screwing things up. Often times….er…what was that? This isn’t Sheriff Lobo? But it looks just like him! Damn!
Ned Turner – A reporter for a local paper. This means that he hangs out in bars smoking oversized cigars and pressing people for information when he isn’t poking his nose into places he really should not. Ned is convinced that the recent deaths in Solana Beach are somehow all related.
Will Gleeson – This guy is supposed to be one of the “best marine experts.” Whether that superlative is supposed to cover the entire world, the United States alone or just some small hick town along the central California coast is not really known. Personally, I am thinking it is the last of the three.
Vicky Gleeson – Will’s semi-hot wife. She doesn’t really appear all that much in the film. When you get down to it, she only has two big scenes. The first is where she voices her objection to Will returning to underwater work. The second is when she is gobbled up by the giant octopus.
Mike – If there was anyone in this film that was in desperate need of a new job, it was Mike here. He started off with a pretty cushy one: training killer whales at an amusement park. Then he gets pulled into hunting a giant octopus by his boss, Will. The benefits had better be damn good!
Tillie Turner – Ned's sister. You might harbor fears that she'll be showing up in some type of revealing swimsuit, given that this film centers around boats, beaches and the water. Alas, there is only room enough for one monster in this flick, and Shelley Winters in a bikini isn’t one of them.
Tommy – This is Tillie’s son and I have to say, I feel sorry for this kid. His mom routinely goes out at night and does her best to impersonate a stack of lumber. In other words, she gets hammered and nailed on a regular basis. That along with his friend being eaten alive, guarantees years of therapy.
Jamie – Tommy’s best friend. This kid pees more than an entire frat house after a five-keg beerfest. Plus, Jamie is obviously one of the first kids who was ever prescribed Ritalin. Seriously, the kid has all the energy and enthusiasm of a block of wood. He gets gobbled by the octopus.
Chris – This poor, unfortunate woman would be Jamie’s mom. She is forced to work two jobs in order to provide for the pair of them. This is why she is so thankful when Tillie takes Jamie and Tommy to their junior regatta. Alas, Jamie never returns from that event, leaving Chris all alone.
Judy – This is Vicky’s hot little sister. I am only assuming she was the younger of the two, simply because Vicky looked several years older. Judy here just had the bad luck to be out on a boat when the giant octopus was having one of its temper tantrums. Gobbled.
Jack – We know next to nothing about this loser, other than the fact that he is quite hairy. We never do see his end. There are no screams or violent splashing of water. He just dives under and is never seen again…if you don’t count seeing his legs and feet being moved through the water.
Don – He, Judy and Jack go boating where Don decides to go for a swim. Nearly causing a tsunami by jumping overboard, he risks cardiac arrest by swimming about. The audience risks blindness by watching him struggle to move his flabby (and in places, frighteningly hairy) bulk.

 

The Plot Hold your cursor over an image for a pop-up caption

Eight is enough. Minutes that is. Eight minutes of this film is more than enough to drive you insane.The first thing we see is a view of the ocean from shore, with the words Samuel Z. Arkoff Presents. Tell me that that doesn’t bode well. As the credits unfold, it is soon apparent that our view of the sea is presented to us from the vantage point of a moving vehicle, for soon the scenery changes, the landscape sliding past us, with parked cars in the foreground. The camera pans to show us the interior of the vehicle and we see that it is a cab. For some reason, the camera spends an inordinate amount of time focused on the two-way radio in the cab, the driver’s hand appearing every few seconds to adjust the knobs. I don’t know if these prolonged seconds offer up vital clues on how to interpret parts of this movie or whether the director is just trying to kill time. Either way, I’ve seen more of the radio than I ever really wanted.

Then the camera pans up in order to look out the window again (thank god) and show us a large sign on the side of the road that talks about the annual junior yacht race in Solana Beach…which I am going to presume is the name the locals call their town. The music up to this point has been beyond annoying, consisting of little more than a drummer playing the same sequence over and over on his high-hats. Eventually, some funky 70’s Italian synthesizer music builds up, imparting a sense of retro-cheeze. Eventually the cab stops and the passenger – a man whom we have heard talking to the cabbie a few times at this point – exits the vehicle and walks across some nearby grass with a pronounced limp to one leg.

Who is this man, you may ask? Keyser Soze perhaps? How does he figure into the plot? Who the hell knows! He walks off without us ever having seen his face. The camera now zooms in on a mother and her baby a short ways off. She is sitting in a fold-up lawn chair on the very edge of the grassy area. Nearby is a rope fence, which marks the boundary between the lawn and a short, but steep drop into the water nearby. In the distance, some sizable buildings can be seen, so this Solana Beach is either a suburb of some larger metropolitan area, or is a big city that has somehow managed to elude mapmakers for years (yes, I know where the real Solana Beach is: in Southern California).

Anyway, the woman is talking to her baby, who is in his stroller. As she talks, we suddenly get a POV shot from something in the water close by, which is eyeing the pair on shore. As the woman prattles on endlessly to her offspring, the POV shots draws closer, until it is at the point where the water meets land. Then it seems to climb up the short rocky ledge to spy further on the two, only from a much closer position. Naturally, the woman is unaware that something from the deep is lurking so close at hand.

A small pickup truck stops on the other side of the street and the female driver calls to the mother, whose name we learn is Susan. Susan gets up and walks across the street in order to chat with her friend, leaving her baby in his stroller…near the water’s edge. As the two women blabber on in the foreground about nothing, the camera slowly begins to zoom in on the baby in his stroller on the other side of the roadway. As cars pass by, the baby is obscured from our view for a split second on several occasions. Then a school bus goes by rather slowly. Once it has passed, we see that the baby and his stroller are now gone. Watch closely and you will notice that right as the bus passes between us and the baby, he begins to turn toward the water, as if something in that direction has caught his attention. It’s subtle and may not have even been intended, but it adds a small degree of creepiness to the scene.

Eventually, the two blabbermouths notice that the baby is not longer in view. Susan comes running back over to look for her child. She calls out to him (Billy!), but all that remains is the crushed remnants of the baby stroller, now floating in the water several dozen yards away. This movie is not even five minutes old yet, but the producers have already killed a baby!

Now we jump over to some guy calling the Coast Guard on his radio and asking for a weather forecast. Once he gets the information he wants, he stands up and walks around, showing us that he has a peg leg! Arr, matey! He walks to the side of his boat and drops a bucket into the water, retrieving it after a few seconds with a length of attached rope. As he pulls it up, we see that his boat is anchored pretty darn close to shore, as a boat-launching ramp is not far away. In fact, someone is walking down the ramp towards the water, calling to the guy on the boat, warning him that he is going to fall off one of these days.

“Ugh. Spam sandwiches again.”The guy on the boat – who is now using the water he retrieved to clean the deck – and the dork on shore babble back and forth some. Mr. Dork wants to know when they are going to leave, Mr. Peg Leg in turn asks him if he has cleaned “that engine.” Mr. Dork replies that he wants to get something to eat first and wonders if Mr. Peg Leg wants a sandwich. The answer being no, Mr. Dork walks off while Mr. Peg Leg continues to clean. We follow Mr. Dork as he walks past some boats on trailers and makes his way to a table, where he sits and opens a lunch box. He considers the sandwich inside for a second and then closes it back up. He then opens another lunch box and takes the sandwich he finds inside. He's a lunch thief! What a bastard!

Right about now, there is a loud splashing sound. Mr. Dork ignores it. A few seconds later, there is an even louder splashing sound, only this one almost sounds like there was a gun shot mixed in there as well. This time Mr. Dork decides to investigate, since the sound was so close. He runs back towards the boat launch area, calling to Mr. Peg Leg…who we now learn is named Bill. Alas, there is no sign of Bill except for the metal bucket he had been using. My guess is, the first splash was Mr. Peg Leg throwing the bucket in the water again and the second splash was Mr. Peg Leg himself being pulled in by whatever lurks in the deep. The bucket in question is moving through the water as if being pulled. It then vanishes beneath the surface.

Ok! Now we are not even seven minutes into this film and we have already learned a very important fact about the killer octopus to which the title erroneously refers…and I figure I am not giving away anything at this point by mentioning the fact that the film’s beastie is an enraged octopus. If you didn’t already know that before reading the review, then the title may have helped clue you in, though technically, an octopus does not have tentacles. Nope, they have arms. Only squid have tentacles, and they only have two. Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes! Even at this early stage we have learned a vital aspect to the monster: it hates any nicknames for William and targets people named such! So far Billy the baby and Bill the old gimp have died.

We cut now to an overhead view of a young guy and a fat girl on a small dinghy of some sort. He is busy fishing while the gal argues with him over who is the better kisser, herself or somebody named Rosie White. The guy says Rosie is the better kisser. So is some other gal named Sally Oppenheimer. Even freaky Melinda Gomez (whoever that is) kisses better that the fat girl, according to this guy. As this truly inane exchange unfolds, the camera pans away from the boat and shows us a dark object in the water a short ways off. As the view begins to zoom in on this object, it submerges before we can really get a good look at it, though for those few brief seconds it looked like a shaggy basketball floating in the water.

Now we get another POV shot. It must be noted that all the POV shots in this film that are supposed to be from the viewpoint of something in the water, are horizontally split, with the bottom half being underwater and the top half above. I guess this helps convey the idea of an aquatic threat, but to me it just seems like whatever was lurking nearby couldn’t decide if it wanted in or out of the water. Anyway, as the POV shot begins to draw closer to the dinghy, the fat girl assaults the guy, obviously trying to prove that she is the better kisser after all. She grabs him and pushes him down, while locking her lips over his with such force that the poor guy is no doubt ready to pass out from a lack of oxygen. The POV draws steadily nearer as the guy struggles with the fat chick. How they manage to not capsize their small craft is beyond me, especially with that much weight being bandied about. His efforts to free himself from Big Bertha only cause his fishing rod to fall over board. This seems to really tick him off something fierce. He extricates himself from the big gal’s clutches and leans over to retrieve his rod.

It should be noted that at this point, the POV shot is so damn close, that if there really was something alive in the water, this guy would have to see it. Even something completely submerged would be discernable from just a few feet away, and I know this is true from first hand experience, having gone surfing one day as I often did in my long-lost youth, and while sitting atop my board awaiting the next set of waves, spied a submerged shark several feet away as it swam in my general direction. The only reason I did not keel over dead right then and there from instant heart failure was because the shark in question was rather small. If I could spot a small shark, then something large should be even easier to spot from five or six feet away. This POV shot gives the impression of something breaking the surface, and thus more easily seen. Since neither the guy or fatzilla are reacting to anything, I guess this particular POV shot is just for dramatic effect and is not intended to reflect the presence or movements of some monster.

So the guy reaches out to grab his fishing pole and…what should come up from out of the depths? Why the mutilated corpse of Bill, the peg-legged boat cleaner. Seeing as how we just saw…er…heard his demise a few seconds ago, does this scene take place later that same day or is this another day? For that matter, did Bill die the same day as poor little Billy the baby or did those deaths occur on different days? Is the only reason that this poor fishing guy is still alive because his name is not William? Or is it because his fat companion looks to be the more fulfilling meal? Questions! Too many questions and not enough answers!

Staring off blindly into space, loss of control over bodily functions and constant night terrors…this my friends is the tragic result of allowing Shelly Winters to do a nude scene.The next thing we know, night has fallen. The young guy from the dinghy is sitting on the dock, wrapped in a blanket and staring off into space with a vacant look, having obviously been traumatized by the sight of Bill’s mangled corpse…either that or having caught a glimpse of co-star Shelly Winters as she pranced around in a thong between shots. The fat chick is nearby, so we must presume that the monstrous octopus was not hungry anymore, opting to not dine on either of them. The camera now follows a figure as it passes by these two catatonic morons. We only see this person from the knees down as he makes his way closer to the docks.

Voices can be heard discussing Bill’s remains. From what is being said, we can tell that the speakers are members of the local authorities. One guy is wondering what happened to the body, since it seems to be little more than a skeleton. The one in charge says to wait and let the medical examiner determine what happened to poor old Bill. One voice then notes the approach of Ned Turner, a local reporter and the one who’s feet we’ve been following. Ned approaches and says that he has been looking at the remains of the Hopkins baby and heard that there was another freak accident within the hour (well, that answers my earlier question about the timing for all these incidents). Boy, aren’t you glad we were shown Bill’s mutilated corpse and not the one belonging to that poor baby? I can handle looking at most anything, but dead babies rank near the top of my list of things I don’t particularly want to see.

The camera finally pans up to show us the face of the guy in charge and …HOLY CRAP!! It’s Sheriff Lobo! Ned asks who it is under a nearby tarp. Sheriff Robards holds up some dog tags and says that he thinks it is Bill Sullivan. Ned wants to take a look at the body, so the Sheriff suggests he take a deep breath first. Ned looks and notes how the body has been stripped to the bone. Ned asks the Sheriff if he has any answers, but Robards replies by saying that he does not even know where to start asking questions.

They walk along the pier a wee bit and the deputy chimes in now, discussing some local underwater construction project that is employing some pretty sophisticated gear, like a big tube which literally sucks its way through the ocean floor. He floats the idea that poor Bill was pulled down into one such device. Ned and the Sheriff point out that the baby wasn’t anywhere near the construction site. Robards now turns to Ned and lays out the need to keep things simple, by toning down the sensationalism when the reporter writes his newspaper story. The Sheriff doesn’t want wall to wall people congregating, trying to uncover the circumstances around these mysterious deaths. Ned voices his opinion that they are all in for a nightmare, and then walks away.

Next we see Ned at home, leafing through a book. A voice rips through the silence calling his name. A big broad comes into view in a light blue evening gown that makes her look as big as the sky itself. Fortunately for Ned, this is his sister, Tillie. I say fortunately because if the poor guy was expected to curl up in bed next to that, he might risk getting crushed. Tillie berates him for leaving lights on around the house, and he in turn gives her grief for eating candy…a slightly roundabout way of calling attention to her overweight figure. Some more asinine banter follows, wherein he asks who she seduced the previous night, she fixes herself a bloody Mary for her early morning pick-me-up and they reminiscence about being kids in that very house. YAWN. It seems both of them have had pretty colorful lives and now, after many marriages and relationships apiece, they are both single and living together in their parents old home.

Ned now saunters out on to the front porch. Tillie follows and asks him what he is working on. He says he is looking for answers to what is happening on the ocean floor, gesturing to the nearby beach. Then he wonders where Tommy, her son, may be. By this time he is usually up and starving. As if on cue, an annoying blonde kid exits the house and proclaims how hungry he is, boasting that he is going to make breakfast. Tillie stops him before he can lay waste to the kitchen. She heads back inside with her son, while Ned gazes at the beach.

Now we jump over to the home of Mr. Whitehead, the President of Trojan Construction, which is the company engaged in that underwater construction we heard referenced earlier. He is on the phone and ordering someone named Corey to get his ass over to his house by twelve noon that very same day. After hanging up the phone, Whitehead looks over a newspaper that no doubt prompted the call he just made.

“Mr. Fonda, as your lawyer, I must say that this contract with the devil that you signed in 1937 is still legally binding. You’re going to have to appear in this movie.”The next thing we know, John Corey is at Whitehead’s place, being questioned as to the reason why the boss has to read about events concerning his own company in the morning paper rather from his workers. Corey admits that Ned Turner had visited them, asking questions about their underwater work, but Corey didn’t think anything of it, figuring the reporter was just looking for something new to write about. Mr. Whitehead asks of there is any truth to Turner’s insinuation, but Corey says no and speculates that maybe the reporter is getting senile or just trying to make himself look good by stirring up some trouble. Then the boss makes it clear that he doesn’t need anyone in his employ jeopardizing the company’s integrity and accomplishments, which took him a lifetime to achieve. Corey says he understands and then leaves, his ass showing signs of thorough chewing.

Jumping quickly to an establishing shot of a Trojan construction ship off the coast, we turn our attention to a pair of divers in the watery depths below. We get a few shots of them swimming around and then working with some equipment that has been set up on the ocean floor before moving on again. There are a few shots that imply that they are secretly being observed from behind some nearby rock outcroppings.

However, before we can get too invested in what is transpiring below, we jump over to the medical examiner’s office, where Sheriff Robards is being shown some X-rays taken of Bill Sullivan’s body…or what was left of it, anyway. Not only was the poor bastard nearly stripped clean of flesh, but even the inside of his bones were sucked dry of marrow. Robards asks the doctor what killed the unlucky shmuck, and a new voice suddenly pipes in, announcing that it would like to know the answer to that one as well. Turning to look at the newcomer, the Sheriff sees it is Ned Turner, who apparently, despite his age, has the stealth skills of a ninja, if his unexpected appearance within the room is any indication.

The Sheriff tries to tell Ned that this briefing was supposed to be closed to the press, but the newspaper man just fires back a smartass reply and ignores him! Talk about no respect for the law. I’m surprised Sheriff Lob…er...Robards here doesn’t pistol whip the old guy right then and there for his audacity. Ned now asks the Doctor if this is the same condition that the baby’s body was left in, and the Doc answers in the affirmative. Once again, I’m glad the producers opted to not show the baby’s corpse. Don’t get me wrong. I hate children and loath babies. They don’t do anything but cry and poop. They drive me up the freakin’ wall and I take great delight in scaring the crap out of them and making them wail like little banshees. After all, if all they do is cry and poop, then I’ll give them something to really cry and poop about! All that being said (and don’t think for one instant that I was kidding and didn’t mean any of it, cuz I meant it all), I have no desire to see true harm come to a baby and do not wish to be shown dead babies.

So the Doctor reveals that the baby’s body was left in the same condition, but he has no idea of what could have produced the vacuum effect that stripped the dead ones of flesh, right down to their bones. As the Doc wanders off, Ned speculates that there must be something “monstrous” out there. Robards asks the reporter if he has suddenly become a marine expert, but Ned says no, although he knows the best in the country. The Sheriff notes that if some guy named Will Gleeson is the one Ned is referring to, then the reporter should know that this Gleeson fellow is having two of his best divers arriving in town the following day in order to check on that underwater construction gear being used by Trojan. Ned decides he doesn’t want to wait and announces his intention to go see Gleeson as soon as he can. The Sheriff reminds him that he would like to keep a lid on things. Before he goes, the reporter promises to not print anything without clearing it with Robards first.

We jump now to Sea World or some similar marine-themed amusement park, where a man is working with a pair of Killer Whales in one of those large tanks surrounded by an amphitheater. The place is currently empty, except for two guys in the stands, as he trains the big mammals to jump and what not, throwing fish when they perform as desired. One of the men watching is Ned Turner while the other is Will Gleeson, who admonishes the trainer to be a little tougher with the big whales. While that might be sound advice, the last thing I want to do is get into a big tank with something that can quite easily rip me into pieces within a matter of seconds and then get tough with said animal…though, dinner time when I was a kid once held similar dangers when all four of my sisters lived at home.

Attendance at the park dropped sharply after some bleachers collapsed, spilling an ill-fated  crowd of school kids into the piranha exhibit.Ned now calls to Will, saying that the whales put on a good show (or words to that effect). Will walks over to him and says that these whales may one day help them unlock some of the mysteries of the deep. Ned says that until that time comes, Will can help him unlock some of the mysteries in his own community. Will admits to hearing about it and says that he sent two of his best divers to investigate the situation. There is a brief exchange where we learn that Will was a tough city kid that made good in the oceanography community. Ned asks him to come investigate, but Will explains that he had a diving accident recently, having gone down too far and suffering from the Bends.

I have to wonder about that last bit. The Bends, or decompression sickness, afflicts people who have made a deep dive and then surfaced too quickly, the rapid change in pressure (from high to low) causing gases in the body tissues and fluids to physically release into bubbles. Now, Will said nothing about diving deep and then surfacing too fast. He just said he made a deep dive. I wonder then, if he didn't suffer from Nitrogen Narcosis, rather than just decompression sickness. Nitrogen Narcosis is believed to be caused by nitrogen dissolving into nerve membranes and causing temporary disruption in nerve transmissions. This produces perception-altering effects that can lead a person to undertake some potentially fatal actions. Will didn’t say anything about making a deep dive and then going bonkers, so maybe the Nitrogen Narcosis angle is out, too. I suppose it really doesn’t matter, but I have to wonder if this is a case of the filmmakers not knowing what the hell they were talking about.

As Ned and Will talk, a woman approaches. Will introduces her as his wife, Vicky. He leaves Ned with her and tells her to “show him around.” Is she a tour guide or something? Does he pawn off all his pals onto his wife? If that is the case, then he is sure lucky Ned is such an old fart and obviously long past the age of rising to the occasion (in more ways that one). A younger man would be sorely tempted to put the moves on Will’s wife, who, while not exactly being a super model, is still attractive enough to give men pause.

We now jump back to that Trojan Construction ship offshore. A bathysphere like contraption (a submersible suspended from a cable, only it ain’t round) is being readied for use. It is gradually lowered into the water where it sinks towards the bottom. Inside are two guys in diving suits. Are these Gleeson’s men, perhaps? It seems that is the case, as they talk about their assignment. One wonders about Trojan man John Corey attempting to pay them to not make the dive. The other figures their boss, Will, has a good reason for sending them down, so they might as well get it over with so they can run off to Mexico for a short holiday with "two broads."

Eventually, at a depth of twenty-nine fathoms (fifty-eight feet), the submersible hits the ocean bottom and stops. The pair finishes gearing up and exit the craft from the hatch fixed to the floor. As they leave, the camera focuses on a radio speaker mounted on an interior wall. I think that must be a CLUE! The two swim a ways and come across some equipment on the ocean floor. They examine it and from their gestures, it seems that things are not all that ok. They then move on and as they swim, they come across several bits of torn wiring. It seems something has gone apeshit and torn up the underwater equipment for some reason.

They swim some more and come upon some more destroyed gear. One shot implies a POV perspective of the two from the darkness of a cave. As the two examine this new batch of wrecked equipment, something causes them to look up at the cave entrance, but they see nothing. A few seconds later, some rocks being dislodged from the mouth of one cave draws their attention again. They swim over to take a closer look, one holding a spear gun in front of him. They peer in the cave, but do not see the giant octopus lurking in the darkened interior, even though we get to see it (and it’s just a normal sized octopus with no attempt to make it look huge). The two swim around some more and eventually they spot the big beastie, but it is too late for one guy, who vanishes in a cloud of ink.

Start up the chase music…or what passes as such in this film, as the surviving diver now swims like hell for the submersible. After looking over his shoulder numerous times to see if he is being followed, he eventually reaches it and quickly climbs back inside. He wastes no time in getting on the radio and calling the operators up on the ship to raise the submersible back up. As the craft is being raised, the survivor babbles some about being unable to help his partner and how he was “sucked right in.” At this point, the lights within the submersible begin to flicker and the ascent begins to slow. Finally it stops and the guys up top cannot seem to get it moving again. Inside the submersible, water begins to poor in from several sudden leaks. The diver looks around as the lights go out, and peering in at him through the lone window is a huge eye. Oh snap. Up on the ship, the water suddenly begins to foam and splash, as if a large quantity of air has unexpectedly risen to the surface. Air from a crushed submersible, perhaps or just the biggest submerged fart in history?

We jump to a bar near the marina, where Trojan company man John Corey enters and is greeted by Ned Turner. The reporter wants to ask him some questions about a possible connection between the construction Trojan is doing and the recent deaths in the harbor. Ned points to the fact that Corey has never been seen in this bar before as a sign that he is waiting for someone…Will Gleeson and his wife perhaps. Corey bluntly says that there is nothing wrong with the tunnel the company is digging and wants Ned to go away. Ned points out that this town is too small for him to not notice what is going on and wants to talk further.

We now cut over to Tillie Turner, who, aside from wearing an oversized sombrero that would look big on King Kong’s head, is entering her son Tommy and his best friend Jamie in the annual Solana Beach junior yacht race that was advertised in that sign we saw at the film’s beginning. The woman at the registration desk hands her a pamphlet that explains the rules and forces Tillie to fork over five dollars for each kid as a registration fee. Tillie balks at the amount but pays it. I don’t blame her! Adjusted for inflation, that comes to over thirty-six bucks in modern dollars. Sheesh. The woman now tells her that they have to be in Oceanside (the city where the race begins, apparently) at least twenty-four hours before the race. Tillie balks at this, too since Oceanside is fifty miles down the coast (it's actually up the coast, but we'll let this one slide), but some badly dubbed pleading on the parts of Tommy and Jamie sway her. Whoever dubbed Jamie sounds about five years too old for the part, as the kid has one hell of a deep voice for his age. There is some more talk and Tillie says that she prefers scuba diving to competitive racing, as she thinks it is safer. HA! Tell that to Will Gleeson’s two men.

Speaking of Will Gleeson, we see him and his wife Vicky checking in at their hotel. The woman at the front desk tells him that there is a man waiting for him at the bar. Will asks who it may be, but Ned Turner arrives (I swear this guy is like freakin’ Batman with the way he just appears out of nowhere) and tells Will that John Corey, Vice President of Trojan Tunnels is the one waiting for him. Forewarned, Will heads off to the bar, while Vicky goes to their room.

Meanwhile, Ned has gone down to Sheriff Lob…er…Robards’ office. The two begin discussing the need for the tunnel that Trojan is building. Ned says he is not against it, but figures maybe the marine commission made a mistake over something. The seismic detectors were up too high, perhaps. Ned starts going over the known facts, trying to see the correlation. He mentions how the bodies of Bill Sullivan, the baby and the divers were all left in the same condition. However, the Sheriff points out that the baby was not in the water and had been on shore, ten feet above the water when last seen. At ten months of age, babies are not known for making ten-foot dives into the ocean. He also refers to the baby as a she at this point, even though things said by the baby’s mother made it clear her child was a boy.

Ned insists that there has to be something to tie all the deaths together. Robards points out that they know the approximate time of all the deaths, noting that Bill had just radioed the coast guard minutes before he was heard falling into the water. Ned comments on the fact that the divers had no doubt used two way radios during their dive. Ned again tries to form a connection to the baby, but Robards insists that there is none. He claims there was nothing wrong on the coast road that day and that the taxi that had passed by minutes before the baby was killed had radioed his dispatcher and reported nothing out of the usual. Ned now sees that a radio is the common factor in all the deaths.

We now return to Tillie, Tommy and Jamie, who are having lunch at some outdoor restaurant. Tillie is still wearing her huge sombrero and bitching about the money she has just spent on a pair of walkie-talkies for the boys. Tommy says it will allow her to coach them from shore during the race. At this point, Jamie has to go take a leak and Tillie points him towards the bathrooms. When he is gone, she asks her son why his friend has to piss so much. Tommy says that Jamie is just excited about the race. She then makes him promise to look after Jamie, as his friend is two years younger than him and not as experienced when it comes to sailing. She also makes him promise that if race day comes and it is quite windy, both boys will go in the same boat. Jamie returns from peeing and she remarks that one more boy like him will cause the Los Angeles River to overflow. Then she looks at the bill for lunch and balks at the amount. Sheesh, what a cheapskate! All she does is bitch about the money she has to spend.

In the Gleeson’s hotel room, Will notices that something seems to be bothering Vicky. He asks what is wrong and she says that she could be the happiest woman in the world. When he asks why it is just “could be” she starts talking about having room service and staying in their room. It finally comes out that she is worried about the dive he is planning on making the next day. More sleep inducing talk follows, which is supposed to convey their devotion to one another or such. He eventually compromises and says he won’t dive below one hundred and twenty feet and will not stay down for longer than three minutes. This still doesn’t please her and she makes it clear that in her view, their shared life together doesn’t seem to matter as much to him as it does to her. This annoys him now and he tells her that she is just going to have to live with it, as two of his friends have died and he has to find out why. In an attempt to ease the tension, he sits with her on the couch and holds her in his arms.

The next thing we know, Vicky is out at the pool with her hot sister, Judy, a fat guy named Don and a hairy guy named Jack. The other three are going boating later and want Vicky to come along, but she declines the invitation. Will passes by on his way to his dive, kisses his wife, has a brief verbal exchange with the group and is then gone.

“Hopefully if we run into a giant octopus in this thing, it will only have one great big eye.”Suddenly we are underwater with two men in a small open top, two-seat submersible. As one pilots, the other (probably Will himself) snaps photos of some of the junk littering the ocean floor, including a moped-like motorbike. They eventually park the craft on the bottom and get out to explore on their own. They come across a bunch of fifty-five gallon drums on the ocean floor, snapping some photos before returning to their submersible. Continuing on, they find scores of fish that seem rooted to the ocean floor, snout first, forming an eerie forest of dead fish. They steer through the dead animals and keep going.

Now we see the boat with Judy, Don and Jack. The group seems to be lost, as Judy is talking to the Coast Guard on the radio and informing them that they have been cruising for about two hours and that there is an island up ahead. The Coast Guard promises to come get them, instructing her to leave the radio open. She seems annoyed by this delay, as does Don, who blames Jack. The latter is snorkeling and returns to the boat long enough to swat Don on his ample belly and promise to get him back before supper. I still don’t know how it is that they are lost. Did Jack steer them blindly into the ocean? Since this is supposed to be Southern California, finding their way back to land is a simple matter of heading due East, or have they forgotten that? How could they have even gone out on the boat if no one knew the basics of navigation? Are they out of fuel perhaps? I am truly puzzled.

Jack jumps back in to the water to continue snorkeling. Tired of listening to Don whine about their predicament, Judy tells him to go swimming, reminding him that the he could use the exercise. He doesn’t want to expend the energy, so she tells him to just float. She promises to call him when the Coast Guard contacts them again. He agrees and promptly jumps in the water, creating a splash big enough to draw the attention of the killer octopus. This also cues some funky music to help add to the tension. Opting to actually use his muscles, fatboy Don swims quite some distance from the boat, drawing near some of the rock outcroppings near the island Judy mentioned. As he pauses, we get a brief glimpse of a large octopus head breaking the surface, watching him.

As Don treads water, a POV shot begins closing in on him. The music rises, the water splashes…but it is only Jack, swimming up and scaring the crap out of Don, by pushing him down into the water. Don comes back up sputtering and spitting water. He calls Jack a dumb bastard and threatens to kill him. Jack just dives back under the surface and swims away. Alone, Don leans back and begins to float on his back. We see some bubbles rise to the surface near the rocks and hear a strange sound. This alerts Don, who now begins looking around. Once again, Jack appears from under the water to scare the shit of the big man. Teasing Don about sharks, Jack swims off again. Don returns to floating on his back, looking more like an island himself than someone swimming at sea. It should be noted that in the far distance, a shoreline with buildings can be seen. I thought these morons were lost?

We see the octopus moving about in a tank…er…under the water, then return to fatboy floating up top. Don calls out to Jack and when there is no answer, begins swimming back towards the boat. The music starts up again and another POV shot begins closing in. Alas, this time it is not Jack, but the killer octopus, which grabs Don and pulls him under. The big slob vanishes beneath the surface with an abbreviated shout and a big splash.

Back on the boat, Judy is sunning herself when the boat begins to rock. She gets up, glances out at the water and calls out to Don. No answer. She says for him to stop playing games. Still no answer. Now something truly silly happens. A ways off from the boat, two human feet and legs suddenly break the surface, sticking straight up into the air. They only appear up to the thighs, but judging from their size, we can see that they belong to Jack and not Don. Then they begin moving horizontally through the water, as if something below the surface is pulling the body along. Slowly they descend back below the surface, before once again coming up and sinking again.

Bottom's up.Indeed, athlete’s foot is no joking matter.Nothing conveys terror like feet and legs, so the sight of this causes Judy to react in horror. She calls out to Don, but of course, there is no answer. Now we get an underwater shot, looking straight up at the boat, which is little more than a silhouette. The octopus appears and engulfs the bow of the craft in its many arms. Somehow, this causes the back end of the boat to sink into the water and break off, dumping poor Judy into the ocean in the process. She tries to pull herself back aboard, but some underwater shots show long arms wrapping themselves around her body. The poor thing is pulled to a watery grave like the other two. All that remains on the surface are the battered remains of the boat.

We return to Will Gleeson and his diving buddy, who have returned to their sailboat with equipment salvaged from the ocean floor, including one tank from a two-tank scuba outfit. Will says that no accident tore up the gear they found below. His buddy, Mike, says that maybe Ned Turner was right and there is something monstrous in the water. Will points out how the Trojan Tunnel Company has been using high-pitched frequencies well beyond the legal limit (how does he know this?). He is positive that they have damaged the underwater fauna. Mike notes that that may account for all the dead fish, but wonders what could have ripped up the equipment. Will says that there is only one thing big enough and powerful enough (Louie Anderson?) and it isn’t sharks. Nope, Will is thinking giant octopus. Personally, my first guess would have been Godzilla, but that is just me.

We now see Mr. Whitehead at home, drinking coffee and perusing the newspaper. The phone rings and it is Ned Turner, calling to tell him that he just got his ass chewed out by his editor. Whitehead isn’t too sorry, saying that Ned published serious allegations against his company without checking the facts. Ned says that he spoke with John Corey and according to him, checking the findings of the marine commission with anyone else was unnecessary. Even though he has already heard from Corey, Whitehead wants to hear the findings from Ned, who tells him that the commission is beginning to suspect the tunnel project is responsible for the deaths. Whitehead advises him to refrain from pursuing it without facts. Ned says he sure as hell will get some. Whitehead says to get a good lawyer, for he’ll ruin his career. Ned doesn’t care and then hangs up on him.

Next we see Tillie standing next to a small pick-up truck with a trailer attached. On the trailer are two small sailboats. She is calling for Tommy to hurry up or they will miss the race (and all that money she was forced to fork out will have been wasted). Jamie’s mom, Chris is helping them get the stuff loaded and thanks Tillie for taking Jamie along, since she has to work two jobs and has such little free time. She kisses her son good-bye and then Tillie and the two boys are off.

Now we see a Coast Guard ship heading out to find Judy, Jack and Don. I guess it’s supposed to be a coast guard ship. It sure doesn’t look like one. Anyway, Vicky is on board as the ship sets out to sea. The day grows late and soon it will be dark.

Will and Sheriff Lob…er…Robard’s are walking along near the beach. The Sheriff is telling Will that a Coast Guard cutter is out looking for the boat with Judy and the others. I guess that was a coast guard ship. I also guess that the film producers couldn’t get a real Coast Guard cutter to fill in, so they just sailed any old boat out and called it a Coast Guard ship. Will is afraid that radioing Judy’s boat might not have been a good idea, since old eight-arms doesn’t like radios very much. I suppose Will has filled the Sheriff in on his giant octopus theory as well as the idea that high pitched radio frequencies are driving the beast into murderous rages. The two men now meet up with Ned Turner, who suggests that Robards bring in John Corey for questioning. Will just wants to find his wife.

Speaking of Vicky, we now head out to the…ahem…Coast Guard cutter she is on. Night has fallen as the ship approaches the last known location of Judy’s group. Using a searchlight, they locate the broken hull of the small boat, still floating in the water. One guy advises Vicky to go below while another guy hops over to check out the small boat. I have to say, these guys are the worst dressed Coast Guard officers I have ever seen. Did their base get some severe budget cuts or something? These guys are just dressed in casual pants, sweatshirts and T-shirts! So the one guy examines the other boat, but finds no sign of anyone. He returns and solemnly shakes his head no. Vicky realizes her sister is probably dead. The crew leaves a buoy behind with a flashing light, to help warn other passing craft, no doubt. Then they head back for shore.

As they sail along, Vicky stands out on deck, crying over the loss of her sister. Then she looks up and sees something in the distance: a huge splashing of water, as if Godzilla himself was throwing a temper tantrum. The splashing turns into a big wave that bears down on the cutter. Before you know it, the ship is bowled over and the crew tossed about in a stunning display of miniature FX combined with shots of mannequins hit with a high pressure water hose. Ok, maybe it was not all that stunning. More like goofy.

You can see the bottom of the screen located at the back of the tank in which she is swimming.Surfacing in the water, Vicky watches in horror as the cutter sinks beneath the waves, the huge arms of the giant octopus clearly dragging the craft down. She swims away into the dark and sees the flashing buoy they just left behind. She swims to it and then clings on to the half-sunken hull of her sister’s boat. She has barely caught her breath when a sound calls her attention towards the bow, where she sees large octopus arms grasping the boat. She screams and swims back to the buoy. The arms vanish beneath the water, but seconds later in another stunning display of rear projection, the big beastie rises up out of the water behind her. Look close enough and you can see the edge of the tank she is in. She screams, but before you know it, the creature has wrapped one arm around her and lifted her completely out of the water. She screams in horror as she is drawn towards the monster’s waiting maw. GULP. That gives new meaning to the term seafood.

Next we see the harbor at night. A sizable crowd has gathered to watch a series of small boats return to the marina. I swear, I think every resident of Solana Beach has turned out on this night. The place is just packed. After pulling back, showing us the size of the crowd and then panning around some, the camera slowly zooms in on Will Gleeson sitting alone at a table. Evidently, he has realized that his wife, along with her sister Judy and Judy’s moron friends, will not be coming home this night…or any other night.

Day comes and we see Mr. Whitehead walking through his garden with John Corey. The boss seems pretty upset and demands to know what is going on. Corey admits that from time to time, he pushed some of their underwater tests beyond legal limits in an effort to save time and money. Whitehead tells him to go back to work, but to keep everything within regulations. The only reason Corey is not out of a job at this point is because too much vital time would be lost of Whitehead tried to replace him. He also reminds Corey that if anyone questions Trojan again, as president, it is up to him to answer for it. In other words, don’t make any more messes for him to answer for in public.

This day also brings the Solana Beach yacht race and the festivities are getting underway. We get a montage of shots showing parades, people arriving, people getting their boats ready, people launching their boats and whatnot. Amidst the controlled chaos are Tillie, Tommy and Jamie. Finally all the boats are in the water and lined up along one pier. More preparations are made and we see Tillie testing the Walkie-Talkies with the two boys. Then the two kids hop into a single boat and head out to take their place on the starting line. Everything unfolds to a hideous piece of music. Raise your hand if you can see major trouble coming their way!

At the Sheriff’s department, Will is going over some photographs with Robards and Ned. He confirms that the creature is a giant octopus. I just want to know where these photos came from? Who has all of sudden managed to capture the beast on film? Sheriff Lob…er…Robards says that he has always heard that an octopus was shy. Will says that normally they are, but something has set this one off. Ned pipes in and says that he has read that suckers on a tentacle are like claws on a tiger. Will ponders that for a few seconds and says that compared to suckers, claws are nothing.

Long about now, Jamie’s mother, Chris walks in says that she has been driving around for an hour trying to find Ned. He seems nonplussed. She adds that she got a day off, so she’s inviting him along with her to see the yacht race. Holy shit! They forgot the race! Ned asks how far the Coast Guard warning extends and Robards says thirty miles. Turning to Will, Ned asks if a giant squid’s range could be greater than thirty miles. Ok, hold the phone! What is this thing, a giant octopus or a giant squid? Will just said it was definitely an octopus, but now Ned is calling it a squid. Were the scriptwriters that ignorant of the differences between the two? I guess so! Anyway, Will says that if the beast in question has gone berserk, who knows how far it may range. Robards rushes off towards the danger zone and calls out orders to keep those kids from getting in the water.

Chris, ignorant as to what has been transpiring, asks Ned what is going on. He just ignores her and points out to Will that the creature must be destroyed and asks if Will can get the job done. Will says that he only has one thought on his mind and says he will be in touch with Ned from the boat. Then he, too walks out. Chris looks at Ned, realizing that her son is in some type of danger.

Now we see a guy with a rifle pointed to the sky. He fires it and then the frame freezes. Oh, no! My DVD player has locked up! SOB! Wait! The sound is still playing even though the image has frozen. I guess that means the player is really fubared. Nope! Freezing the frame was just some sort of weird stylistic approach undertaken by the director. The gunshot signals the start of the race and we see all the little pukes in their boats getting underway.

“Attention Kmart shoppers…attention Kmart shoppers…blue light special in aisle twelve. Repeat, blue light special in aisle twelve.”Then we see a guy in a dispatch center of some kind, calling to Helicopter X3-11. I guess this is another officer in that budget-deprived Coast Guard base. He is dressed like he ready to go bowling or something, not defend America’s coasts. He tells Helicopter X3-11 to suspend the Solana Beach junior regatta and low and behold, we actually see a real Coast Guard copter lifting off and a real Coast Guard cutter leaving the dock…all crewed by real Coast Guard officers in real Coast Guard uniforms! Wow. So after some shots of the cutter, the copter and the kids in their sailing boats, we get another underwater shot of the giant octopus in its tank…er…its lair.

We return to a crowd gathered on shore, listening to some clown in an Uncle Sam costume tell really, really bad jokes. In the crowd is Tillie Turner, who is talking to her son via the walkie-talkie in her hand. We get shots of her, shots of Tommy and Jamie on their boat, shots of other boaters and shots of the onshore crowd, all while hearing this moron tell his lame jokes. Then more goofball stylistic changes take effect and we get still shots of Tillie, the boys in their boat, the crowd and other boaters…all while hearing Mr. Moron tell bad jokes. Finally we get some movement again and get some more shots of the boaters, POV shots of something watching the regatta from a distance and the Coast Guard copter flying in over the assembled boats.

We return again to Tillie and the crowd listening to this jackass attempting to tell jokes. Several more shots of the people there follow, then we get a still shot of the Coast Guard copter, one guy holding up a chalk sign that reads Danger Go Back. Where was this guy with that sign when the movie started? I sure could have used that warning then! The still image suddenly launches into motion and we see that the copter is flying over the group of racing sailboats. The guy on shore fires off his rifle again, which gets a few kids to look towards land. Race officials on land and in boats are waving frantically for everyone to come back. We then get a few more shots, from both above and below water, of the various sailboats.

Returning to Tillie, we see her trying to use the walkie-talkie again, but not having much luck. She gets up from her seated position amongst the crowd and walks away, speaking into the walkie-talkie and calling for her son. Now we see the octopus’ head at surface level as it swims through the water. I know, I know…an octopus does not propel itself in such a manner, but these filmmakers didn’t know that or just didn’t care. I think it was the latter.

So now comes another montage. We get shots of Tillie frantically calling to her son via the walkie-talkie and getting no response. We get numerous shots of the octopus head as it zips through the water. We see sailboats speeding around on the surface and we see numerous capsize, sending their occupants into the water. We also see the horrified expressions on many youthful faces as they realize they are about to be gobbled up by a giant octopus. Mixed in with all the shots of boats turning over and kids screaming for their mommy before being dragged to a watery doom, are shots of their parents on shore…laughing at the moron telling jokes, having a blast and blissfully unaware that their children are being devoured alive by a big cephalopod. I would also like to add that the music that has been playing off and on since the Coast Guard copter first lifted off, is in full swing during this sequence. For more on this particular theme and my personal reactions to it, see the My Personal History with this film section at the bottom of the page.

The first annual junior regatta at Neverland, hosted by Michael Jackson, was off to a dubious start.Eventually, the octopus closes in on the small boat carrying Tommy and Jamie. The kids scream and crap their pants when they see the monster coming their way. I’m only guessing about the pants-crapping part, but I’d venture to say chances were pretty good that one, if not both boys soiled themselves good at this point. We get a shot that suggests the camera is sitting on the back of the octopus, as its head is immediately in the foreground as it swims towards the two boys. Tommy has the good fortune (at least in this case) to fall off the boat. Another underwater shot shows the monster engulfing the small craft in its arms. The last we see of the boat, is its sail mast vanishing under the water, the entire conveyance being pulled straight down into the water…with poor Jamie still on board.

Finally, with the arrival of the Coast Guard cutter, everyone on shore realizes that something is seriously wrong. We get several shots of overturned boats by the dozens out in the water, showing the extent of the tragedy. Then we see Sheriff Lob…er…Robards arriving on scene, accompanied by Ned and Chris. The latter two make their way through the crowd to Tillie. We can hear several conversations as they pass by others and it is clear that people are worried, yet do not know what is going on. Tillie just holds up the walkie-talkie, as if to indicate that she cannot reach anyone on it.

A couple of boats now roll into port, carrying a bunch of surviving kids. The kids disembark and are reunited with worried parents. Tillie desperately calls out to Tommy, but cannot see him. Chris calls to Jamie but has no luck, either. Finally, one of the last kids to disembark is Tommy, wearing shell-shocked expression, like he has seen something that will haunt his dreams forever. Tommy rushes to his mother, who is glad to see her son, but then realizes that Jamie is not present. The Sheriff asks the boat pilot if there was anyone else, but gets a negative response. He turns and sadly shakes his head at Chris, who must confront the awful truth that her son is dead. Ned comforts her and Tillie reaches out to touch her, thinks better of it and then just goes back to squeezing the shit out of poor Tommy. Everyone walks off and I am left realizing that there are no other grieving parents in the shot. Was Jamie the only one eaten, or were the parents of other dead kids just not around at the moment? Were they already at the bar getting sloshed? Who really knows?

Some time later, we see Will Gleeson’s Oceanographic Institute sail boat out near the island where Judy and her pals met their demise. Being towed behind the boat is container that holds the two killer whales we saw earlier in the film. They even brought along their little mini-sub. The boat drops anchor in one spot while the whale trailer is anchored a short ways away. We see that the only crew members are Will and his diving buddy from earlier, Mike, who I think was also the same guy working with the whales near the beginning of the movie. I say this because the other guy takes an inflated motorboat over to the trailer and feeds fish to the whales through some openings.

Coming back aboard, the other guy asks Will what they do now. Will says to check the loudspeakers and confirm that they are working. After that…they will wait. Night falls and the two discuss the whales. Will says they are slightly restless and suggests not feeding them again for a while. Mike voices his opinion that the octopus won’t be returning to its lair, but Will is sure the creature will be back, despite whatever arguments Mike uses. The whales can be heard over the speakers and Will is able recognize each one by its voice. We learn that their names are Summer and Winter. He goes on to explain how over the years, he has come to understand the whales and they have also come to understand him. What, is he Dr. Doolittle now? I think that deep dive he made might have left a few brain cells screwed up.

Mike asks Will how the whales will tell him if the octopus is near. Will talks about how killer whales have a brain about as large as that of a Human and how they are in contact with two different worlds: the world below the surface and the one above. He babbles some more, not making a lick of sense. Mike now asks why he named them Summer and Winter. The answer: he met his late wife Vicky in the summer and married her in the winter.

The next day arrives and we see Will atop the whales’ trailer. Despite his idea about not feeding them for a while, he is dropping fish down to them. Talking to the whales, he figures that they know now why he has brought them to this place. He explains that many people have died, including one of his loved ones. He says that he needs their help more now than ever. He recalls the times he was training them and we are shown scenes of Will working with the whales back at the sea park. Again, he babbles on, near incoherent, and eventually asks them to help him kill the octopus. He adds that he will understand if they just swim away once he has released them. Wrapping things up, he tells them to make some noise if they feel anything. Uh…right now I am feeling somewhat sick. What kind of noises should I make?

Hey, jerk! The first rule of acting: don’t look in the camera!Night falls and we now see that the octopus has returned to its lair. Suddenly it is day again. Will and Mike are just kicked back on their boat like they were on some sort of gay cruise. Will sips coffee and walks around on deck, while Mike sits below, admiring his spear guns. We get some shots that imply the octopus is following Will’s movements on deck. The music builds and…Will goes below. Talk about building up to nothing. Eventually, as the two men sit below, the entire ship rocks violently, sending them and all sorts of shit flying all over the place. They run up on deck and see that the whale container is nothing more than floating wreckage.

Will is pretty pissed, but Mike spots the whales in the water. Thankful that they are still alive, the two men note that the whales are swimming out to sea. Will is about to use his whistle to recall them, but decides against it. Will then tells Mike that this is it…time to go get the octopus. We get a brief montage of them suiting up in their scuba gear, and then SPLASH. In they go.

 


Note - It is at this point that the movie enters its final segment, so if any of you really feel the need to watch this film and not know the ending ahead of time, skip the rest of this section.

 

Once underwater, they swim until they reach a large rock outcropping on the ocean floor. Using hand gestures, Will outlines the plan for them to split up and each take a different way around the rocks, meeting up with one another on the other side. Nodding his agreement, Mike swims off in one direction, while Will heads in the other. While swimming, Mike is momentarily startled by a large Grouper as it swims near him, but other than that and a manta ray he spots a short while later, seems to encounter nothing out of the ordinary.

Meanwhile, Will doesn’t seem to be seeing anything either. The two continue their respective journeys until Will reaches a cave entrance. Just as he approaches, a large cloud of ink jets outward from the cave depths. He manages to back away rapidly and escape the octopus for the moment. Then rocks come tumbling down from the cave entrance, hitting Will, partially burying him and rupturing his air tanks. He looks up to see the huge octopus floating his way, all its arms outstretched and waiting to grab its next meal. Trapped, Will can do nothing as the beast settles over him.

Just then, Summer and Winter arrive on the scene, accompanied by some uplifting music. Meanwhile, Mike has readied his spear gun, operating under the delusion that the puny little thing is going to somehow adversely affect the huge octopus. Sensing the presence of the Killer Whales, the octopus begins to move away from Will. Rather, I should say that the real octopus tries to move away from the small doll that represents Will.

Pissed that it was about to eat their buddy, Summer and Winter now attack the octopus, diving at it, grabbing it in their jaws and pulling violently. That is, I should say that two hand puppets fashioned to resemble Killer Whales are now cruelly used to pull at a real octopus, which quite naturally squirms in agony and tries futilely to get away. What is it about Italian flicks and their willingness to feature real harm towards animals? While this battle/slaughter unfolds over Will’s trapped form, Mike manages to swim in and works to free him once the whales have yanked so hard on the octopus, it is literally dragged away through the water.

The octopus tries to retreat back to its lair, but Summer and Winter are not done laying down their ass beating. They dive into the cave and continue to tear, tug and pull at the beast. The music during this whole segment is really inappropriate, sounding like something better utilized in a Russian war film than a movie about a giant octopus. To make a long story short, Mike frees Will and they ascend to the surface. Meanwhile, Summer and Winter have reduced the giant octopus to pieces, despite a moment or two where it seemed to get the upper hand on them. Its body (what’s left of it) can be seen sinking down into the depths. I can only assume the real life octopus used in this sequence was likewise ripped apart in order to get the requisite shots. Sickening? You bet.

Sometime later back aboard their boat, Mike and Will note that the wind is picking up. When asked how he is feeling, Will says that he has had better days. It seems that some time has passed since their underwater confrontation with the monster, with Summer and Winter having not been seen or heard from since. Will then talks about going to Africa and going on Safari. I’m beginning to think one of those rocks hit him in the head a little too hard. Mike thinks it is a grand idea, and offers to go along. Will thinks they could leave right now since they have reported the octopus as dead. He even thinks they could invite Ned Turner along.

I think I'm getting sea sick.Right about now, the sounds of whales can be heard. Will thinks he is imagining it, but alas, there in the water are Summer and Winter. It’s obvious that the footage of the whales was shot at a totally different time, and perhaps, even a completely different location. Overjoyed at seeing his whale friends alive, Will waves at them. The whales wave back. I’m serious…the whales wave back. All is good…well except for all those dead people. With one final shot of the whales' dorsal fins in the distance, the film freezes and the credits start to roll. Oddly enough, just a bunch of Italian names appear with now corresponding screen credit. Were these actors? Production personnel? Who knows! The good news is that the film is finally over!

The End.


Review

Someone once said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. While that may be true, it is also a standard on which many industries operate. No sooner has one party marketed a successful product than a second party has decided that they can produce a comparable item…only faster and cheaper. Often times these knock-offs do not retain the same level of quality, and exist only so the makers can cash in on the success of others. No where is this more true than in the entertainment industry, especially the realm of films. Since the first grainy and silent images played to audiences, there was someone who decided to emulate the success of other filmmakers by making their own similarly themed projects…at a fraction of the cost. One could argue that this approach was also the backbone of the Italian film industry throughout the seventies and eighties. One unnamed director even stated that whatever the Americans could do, the Italians could do cheaper…and with more nudity.

Egyptian born Greek national Ovidio G. Assontis quickly developed a reputation in Italian film circles as “The Rip-Off King”. This first came to light in 1973 with the resounding success of William Friedkin’s The Exorcist. Soon afterwards, copycat films began popping up, from William Girdler’s American-made Abby (1974) to the Italian productions The Antichrist (1974) from director Alberto De Martino, as well as Assontis’ own Chi sei? (1974), which he wrote, produced and directed, and which was known by The Devil Within Her in the U.K. and as Beyond the Door stateside (indeed, I clearly remember seeing the television ads for the film and being scared shitless by them). Quickly and cheaply made, these films satiated audiences’ desire for more satanic possession film romps, even if they did earn the ire of Warner Brothers, who filed lawsuits against both Girdler’s Abby and Assontis’ Beyond the Door, feeling that both films were blatant thefts of the ideas on display in The Exorcist. Despite this, Beyond the Door went on to become quite successful both in the United States and in the global market.

The next opportunity for cinematic imitation came in 1975 with the release of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, which would come to define the term blockbuster. No sooner had it made its big splash in theaters than smaller outfits were looking to cash in on its success. William Girdler got into the copycat act again with Grizzly (1976), and while his film was set far from the beach and featured a killer Grizzly bear rather than a Great White Shark, the similarities between it and Jaws are too numerous to ignore. Other films cashing in on Jaws’ success included Orca: The Killer Whale (1977), ¡Tintorera! (1977), Piranha (1978), Up from the Depths (1979) and Alligator (1980). In fact, any movie that featured a roaming threat of some type was slapped with this “rip off” label. The Italians got into the act as well, with the most notorious example being Ultimo squalo, L' AKA Great White (1981). Universal Pictures filed suit against the producers claiming the film was too derivative of Jaws. Universal won the lawsuit and Great White was pulled from theaters very shortly after its release. However, several years before Great White there was Tentacles, another film from “Rip-Off King” Assontis.

This time financially backed by legendary distribution company American International Pictures, which was falling on hard times and had noted the success of the director’s Beyond The Door with interest, Assontis was armed with enough money to afford quality underwater filming equipment as well as three Oscar winning actors to cast in the project. Well, two winners (Huston and Winters) and a future winner (Fonda). Alas, despite these components and an adherence to the Jaws cinematic model, Tentacles was overlooked at the box office amongst a sea of similar clones and ultimately failed to achieve any notable success. Assontis would go on to direct four more films, but in the following decades, concentrated on his role as producer of cheap, trashy movies. Meanwhile American International Pictures was sold to Filmways, Inc. in 1978 when Samuel Arkoff retired. Filmways was later bought by Orion Pictures Corporation and the AIP subsidiary was disbanded. In some ways, Tentacles could be viewed as a nail in the coffin for both AIP’s success and Assontis’ mainstream career.

Often it seems like some eras are defined by certain types of film. The 1930’s and 40’s usually conjure up images of gothic horrors based on the literary works of the previous century. When one thinks of the 1950’s, giant irradiated monsters and invaders from outer space usually spring to mind. The decade during which I was a teenager, the 1980’s, is probably best known for the glut of slasher flicks that bombarded theaters. So what is it about the 70’s that many people think of when considering the decade? I would have to say, for me it would be supernatural and Eco horror flicks…or put more succinctly, Exorcist and Jaws rip-offs. Some of these films were decent while most were rather poor. Substituting a giant octopus for a great white shark, Tentacles treads the same waters pioneered by Spielberg’s film. While the novelty of changing the menace from a shark to a cephalopod may have seemed like a sure way to draw in the crowds, the end result is a mediocre exercise in laughable style, poor characterizations, crappy FX, even crappier music and a notable lack of thrills and chills.

The main thrust of the story is pretty straightforward: a giant octopus terrorizes a seaside community along California’s southern coast. Simple as that may sound, things do not turn out that way. Along the way, while contending with attacks on the populace, we also have to deal with a reporter’s lame investigation into the deaths, a marine expert’s boring marital and professional woes, corporate shenanigans and some truly inane scenes with a fat broad, her kid and his near catatonic friend. It often seems like the movie truly does not know where to go. Does it follow the reporter? Does it follow the police investigation? The film just seems lost. We know where things should be going, but the story seems to wander all over the place before actually getting there. And none of it is all that interesting or riveting. Even the attack scenes are far from frightening. This really has more to do with the film’s shortcomings rather than a purposeful intent to differentiate it from its obvious inspiration. One gets the feeling that the producers wanted to make a film as tense and as exciting as Jaws, but simply did not have any idea how to truly accomplish it. A general theme is not enough. There has to be style to liven things up and a few characters to help propel the story. Alas, in this film, the characters do not propel anything. Instead, they are the ones who get pushed along by the meandering script.

This film is absolutely loaded with characters. The problem is, that most of them are unnecessary and only take time away from those that should matter. At the very least, many of them should not get as much screen time as they do. Of those that should be the focus of the story, too little time is spent bringing them to life. They just bounce from once scene to the next with there being little to connect everything together aside from the overall story. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be much time with any one of them. Who exactly is the lead in this film? Is it John Huston’s Ned Turner or is it Bo Hopkins’ Will Gleeson? I suppose it is intended for Will to be the main protagonist, but it is often hard to tell with how little time he actually gets in the spotlight. In spite of the big names like Henry Fonda and John Huston, nobody shines in this film. There is no stand out character. As noted above, this group of people seem to be caught up in the events of the script, getting bounced from scene to scene rather than taking decisive action to get themselves there.

There is very little FX in this film, and I’m sure the script was crafted in such a way so as to ensure that. Alas, what there is on screen is pretty crudely executed. In the vast majority of shots, a real octopus is used to portray the giant one in the film, only with miniature divers and/or boats included in the shots for a sense of scale. This culminates in the “giant” octopus being attacked by a pair of Orcas in the film’s none too thrilling climax. However, the Orcas in this case are just hand puppets poking and tearing at the real octopus. The result is not only phony, but also cruel when considering the cephalopod’s very real fate. In a few other shots, a fake octopus head is hauled through the water to give the impression that the creature is swimming quite fast. Too bad the filmmakers did not take into consideration the fact that a real octopus does not swim in such a fashion. I know this approach is supposed to be scary, but it just comes off as extremely lame. Then there is the attack on a boat that is accomplished by splashing some water on a cheap miniature. After that is an attack on a woman through use of rear screen projection. That in itself would not be too bad if it were not for the fact that the bottom of the screen can be seen in the shot! The best looking thing is the corpse of Bill Sullivan, which is only seen in focus for a brief second or two. Taking into account how fast it vanishes from the screen (so the audience cannot really get the best look at it and see how poor it really looks) may just give you an idea as to what kind of FX work to expect in this film. So, to sum up: the FX in this flick are somewhat crappy given the era.

If there is one single aspect to this movie that is just incongruent with the rest of it, it is the music. The composer here is Stelvio Cipriani, who had previously worked on everything from giallo flicks to spaghetti westerns. While the work he did on those films may have been much more in tune with their themes (and I use the word may, as I have seen very few of them), the music he turned in for Tentacles is just flat out awful. The central musical cue that pops up about a million times is from a harpsichord, which to me, conjures up images of 18th century dudes in powdered wigs more than it does a horror film. This cue is incorporated into a couple of the film’s compositions and only makes them seem that much more silly than frightening. The repeated starting, stopping and starting again of one such theme during the attack on the regatta may just drive you nuts, burning the music into your subconscious (as it did to me). The real WTF moment arrives at the end of the film when the Orcas attack the Octopus. As noted earlier, the music here seems to be more suited for a Russian war epic than a killer octopus flick. Overall, the music is just so out of step with the movie’s story that it is almost laughable at times. It in no way adds to the sense of fear and tension that a movie like this should be trying to generate.

I really have to wonder about some of the choices made in this film. First off, as mentioned, the music is horribly inappropriate. In spite of the lurking horror represented by the octopus – a creature that must stalk its prey before assaulting them – the attack scenes are so devoid of thrills or a sense of terror that they are almost clinical in nature. It’s like watching a run through of the scene in question rather than the scene itself. Then we come to the truly idiotic decision to include so many freeze frames during the big regatta attack sequence. What was that all about? Were they just trying to stretch the film out a wee bit longer? I can understand the idea of flipping back and forth between screaming kids in the water and their ignorant, laughing parents on shore…but constantly stopping and starting the music with freeze frames added into the mix? That one definitely went over my head. For me, the many stylistic approaches just fell flat. You may feel differently, but I rather doubt it.

There is pretty much one word to sum up this film: bad. While not horrifically bad, it is still somewhat boringly bad, which may even be worse. Despite a good premise, the whole affair is just…bland. The FX are cheap and obvious, the music is truly, truly hideous and the way things unfold seem almost hit or miss. One has to lay blame of a weak script that doesn’t know in which direction to head or where to focus its attention at times. Multiple characters are thrown in, but when the movie reaches a point where it doesn’t know where to go or what to do with them, it just jettisons them into the void and they are never seen again. Some might say that a similar fate should befall this film. While not a total crapfest, this movie certainly is not a good movie, let alone a classic. Check it out, but only if you must.

 

Expect To See:
Annoying Kids - You can't get any more annoying than a kid who always has to pee, which you have here. Plus, there's Tommy, who by just being a kid, is a huge pain in the ass.
Giant Monsters - One gigantic octopus, hell bent on squeezing the life out of everyone he can get his tentacles around. Played by a normal sized octopus in the close-ups.
Nature Run Amok - Normally, an octopus doesn't grow to such colossal dimensions, so nature has definitely gone crazy with this one. Don't expect any explanation as to its size.
Ocean Hijinks - There are a few scenes set on ships and boats of varying sizes. The log ride at your local amusement park is infinitely more exciting.
Sea Terrors - Since the threat in this movie comes from the ocean depths, we get this icon.
Skin - Lots of skin in this flick, most notably from Vicky's hot sister Judy, who shows off two different bikinis. As tiny as they are, Don shows off more skin by virtue of his size alone.
Undersea Hijinks - There is a lot of underwater action in this film. Well, by action I mean scenes set underwater. The action is about as thrilling as a day at the community swimming pool.
Violence - Most of the violence in this film occurrs off screen, as people dying horribly by having the flesh sucked from their bones wasn't something the producers were able show.

 

Movie Stats:
Shadow's Commentary:

Deaths: 12
Alcoholic drinks consumed: 4
Cigars/cigarettes smoked: 9
Film crewmembers caught on camera: At least three
Kids who look directly in camera: 1
Octopus-Cam shots: 15
Total gunshots fired: 2
Screaming kids: 6
Screaming audience members: Too many to count
Rear screen projection shots: 2
Real killer whales seen: 2
Fake killer whales seen: 2
Shots of real octopus: 64
Shots of fake octopus: 12
Percentage of movie filmed underwater: 19.4%
Percentage of film featuring Henry Fonda: 2.71%
Number of harpsichord music cues: 22
Oscar winners in film: 3
Oscars won by film: 0

02 Min – Octo-cam.
07 Min – Poor guy being molested by fat girl.
07 Min – Brown Trousers Alert!
07 Min – Sheriff Lobo!
09 Min – Shelley Winters in a nightie! I’m blind!
16 Min – Why does it sound like a French police siren?
36 Min – Hot chick alert.
39 Min – The famed fish forests of Southern California.
41 Min – Tsunami alert!
41 Min – Cue the needless music.
42 Min – False scare # 1
43 Min – False scare # 2
44 Min – False sc…er…nope, real thing. Scratch one fat dude.
54 Min – Cheap plastic model boat gets splashed.
54 Min – Cheap dummies standing in for extras get splashed.
56 Min – Cheap Italian actress gets eaten.
57 Min – Why is there such a huge crowd there at night?
80 Min – Will’s motivational speech to the whales. Yes, whales.
97 Min – The octopus is finally dead. Just like my interest in this film.


Shadow's Drinking Game: This one take a more subjective approach. Every time crappy music plays, take a drink. Depending on your tastes, you may remain perfectly sober. Then again, you may end up drunk off your ass.

 

Images Click for larger image

“Have you seen my dentures? They were
soaking in a glass of V-8.”


“And here you can see the unfortunate effect
this movie has on the average
human nervous system.”


“I’m no expert…and this is just a guess, mind
you, but I’d say that the reason it quit working
is because it fell overboard.”


“Bring me up, fast! You hear me? Wait, there
is another call coming in…hold on a sec. Hello?
No, I don’t want to subscribe to Reader’s Digest!”

The new hyperbolic prophylactic testing chamber

 
“I’m sorry ma’am, while your offer of fifty bucks
and a huge hat is more than fair, you simply
cannot pay us to take your children.”


“And here is your room key, Mr. Gleeson. You’re
in room 406, the same one you had last time
you visited with your lovely wife. Wait…this
is your wife? I thought she was a
brunette…and a stripper!”


“I swear that has never happened to me before.”

The rarely seen Bloodhound Tuna will
literally sniff out its food.

A scene from the new Italian TV series,
Giovanna and the Fat Man.

No ladies and gentlemen, that is simply
Don…not the island from Lost.


"Raar! I’m Godzilla!”

“Tell my agent that he is so fired.”

Somebody tell that dumbass kid to stop
staring into the camera.

Sailing…so easy, even a caveman can do it
(when they aren't picking their nose).

 

Immortal Dialog

A cop talks about the death of peg-legged Bill.

Cop: "I saw him this morning. He was a man then. That's a skeleton. What the hell happened to him?"

Shadow’s Comment: The South Beach diet?


Tillie talks about sailing.

Tillie: "I'm very good sailor. If I went in that boat you, we would certainly win."
Tommy: "Then we'd need a tornado to move the boat."

Shadow’s Comment: Yo mama so fat she lays on the beach and greenpeace tried to push her back in the water.


Ned and Will discuss animal anatomy

Ned: "I've uh...read that the suckers on a tentacle are like the claws on a tiger.
Will: "Compared to suckers on a tentacle, claws are nothing Mr. Turner. Nothing."

Shadow’s Comment: I doubt Roy Horn would agree.

 

Keep In Mind
  • Giant Octopuses hate any variation of the name William.
  • A Giant octopus sounds at times like rusty nails pulled arcross a piece of sheet metal.
  • Fat men float easier than one would initially think.
  • The Coast Guard operates undercover cutters.
  • Contrary to popular belief, an octopus swims with its head straight up.
  • Cephalopods are naturally prescient.
  • Killer Whales hate giant octopuses.
  • It only takes a single day to get over the death of one's wife.



This Film & Me

I was in the second grade when this film hit theaters and while I don’t remember seeing the TV commercials for it at the time, I do recall my classmates talking about the movie quite a bit, so it was definitely being advertised in some capacity. I did not get a chance to see the film in the theater, however, I do remember a classmate named David telling me about. The one part of his account that stuck in my memory was the beginning scene with the baby. After the way he described it to me, I envisioned the bus that obscures our view of the baby as moving a lot faster. Thus when the film debuted on network television (ABC if I recall correctly) a year or two later and I finally was able to see it, I was surprised at how slow the bus moved across the screen. Since I was still so young when I saw it for that first time, I was oblivious to its faults. It seemed like a pretty good thriller. I saw the film maybe once or twice more in its entirety in the early 80’s. After that I caught bits and pieces of it over the years when channel surfing. Then at some point, the film vanished for some time. A decade or so went by without me seeing it and then it popped up again and I watched it again for the first time in years. It was at this time, when seeing it for the first time as an adult, that THAT music got lodged in my head. It stayed in there for several days. Afterwards, any time I saw the film, or just certain parts of it, THAT music would be lodged in my subconscious for days. It got so bad, that I began avoiding the film, just so THAT music would stay out of my mind. In the course of this review, I have heard THAT music so many damn times, that I think I may have finally driven it from my brain once and for all.

Shadow's rating: Four Tombstones



The Good

  • One or two hot chicks
  • Movie doesn't refrain from the horror of kids being gobbled up
  • Shelley Winters does not appear in a swimsuit, thank goodness
  • Ballsy opening has death of a baby
  • Decent underwater photography

The Bad

  • Cheap toy ship destroyed by octopus
  • Rear screen octopus attack
  • Big name actors slumming it for a quick buck
  • An octopus does not swim that way
  • Obvious Jaws ripoff
  • Film doesn’t live up to ballsy opening
  • Real octopus not convincing as a giant
  • 10 year old kid with the tenor voice
  • No naked chicks

The Ugly

  • Very real octopus torn to pieces at end
  • Camera crew just cannot stop getting caught on film
  • Insidious musical pieces that lodge in brain
  • Final act leaves out 80% of cast
  • Terrible ill-fitting musical themes
  • Orca hand puppets

 

 

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