Water Foul: The Crater Lake Monster

The Crater Lake Monster

craterlake2

Today’s movie is the 1977 stop motion creature feature, The Crater Lake Monster.

The Crater Lake Monster was directed, produced, and cowritten by William Stromberg, in what would be his only film credit. Star Richard Cardella served as his co-writer, and likewise never appeared in a film again.

The cinematographer for The Crater Lake Monster was Paul Gentry, who is an accomplished visual effects artist who has worked on films such as The Stuff, Robot Jox, Laserblast, Predator 2, Fortress, RoboCop 3, and Space Truckers.

The primary editor for The Crater Lake Monster was Steven Nielson, who has also cut flicks like Blood Dolls, The Creeps, Head of the Family, and Inner Sanctum.

The effects on The Crater Lake Monster were provided by a team that included Steve Neill (The Stuff, It’s Alive III, Q, Full Moon High, Battle Beyond The Stars, Laserblast, God Told Me To), David Allen (Willow, Ghostbusters II, Robot Jox, Dolls), Tom Scherman (The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies), Jon Berg (RoboCop 2, Piranha, Gremlins), Randall Cook (Q, The Thing), Jim Danforth (Ninja III: The Domination, DeepStar Six), and Phil Tippett (Howard The Duck, RoboCop 3).

craterlake3The music for movie was composed (uncredited) by Will Zens, who is best known for directing and writing the abysmal film, The Starfighters, which is among the IMDb’s Bottom 100 movies of all time, and was famously mocked on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

The cast for the movie is composed of co-writer Richard Cardella, Glen Roberts (The Evictors), Richard Garrison (A Nightmare on Elm Street 4), Michael Hoover, who would later become a effects worker with credits on films like Ghostbusters, DeepStar Six, Foodfight!, and Torque, and Mark Siegel, who would likewise become an effects worker for films like Van Helsing, Son of the Mask, Dune, and Death Becomes Her.

The plot of The Crater Lake Monster takes place near the Crater Lake in Northern California. A number of locals begin to suspect that a Loch Ness Monster style creature is living in the lake after a meteorite falls nearby, and a number of mysterious disappearances follow.

Co-writer and star of The Crater Lake Monster Richard Cardella is quoted as saying the following about what went wrong with the production of the movie:

Crown International was part of the financing and they just screwed up everything. They pulled their support for some key scenes (that would have explained a lot and plugged some of the obvious holes), added a canned score that really sucked, and turned it over to some hack to edit. The asshole didn’t even use a fade or dissolve in the whole freakin’ picture

craterlake5The Crater Lake Monster is widely considered to be one of the worst creature features of all time, in spite of relatively impressive stop motion effects. It currently holds a 3.0 rating on IMDb, along with an 11% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Crater Lake Monster was reportedly made on a $100,000 budget, and managed to make a significant profit in its theatrical run with a $3 million gross, in spite of the negative reviews.

I have a soft spot for stop motion effects work, but it is definitely something that isn’t beloved across the board. The effects work in The Crater Lake Monster looks fine for what it is if you ask me, but there are a lot of people who aren’t accustomed to watching stop motion monsters, and seeing stop motion in comparison to other kinds of effects just makes it look awful. For a generation raised on Jurassic Park, moviegoers today likely won’t have the patience to deal with stop motion monsters, which has contributed to flicks like The Crater Lake Monster getting further buried.

That said, The Crater Lake Monster is pretty dull outside of the stop motion effects. The writing tries to awkward work comedy into the movie in the form of a quasi-comedic duo of rednecks, the directing and cinematography struggle to keep actors lit and in frame, and the actors themselves are just wretchedly untalented. This was clearly the work of amateurs with high ambitions, which actually makes the effects work all the more impressive. By all accounts, this movie should have been forgotten to the ages entirely, but the stop motion work really made it stand out. It also certainly doesn’t hurt that it had a memorable trailer that made the movie look way better than it is. In fact, I remember seeing the trailer on a compilation tape as a kid, and thinking that this looked like one of the coolest movies of the bunch. Unfortunately, I now know that isn’t the case.

craterlake1Overall, this is a movie that I really hoped would be more entertaining than it is. It is more than worth looking up the trailer and the clips of the monster, but the rest of the movie built around those moments is totally forgettable. While the acting and film-making work across the board is all bad, it is regrettably not on an entertaining level. I recommend skipping over this one unless you are determined to sit through it, because the clips will give you all of the highlights that are worth seeing.

Water Foul: Jaws: The Revenge

Jaws: The Revenge

jawsrevenge1

Today’s movie is the fourth and final entry into the Jaws franchise: the much maligned Jaws: The Revenge.

Jaws 4 was written by Michael de Guzman, who has also penned movies like The King and Queen of Moonlight Bay and Hidden in America.

Jaws 4 was directed and produced by Joseph Sargent, who was previously behind films like the highly acclaimed The Taking of Pelham One Two Three and the Burt Reynolds vehicle White Lightning.

The cinematographer for the film was John McPherson, who shot a number of episodes of Kojak and The Incredible Hulk, as well as the movie Short Circuit 2.

jawsrevenge4Jaws: The Revenge was edited by Michael Brown, who also cut the film Above the Law and the television series Green Acres.

The effects team for Jaws: The Revenge included Tony Lloyd (The Goonies, The Hand), Daniel Striepeke (The Ladykillers, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot), Doug Hubbard (Deep Blue Sea, Face/Off), Henry Millar (Stand by Me, Capricorn One, Commando), Mike Millar (Harry and the Hendersons, Weird Science), and Michael Tice (Hesher, Speed 2, Die Hard, The Avengers).

The score for Jaws 4 was provided by Michael Small, who also composed music for Marathon Man and the original 1975 film adaptation The Stepford Wives.

The cast for Jaws: The Revenge was headlined by Lorraine Gary (1941, Jaws, Jaws 2), Michael Caine (Kingsman: The Secret Service, The Hand, Shock to the System, Blame It On Rio, On Deadly Ground), Lance Guest (Late Phases, Halloween II, The Last Starfighter), Mario Van Peebles (The Hebrew Hammer, Highlander: The Final Dimension, Exterminator 2), Karen Young (Daylight), Mitchell Anderson (SpaceCamp), and Judith Barsi (The Land Before Time).

jawsrevenge3The plot of Jaws: The Revenge takes place many years after the events of Jaws 2. Sheriff Brody, the hero of the first two films, has since passed away, and is survived by his wife and two sons. However, one of his sons is mysteriously killed on the water, which leads the Brody widow to believe that there is a murderous shark on the hunt for revenge against the Brody family. In hopes of soothing her, the surviving son takes her on a vacation away from Amity, which ultimately proves to backfire when the vengeful shark follows them to the tropics.

Jaws 4 is famously known as one of Michael Caine’s “paycheck pictures,” and there is a popularly circulated anecdote that he claimed to have never actually seen the final product of the film, but has, however, seen the house that it bought him. Caine famously missed the Academy Awards while re-filming the ending sequence of Jaws 4, and couldn’t accept his supporting actor award for the film Hannah and Her Sisters. In his autobiography, Caine wrote that Jaws 4 “will go down in my memory as the time when I won an Oscar, paid for a house and had a great holiday. Not bad for a flop movie.”

Judith Barsi, the child actor featured in Jaws 4, was tragically murdered the following year by her father, making Jaws: The Revenge her last feature film appearance. She is particularly fondly remembered for providing the voice of Ducky in the children’s animated movie The Land Before Time.

The famous tagline used for Jaws 4; “This time, it’s personal,” is now one of the most frequently mocked and cliched movie taglines of all time, and was even lampooned in Back to The Future II‘s portrayal of the fictitious Jaws 19, which is billed with the tagline “This time it’s really, really personal.”

The screenplay for Jaws 4 included back doors for possible cameos by Richard Dreyfuss and Roy Scheider, but both men declined. Scheider even publicly claimed that “Satan himself could not get me to do Jaws part 4.

As far as other cast trivia goes, Jaws: The Revenge proved to be Lorraine Gary’s final movie, and she even came out of self-imposed acting retirement to appear in it. The character played by Mario Van Peebles, while originally written into the movie, was entirely rewritten by the actor to ‘improve’ the dialogue.

Interestingly, Jaws 4 doesn’t follow the continuity of Jaws 3-D, and disregards that poorly received third entry into the franchise. This is apparently why the official title is Jaws: The Revenge instead of Jaws 4.

Michael Caine’s character had a written subplot about being a drug runner which was actually filmed, but wasn’t included in the final release of the movie. Likewise, the novelization of the movie includes a number of other cut elements of the storyline that never made it to the screen, including a voodoo possession plot that influences the shark’s vendetta against the Brodys.

Unsurprisingly, Jaws: The Revenge was the final official Jaws film release, though countless knockoffs have tried to claim association as Jaws 5. While it was ultimately profitable ($51.8 million on a $23 million budget), it paled in comparison to its predecessors, and was a massive critical flop. It would up with an astounding 7 Golden Raspberry nominations, and won the award for worst visual effects in a motion picture. It is now widely regarded as one of the worst Hollywood movies of all time: it currently holds a 2.8 rating on IMDb, along with a 14% audience score and a 0% critics score on the Rotten Tomatoes review aggregator. The famed film critics Siskel and Ebert both enthusiastically hated the movie, with Gene Siskel claiming he wanted to “punch a hole in the screen” when he first saw it in a theater.

One of the biggest issues with Jaws: The Revenge is the eponymous shark. Not unlike the original “Bruce,” it looks bad and worked poorly. However, the team on Jaws realized this, and used creative editing to make the film impressive in spite of the issues with the monster. Jaws: The Revenge seems to do the opposite: it emphasizes the shark as much as possible, featuring it in full view less than a third of the way through the movie in spite of how bad it looks. The result is a boring shark who spends enough time on screen that all of its flaws are noticeable to the audience, and the tension of the film is sapped away as a result. The fact that the shark was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award, the first non-human to compete for it, says a lot about about how bad it came off in the film.

To my surprise, I didn’t mind Michael Caine or Mario Van Peebles all that much in this, in spite of the massive criticisms both actors received for their roles. Both characters are goofy, but they provide decent foils for the overly serious widow Brody and Michael, respectively. They both come off as more likable than the actual stars of the movie at the end of the day, which is in itself a problem with the writing: the surviving Brodys aren’t particularly likable or relate-able. In fact, the guy who plays the brother who dies early on is actually pretty charming, and does a good enough job that his absence is believably felt throughout the movie. By comparison, his character makes the other Brodys stand out as being even more dull.

As far as characters in Jaws 4 go, it is the child actor who is written the most ridiculously at the end of the day, making Caine’s “Hoagie” look totally sensible. Clearly the aim was for her to come off as just being innocent and ignorant of social graces, but the way she comes off makes it seem like she is determined to poke every weak spot of her mourning grandmother by bringing up her dead uncle in conversation, which seems to happen constantly throughout the film. The result is a child character who is an uncomfortable mixture of shitty and creepy whenever she is on screen.

jawsrevenge2Overall, Jaws: The Revenge is certainly the weakest entry in the franchise, but it is hardly one of the worst movies I have ever seen. I think it gets a particularly bad reputation because of how bad it is when compared to Jaws. Most of the issues with this movie boil down to either the shark or the writing, which are both things that Jaws also had to deal with in a similar fashion. However, whereas Spielberg and company used creativity to overcome the limitations of the shark and used downtime to modify the screenplay and rehearse the performances, Sargent dropped the ball in his directing duties. The way I see it, Jaws: The Revenge is the worst case scenario of what could have happened to the original Jaws, if a few decisions on Spielberg’s part had gone differently.

As far as a recommendation goes, I think that Jaws 3-D is more entertainingly awful at the end of the day, but Jaws: The Revenge is certainly worth checking out. The shark is terrible, Michael Caine spends the movie doing a Michael Caine impression, and the attempts to reference and homage the original movie are hilariously flubbed across the board. Also, the ending is astoundingly bad, even after the reshoot done to supposedly fix it.

Water Foul: Shark Attack 3

Shark Attack 3: Megalodon

sharkattack31

Today’s movie is Shark Attack 3: Megalodon, one of the most notoriously awful shark movies of all time.

Shark Attack 3 was written and produced by the duo of Scott Devine and William Hooke, who also penned the previous two Shark Attack movies. The film was directed and shot by David Worth, who has also been behind flicks like Kickboxer and Shark Attack 2, and has served as a cinematographer for films like Puppet Master vs Demonic Toys, Bloodsport, and Paper Dragons.

The editor for the film was Kristopher Leese, who worked on the editorial teams in a handful of episodes of television shows like E.R., Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and Heroes.

sharkattack33The effects team for Shark Attack 3 included Veselina Georgieva (The Expendables, The Wicker Man), Nikolay Gachev (Olympus Has Fallen, Legend of Hercules, Mansquito), Simeon Asenov (It’s Alive (2008), Drive Angry), Tinko Dimov (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Jurassic World, Jupiter Ascending), Anton Donchev (In Hell, Alien Hunter), Stanislav Dragiev (The Expendables 2, Automata), Jivko Ivanov (Jarhead 2, Lake Placid 3, Robocroc), Scott Coulter (Dogma, The Faculty, It’s Alive (2008)), and Radost Yonkova (Green Lantern, Men in Black 3).

The musical score for Shark Attack 3 was provided by Bill Wandel, who has also provided music for films like Crocodile 2: Death Swamp, Octopus 2: River of Fear, The Genesis Code, and some obscure gem called Blackmailing Santa.

The producers on Shark Attack 3 included Danny Dimbort (The Wolf of Wall Street, Shark in Venice), David Varod (300: Rise of an Empire, Octopus), Danny Lerner (War, Inc., Lethal Ninja (1992)), Avi Lerner (Alien From L.A., American Ninja 2), and Boaz Davidson (The Iceman, 16 Blocks).

The cast for Shark Attack 3 included John Barrowman (Doctor Who, Torchwood), Jenny McShane (Cyborg Cop III), Ryan Cutrona (Hot Shots!), and Bashar Mounzer Rahal (In The Name Of The King 3).

The plot of Shark Attack 3 surrounds the re-appearance of a thought-extinct species of enormous sharks, known as Megalodons. A handful of locals take it upon themselves to eliminate the gigantic shark before it can make it to a populated tourist beach where it can wreak significant havoc.

John Barrowman’s infamous propositioning line from Shark Attack 3 was improvised, and intended initially as a joke to make Jenny McShane break character. However, because she played it off with no reaction and the production was averse to doing multiple takes, it wound up in the final cut of the film.

The reception to Shark Attack 3 certainly wasn’t good, and it currently holds a 2.7 rating on IMDb. However, it has become a cult classic thanks to a number of clips of the shark effects (and Barrowman’s ‘cunning linguistics’) making the rounds on the internet.

sharkattack32First off, this movie is amazing, and I highly recommend it as a good-bad feature. For being as awful as it is, the film is actually not difficult to watch, and is paced better than most low-budget features, while still retaining its “terribad” features.

One of the most immediately notable aspects of this movie is the acting, which is generally abysmal across the board. The bizarre line readings come fast and furious throughout the film, which is usually a sign of bad directing. The odds of having honestly terrible actors from top to bottom is far less likely than the possibility that they were being instructed poorly. Given what John Barrowman has said about the movie over the years, I don’t think it is too much to assume that bad direction combined with the hesitancy to do multiple takes to create the memorable acting performances on display in this movie.

Something that has been done in countless shark movies since Jaws is the use of mammalian roars coming from sharks. Obviously this doesn’t make any sense, but it has gotten to be a bit of a tradition in shark movies in spite of all logic and sensibility. In the original Jaws it was a subtle big cat roar in the death sequence, but the noises have gotten increasingly blatant over the years. Shark Attack 3 is a bit unique in that it seems to use stock audio of bear attacks for the megalodon, which stands out from the pack of generic grunts and roars given to sharks in other films. Bears have a very specific sort of angry noise that is instantly recognizable, and hearing it come out of a shark is just…weird.

The shark itself is often made up of stock footage in Shark Attack 3, but there are a couple of creative moments worth noting. For instance, there is a camera hooked behind a shark fin in the water, giving a pseudo POV effect for a number of sequences. There is also some use of a fake shark head/torso for some of the attack sequences, though it seemed to be used pretty sparingly. The film is infamous for combining stock footage with original footage to create some of the worst attack sequences of all time, but those moments are pretty well compartmentalized to that section of the movie: through the lion’s share of the film, the effects aren’t awful. Given the budget the production was dealing with, they were pretty creative, particularly when compared with other Jaws knockoff shark movies.

I will also note that I found the use of practical effects intercut with stock footage, while cheesy, to be vastly superior in entertainment value when compared to the plethora of Asylum-produced monster flicks (Mega-Piranha, Sharknado, etc). For what it is worth, a rubber shark head looks more “real” than a cut-scene from a 2005 video game. As far as cost-effective CGI has come, it still can’t come close to comparing with actual, tangible effects (or appropriate stock footage), even when considering its creative benefits.

Overall, as I previously stated, Shark Attack 3 is an entertainingly bad movie worth checking out. I would take it over a Sharknado any day, and the popular clips of it circulating the internet amazingly don’t do it justice. It isn’t too difficult to find if you do some digging, and it is worth dredging up.

Water Foul: Jaws In Japan

Jaws In Japan

jawsinjapan2

Today’s feature is a 2009 Japanese “sequel” to the 1975 super-smash, Jaws. Appropriately, it is commonly known as Jaws in Japan.

Jaws in Japan was written by Yasutoshi Murakawa, who also penned a movie called Iron Girl: The Ultimate Weapon, which I kind of assume is a Japanese Iron Man sexploitation knockoff (but I’m not planning to find out if that is true or not.)

The director for Jaws in Japan was John Hijiri, whose only other major credit is a Japanese TV series called Girls Be Ambitious.

The Jaws in Japan cinematographer is the most experienced member of the crew that I came across, Yasutaka Nagano. He has shot such films as The Machine Girl, a segment in The ABCs of Death, and something called RoboGeisha.

The editor for the flick was one Masakazu Ohashi, whose credits include X Game and the TV show Girls Be Ambitious under director John Hijiri.

The producers on Jaws in Japan were Kyosuke Uen (Grotesque, Geisha Assassin) and Rie Mikami, who only has two other listed credits on IMDb, neither of which have five votes as of yet.

jawsinjapan1The visual effects for Jaws in Japan were provided by Tsuyoshi Shôji, who recently provided effects for an undeniably Japanese movie called Schoolgirl Apocalypse.

Jaws in Japan stars one Nonami Takizawa, who, according to wikipedia:

is a Japanese gravure idol, and a female talent. She is best known for her voluptuous figure. She is from Saitama, and her nickname is ‘Nonamin’.[2] She retired from modeling as of 2011.

You might notice that ‘acting’ isn’t specifically mentioned in that blurb, which I don’t think was a mistake on the writer’s part.

The plot of Jaws in Japan follows two young college students on vacation at a resort island. However, not all is well in the apparent paradise, as both a serial killer and a murderous shark may be hunting in the area.

Jaws in Japan is also known by the alternate title of Psycho Shark, which was used for its United States home video release. For its release in Japan, it was actually marketed as a direct sequel to Jaws, though I somehow doubt that fooled anyone.

jawsinjapan4The reception for Jaws in Japan was overwhelmingly poor. The movie currently holds a 1.7 rating on IMDb, alongside a 1.2/5 average audience score on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.

First off, Jaws in Japan is clearly a work of amateurs (or immensely untalented people, but I’ll be optimistic), because it is pretty much garbage film-making across the board. As I’ll get into in a minute, there are brief flashes of promise in the concept of the movie, but pretty much every aspect of the execution of it is abysmal. The acting is nonexistent, and I would wager that there wasn’t a screenplay of any kind for this film. Most of the movie is either repeated camcorder footage of nonsense, shots of girls watching that camcorder footage, shots of girls on beaches, shots of girls in showers, or shots of girls in bed doing and saying nothing. With the exception of the finale sequence, pretty much nothing happens throughout this entire movie. In short: it is paced poorly, shot poorly, looks terrible, sounds terrible, and might be the most boring movie I have ever seen.

Adding a whole extra layer to the film is the fact that this is an exploitation flick in just about every conceivable way. Not only are bikini shots constant (there is more dialogue about bikinis in this movie than about sharks or serial killers), but there are also random sequences ripping off everything from Psycho to The Ring.

The idea behind the story of Jaws in Japan has at least some promise if you ask me. The concept of a remote beach resort being terrorized by a serial killer, and the only clues left behind being guests’ camcorder tapes, could have made for an interesting thriller flick (a few decades ago). However, totally wastes that concept with its ineptitude.

I honestly think the shark was added into this movie after the fact. This is a shitty thriller found footage flick about a serial killer stalking around a remote beach resort, and the producers must have realized it was too boring for anyone to possibly watch it. So, they threw a CGI shark in two scenes and labeled it a Jaws movie. I can sort of understand the parallel of the serial killer picking off beach-goers like a shark, and that might have promise in a different context, but that clearly isn’t how this movie was pitched. I kind of wish more information was out there about this movie, because I honestly want to understand how on Earth this film came to be, like an investigator trying to piece together the scraps after an airplane crash at sea.

jawsinjapan3If there is anything that I can say confidently about this film, it is that it is boring. In a movie that is barely over one hour, there is a nearly endless amount of unnecessary footage in it. The footage isn’t even extraneous plot: it is just nothing. It is primarily home video footage of a shitty vacation, often times played multiple times. Other sequences just drag on for seemingly minutes too long without anything of note happening or being said. Because of this, Jaws In Japan is one of the most boring and incompetent movies I have ever sat through, up there with IMDb Bottom 100 flicks like The Maize.

Overall, this feels like an amateur art movie that was “spiced up” with the addition of a CGI shark, and was marketed as a silly Jaws knockoff. However, it is actually an unwatchably slow thriller composed of handheld camera footage of women in bikinis doing nothing. If you have enemies that you want to hurt with a movie, this is one that you can consider as a weapon. Just tell them that it is a shark movie, and watch them wait the entire run time for something (anything) to happen.

All of that said, the finale sequence is pretty hilariously terrible.

Water Foul: Cruel Jaws

Cruel Jaws

crueljaws1

Today’s feature is a knockoff movie sometimes referred to as Jaws 5: Bruno Mattei’s Cruel Jaws.

Cruel Jaws was directed, edited, and co-written by Bruno Mattei, an infamous b-movie creator who has been behind movies like Strike Commando, Hell of the Living Dead, Zombi 3, and Robowar. Interestingly, he used more than one pseudonym for Cruel Jaws: ‘Andy Lamar’ for the editing credit, and ‘William Snyder’ for the writing and directing credits.

Nearly the entire cast and crew of Cruel Jaws outside of Mattei have little to no other film credits, which isn’t particularly surprising given the ultimate product of this movie.

crueljaws3The plot of Cruel Jaws follows the formula of Jaws pretty closely: a tourist town is terrorized by a killer shark during peak season, and is pushed to the brink of financial ruin due to the negative press. The local sheriff has to team up with a shark expert to try and stop the murderous carcharodon.

Cruel Jaws extensively uses stock footage from other shark movies, including Jaws, Jaws 2, and even the Italian Jaws knockoff The Last Shark, which makes Cruel Jaws a rare ripoff of a ripoff.

Cruel Jaws is a pretty obscure knockoff flick, but the people who have come across it certainly haven’t liked it: it currently boasts an IMDb rating of 3.0 from just over 400 users.

crueljaws2The extensive use of stock footage and shots ripped from other films means that the shark attacks themselves play pretty awkwardly in Cruel Jaws. Obviously, you can’t show a shark from a different movie attacking characters in your movie, because you don’t have the shark. The result, as you would expect, is far less than ideal.

There is an odd subplot in Cruel Jaws about a theme park, which I think only exists as an attempt to knock-off Jaws 3-D, which isn’t particularly beloved to start with. This side plot also features a precocious child actor, who might be the most terrible and annoying performance in a film packed to the gills with terrible and annoying performances.

There is a ton of dialogue that feels completely ripped out of the original Jaws, making this maybe the most blatant knockoff of the classic movie I have ever seen. It goes beyond just lifting the broad strokes of the plot (like The Last Shark), and goes so far as to feature entire conversations are almost identical to Jaws, particularly from the Hooper analogue.

The musical score for Cruel Jaws is absolutely all over the place. You would probably assume that it would knock-off Jaws with the score, given how iconic and recognizable it is. However, perplexingly, that isn’t the case. There is one memorable moment as the intrepid heroes are setting out to sea for their shark hunt when the music is almost a direct ripoff of, believe it or not, Star Wars.  I suppose the filmmakers deserve partial credit for at least ripping off John Williams?

Overall, this is a pretty dull flick in my opinion. However, it has moments of genuine entertainment thanks to the awful acting an awkward use of stock footage. For die hard Jaws fans, hopefully this movie is as close as we will ever come to seeing an honest remake of the classic film. If you know the movie by heart, Cruel Jaws might be a wee bit more fun for you, particularly if you make a drinking game out of all of the times something is lifted from the original.

Water Foul: Creature From The Haunted Sea

Creature From The Haunted Sea

hauntedsea2

Today’s movie is another low-budget classic from Roger Corman: Creature From The Haunted Sea.

Creature From The Haunted Sea was written by Charles Griffith, a frequent Corman collaborator who penned such memorable flicks as Death Race 2000, Attack of the Crab Monsters, A Bucket of Blood, and The Little Shop of Horrors.

The director and producer of Creature From The Haunted Sea was, of course, Roger Corman, who is widely known as the king of the b-movies. Though he has primarily worked as a producer over the years, he also has over 50 directing credits, including The Wild Angels, Attack of the Crab Monsters, A Bucket of Blood, and The Little Shop of Horrors.

The cinematographer for Creature From The Haunted Sea was Jacques R. Marquette, who shot multiple episodes of television shows like The Greatest American Hero, Hawaii Five-O, McHale’s Navy, The Patty Duke Show, and The Streets of San Francisco over his career.

hauntedsea1The score for Creature From The Haunted Sea was provided by Fred Katz, who worked on a number of other Corman movies like A Bucket of Blood, The Little Shop of Horrors, and The Wasp Woman.

The associate producer for Creature From The Haunted Sea was Charles Hannawalt, who has worked with Roger Corman in a number of different capacities over his career, including producing The Beast with A Million Eyes, acting as cinematographer on Dementia 13, and serving as a grip on movies like The Trip and She Gods of Shark Reef.

Creature From The Haunted Sea stars Beach Dickerson (Attack of the Crab Monsters), Robert Bean (The Wild Ride), Betsy Jones-Moreland (Last Woman on Earth), Antony Carbone (A Bucket of Blood), and famed screenwriter Robert Towne, who later penned such movies as Chinatown, Bonnie & Clyde, Days of Thunder, Shampoo, and Mission: Impossible.

hauntedsea3The plot of Creature From The Haunted Sea takes place during a Cuban revolution, where a mobster seeks to profit on the social unrest by smuggling loyalists out of the country with the government’s treasury. However, he plans on killing and robbing the exiled stowaways under the guise of an elaborate fake monster attack. Complications arise in the form of an embedded CIA agent and the appearance of a real sea monster, both of whom threaten the entire operation.

Creature From The Haunted Sea was shot back to back with Last Woman on Earth, using the same crew, cast, and locations in Puerto Rico.

Unlike many of Corman’s more famous b-movies, Creature From The Haunted Sea is an intentionally comedic parody movie, lampooning everything from spy films to gangster flicks to Corman’s own prolific creature features.

Robert Towne is credited under a pseudonym for his role in the movie, taking on the fake name ‘Edward Wain’ in the cast listing.

The reception to Creature From The Haunted Sea wasn’t particularly positive, certainly due in part to the unusual comedic tone. It currently holds a 21% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, along with a 3.3 user rating on IMDb.

hauntedsea4The plot of Creature From The Haunted Sea is impossible to fully understand without a familiarity with the context of the time. The movie released in June of 1961,  which placed it right in the middle of the most heated diplomatic era between Cuba and the United States in the long history between the two neighboring countries. In April of 1961, two months prior to the film’s release, the United States launched the counter-revolutionary campaign known as The Bay of Pigs, which ultimately failed to depose Fidel Castro, whose communist forces had been controlling the country since 1959. Sixteen months following the release of the film, the Cuban Missile Crisis took place, in which Cuba agreed to house Soviet nuclear weapons within eyesight of the Florida coast. This is remembered as the pinnacle of tensions in the Cold War, and the defining moment in John F. Kennedy’s presidency.

What is important to note about all of this is that at the time, Communism’s hold in Cuba was still new, and most believed that it would be ousted by some sort of United States scheme before too long. Not only was there the Bay of Pigs invasion, but the CIA even built up a bit of a reputation surrounding their failed assassination attempts on Fidel Castro, which were frequent enough to justify a wikipedia page. So, the idea that the Communist revolutionaries would need to flee the country on short notice was far from unrealistic in the minds of the American public, particularly given the US Government’s adherence to domino theory, and its proficiency in meddling in foreign governments during the era.

The other aspect of the time that may not be engrained in the public consciousness, but is of note to the film’s story, is the involvement of the mafia in Cuba. For film buffs, you probably recall a famous sequence from The Godfather Part 2 that depicted the 1959 Cuban Revolution foiling a backroom mafia plot to divide the country. In fact, organized crime had a field day with Cuba during the reign of Batista, which was effectively ruined by the Communist revolution and Batista’s fall from power. However, as depicted in Creature From The Haunted Sea, the organized crime elements didn’t entirely disappear overnight, particularly if they had money wrapped up in businesses in the country. Thus, that’s why there are so many wayward American criminals and mobster-types hanging out in Cuba at the beginning of Creature From The Haunted Sea.

On to the nuts and bolts of the film, this movie is actually pretty funny, particularly in how it skewers the spy genre. The film is interestingly more of a spy movie than a monster movie at its core, which certainly isn’t what it appears to be at first glance, and wasn’t how it was marketed.

The storyline is incredibly culturally relevant and political, particularly for a b-movie creature feature. It is still goofy without any doubt, and a lot of jokes fall flat, but there is more to it than just simple comedy, which it had every right to limit itself to. More than anything, the movie provides a fascinating window into the time period, and how the American public viewed Cuba and communism in the country. I was reminded a little bit of an episode of The Twilight Zone that also dealt with a veiled version of Cuba called “The Mirror,” which also released in the latter half of 1961, and is worth checking out.

I can’t very well not talk about the ridiculous monster in this movie, which makes The Creeping Terror look like something Stan Winston or Rick Baker cooked up in a workshop. If you ask me, the goofy eyes are really what ties the whole thing together, and gives the monster its life-like quality. It is actually admirable in my opinion that Corman could laugh at himself and the reputation of his movies with this flick. For a modern example, this movie is comparable to what it would be like if Michael Bay had directed Hot Fuzz, if you could imagine such a thing.

While this wasn’t Corman’s only foray into the realm of comedy, it is certainly the least acclaimed of his three famous ventures into the genre. Both A Bucket of Blood and The Little Shop of Horrors are better polished, more memorable, and more fondly treasured as b-movie comedies than Creature From The Haunted Sea, and I can’t help but think that is partially due to the ad hoc nature of the production, as Joe Dante describes in the video above. When you are literally cobbling together a movie from the screenplay up with spare time while making another movie, there is no way you can give it the attention and care that the feature merits, even if it is in the hands of Corman’s notoriously quick movie-making machine. Even with similar back-to-back situations, like with Dolls and From Beyond, both screenplays were at least fully formed at the outset, whereas Creature From The Haunted Sea was a mere concept when the cast and crew was setting out for Puerto Rico.

Overall, Creature From The Haunted Sea is an uneven comedy with plenty of dead spots, and it was obviously cobbled together and padded out with extra footage. That said, it still has a peculiar charm to it and some solid comedic moments. This is a movie that I would say requires some research ahead of going into it, because it certainly isn’t a conventional Corman creature feature, and shouldn’t be viewed as such. If nothing else, this film is a curiosity worth checking out for its novelty value, if not for its cultural value as a window into a bygone era and into Corman’s own opinion of his movies.

Water Foul: Attack of the Crab Monsters

Attack of the Crab Monsters

crabmonsters1

Today’s flick is Roger Corman’s famous creature feature b-movie, Attack of the Crab Monsters.

Attack of the Crab Monsters was written and co-produced by Charles Griffith, a frequent Corman collaborator who penned such memorable flicks as Death Race 2000, A Bucket of Blood, and The Little Shop of Horrors.

The director and producer of Attack of The Crab Monsters was, of course, Roger Corman, who is widely known as the king of the b-movies. Though he has primarily worked as a producer over the years, he also has over 50 directing credits, including The Wild Angels, The Creature From The Haunted Sea, A Bucket of Blood, and The Little Shop of Horrors.

The cinematographer for Attack of the Crab Monsters was Floyd Crosby, who also shot movies like House of Usher, The Raven, and X: The Man With X-Ray Eyes for Roger Corman.

crabmonsters2The editor for the film was Charles Gross, who cut a handful of other b-movies like Invasion of the Saucer Men and It Conquered The World.

The musical score for Attack of the Crab Monsters was provided by Ronald Stein, who composed music for other Roger Corman flicks like The Terror, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, and Francis Ford Coppolla’s debut film, Dementia 13.

The cast of Attack of the Crab Monsters included Ed Nelson (A Bucket of Blood), Richard Garland (Mutiny in Outer Space), Beach Dickerson (The Trip, Creature From The Haunted Sea), Richard Cutting (South Pacific), Mel Welles (The Little Shop Of Horrors), Leslie Bradley (The Conqueror), and Russell Johnson (Gilligan’s Island).

crabmonsters3The plot of Attack of the Crab Monsters follows a group of scientists who are researching into the after effects of the Bikini Atoll nuclear tests on local wildlife. To their shock, they discover that a couple of ornery giant crabs that have mutated dramatically, to the point of acquiring telepathic powers.

The eponymous crab monsters were portrayed via a two-person suit, with one person filling the body and another operating the claws. Instead of having designated effects workers to operate the effects, actors who weren’t in the specific scene were assigned to run the crab.

Attack of the Crab Monsters initially released on a drive-in double bill with Not of This Earth, another Roger Corman directed creature feature from 1957.

Attack of the Crab Monsters is one of the most iconic of the Roger Corman monster movies, and has appeared in the background of many other films as a form of homage. For instance, sharp eyes might spot the poster or clips of the film in movies like Chopping Mall or Found.

Writer/producer Charles Griffith directed all of the underwater sequences in the movie, supposedly because he was inspired by documentary filming done by Jacques Cousteau.

Jim Wynorski, a cohort of Roger Corman’s who has directed such flicks as Chopping Mall, Piranhaconda, and 976-EVIL II, has expressed interest in helming a remake of Attack of the Crab Monsters. However, Corman is reportedly against the idea, despite Wynorski having previously remade a number of his other movies, most notably Not of This Earth and The Wasp Woman.

In an interview with Dennis Fischer, writer and producer Charles Griffith said the following about the inception of Attack of the Crab Monsters:

“Roger came to me and said, ‘I want to make a picture called ‘Attack of the Giant Crabs,’ and I asked, ‘Does it have to be atomic radiation?’ He responded, ‘Yes.’ He said it was an experiment. ‘I want suspense or action in every scene. No kind of scene without suspense or action.’ His trick was saying it was an experiment, which it wasn’t. He just didn’t want to bother cutting out the other scenes, which he would do.”

The reception to Attack of the Crab Monsters wasn’t particularly great at the time, however, it is undoubtedly a classic Roger Corman movie today. It currently holds a 4.8 rating on IMDb, and Rotten Tomatoes scores of 29% (audience) and 67% (critics).

In true Corman fashion, it is estimated that the budget for Attack of the Crab Monsters was an astounding $70,000, on which it certainly managed to turn a profit.

Attack of the Crab Monsters certainly doesn’t waste any time getting started: before any character names are even introduced, a crab is on screen and decapitating an extra. This is particularly interesting, given how slowly paced many of these older monster flicks are (The Horror of Party Beach comes to mind). As mentioned previously, this constant action was part of Corman’s plan for the film from the onset, which pays off pretty well for what this movie is. The downside of this, however, is that the audience isn’t given any time to relate to the cast of characters, because they aren’t given any breathing room to be human, and die off quicker than you can get through ice breakers.

crabmonsters4The plot of Attack of the Crab Monsters could be accurately described as infamously outlandish. The premise that irradiated crabs with superhuman intelligence and telepathic powers are looking to conquer the world is a few steps beyond the mere bizarre, even for a 1950s b-movie. The fact that the crabs actually have dialogue puts this flick in a league of its own if you ask me.

The underwater footage in the movie actually looks pretty good, and if the claim from writer Charles Griffith is true, I’m actually pretty impressed that the production actually did it themselves. Underwater sequences seem to beg for stock footage, and I wouldn’t have put it past them to use whatever was laying around or handy to plug the hole in the movie.

The ending of Attack of the Crab Monsters is appropriately abrupt and baffling given the rest of the film, with a character collapsing an electrical tower onto the last surviving crab, killing both dramatically. However, this climax occurs almost entirely off-screen, being portrayed primarily via an electric sound effect over a reaction shot of the last two survivors. This shot lasts approximately 10 seconds before a fade into the ending card, with the following concluding lines summing up the movie:

“He gave his life…”

“I know.”

*THE END*

There is something particularly appropriate about the movie interrupting and cutting off the character’s final thoughts, like it was trying to hurry people out the door and didn’t actually care what the actors had to say about the situation anyway.  The entire movie clocks in at barely over an hour, and shuffles its way quickly through that entire run time. I’m willing to bet that the aim was to get the film to an even 60 minutes, but the team just barely missed the mark. Still, it is almost refreshing to see a movie that races too fast from beginning to end, especially given how many slow movies I have had to sit through. It doesn’t make the movie good (pacing that is too fast is still a problem), but it is certainly harder for me to complain about.

Overall, Attack of the Crab Monsters is a rightfully legendary b-movie. You can’t help but giggle when a goofy giant crab claw materializes from off screen without the character seeing it, or when a giant crustacean sets up an elaborate plot by mimicking human speech patterns, throwing its voice, and sabotaging complex communications equipment. The fact that the film takes itself seriously at all is astounding, particularly with the crabs roaring like pissed off gorillas for half of the movie, and speaking in German accents for the other half. The sheer wackiness of the story elevates the feature over a lot of similar flicks from the era without any doubt. It still holds onto the expected bad acting and goofy effects that are hallmarks of the genre, but having nefarious, psychic sea-life hanging about puts Attack of the Crab Monsters a rank or two above its peers in the realm of entertainment value. If you are looking for a b-movie classic to check out, this should be on your list.

The Creep Behind The Camera

The Creep Behind The Camera

creepbehind1

Today’s flick is the newly-released docu-drama, The Creep Behind The Camera, which tells the astounding story behind the legendarily awful b-movie The Creeping Terror.

The Creep Behind The Camera was directed and written by Pete Schuermann, who has been behind a number of low-budget flicks since his debut in 1999. The Creep Behind The Camera was specifically funded via a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, raising over $70,000 dollars from a horde of supporters.

The Creeping Terror, the inspiration and subject of The Creep Behind The Camera, is widely regarded as one of the worst monster movies of all time. The monster itself is particularly memorable, and could be accurately described as a carpet from outer space.

Further, the film is filled with bad acting, terrible narration, nonexistent sound work, and an earworm of a theme song, which have all combined to make it a sort of ironic classic. It gained even more of a following after being featured on a season 6 episode of the show Mystery Science Theater 3000, which was dedicated to digging up the worst movies of all time.

As bad as the movie itself is, the stories that have circulated about the film’s production have added an extra mythos to the flick. The Creep Behind the Camera is dedicated to digging into that swirl of outlandish rumors: that the director was a con-artist working under a false identity, that no one in the production had film experience, and that it was financed by having actors pay for the privilege of playing a part in the movie, and countless more. As it turns out, it appears that many of these legends about The Creeping Terror may be true (or at least partially so).

The Creep Behind The Camera is composed of a series of interviews and testaments from people involved with the production of The Creeping Terror, interspersed with dramatic recreations of the events. While most of the film is dedicated to The Creeping Terror, a fair portion of it is also spent on the miscellaneous misdeeds and antics of the film’s star and director, Vic Savage/AJ Nelson.

While the actual content of the information is the primary draw for this movie (and is certainly fascinating), the performances in the dramatic sequences are really what tie it together. Particularly, Josh Phillips portrays AJ Nelson with a mix of charisma, insecurity, violence, self-delusion, and conniving that helps build the larger than life persona of the eccentric swindler behind The Creeping Terror.

The Creep Behind The Camera interestingly doesn’t take place in chronological order, and bounces around throughout the pre-production, post-production, and filming of The Creeping Terror without any particularly coherence. However, I felt like this worked pretty well, particularly in the parts focusing specifically on Nelson. The audience should be just as flabbergasted and perplexed by this figure as his crew was, and that feeling definitely gets across in the movie. The fact that he is initially introduced naked in front of a mirror, wearing a fake Hitler mustache, and repeating “I am God” to himself is about the best way to sum up Nelson in a nutshell, regardless of when that event occurred in his timeline.

For bad movie fans, The Creep Behind The Camera is necessary viewing, and helps fill in the gaps and questions that were left in the wake of the train wreck that is The Creeping Terror. The flick is currently available on most Video On Demand mediums, and The Creeping Terror is fairly easy to dig up on YouTube.

Miami Connection

Miami Connection

miamiconnection1

Today’s feature is Miami Connection, a once-lost movie that features all of the cocaine, ninjas, and 80s rock you could ever want.

Miami Connection was directed, produced, and co-written by Woo-Sang Park, who was also behind American Chinatown, Gang Justice, and LA Streetfighters. His co-writers were two of the film’s stars and co-producers, Joseph Diamand and Y.K. Kim.

The cinematographer for Miami Connection was Maximo Munzi, who also shot such films as Detonator, Scorcher, and American Chinatown.

Both the music and special effects makeup work for Miami Connection was provided by Jon McCallum, who also worked on films like Future Shock, Project Eliminator, Soultaker, and Surf Nazis Must Die.

miamiconnection2The plot of Miami Connection centers around a group of students at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, who share a passion for taekwondo and their family-friendly rock and roll band, Dragon Sound. When Dragon Sound bumps a local gang peddling cocaine from a night club venue, their adversaries go out for revenge, and the conflict rapidly escalates.

The star of Miami Connection is Y.K. Kim, who is a noted master of taekwondo, and a local celebrity in Orlando. Apparently, he arranged most of the filming locations and extras for the movie based on his good will with the greater community. For instance, the bikers featured in the background were reportedly real local bikers from the Orlando area, and were compensated for their time in beer.

miamiconnection3Most of Miami Connection was filmed on (or near) the University of Central Florida campus in the Orlando, FL area. Despite the title of the movie, no part of the filming took place in Miami.

For years, Miami Connection was lost to the ages. Its theatrical release in 1988 barely broke out of Florida, and most of the screenings were limited to the Orlando area. The Orlando Sentinel apparently even named it the worst film of the year. In 2009, a programmer at Alamo Drafthouse picked up a copy on ebay, and screened it at one of the theaters. This eventually led to Drafthouse Films picking up the film for redistribution, which has led to its rising status as a cult classic.

Former Mystery Science Theater 3000 hosts Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy have announced that Miami Connection will be the lampooned feature for their Rifftrax Live event on October 1, 2015, which is bound to increase the movie’s profile even further.

Thanks to its new-found cult status, Miami Connection currently has an IMDb rating of 6.1, alongside Rotten Tomatoes scores of 69% from critics and 70% from audiences. However, I don’t think anyone would claim that it is an objectively “good” movie by any means: most of those positive reviews are acknowledging that the movie is immensely entertaining for its “good-bad” qualities.

There is so much to talk about in Miami Connection that I honestly have no idea where to start. The musical numbers and rock sequences might be what sets it apart the most from the pack of b-movies out there, and those songs are guaranteed to get stuck in your head, but the movie goes so much further than just those amazing tunes:

The acting is astoundingly terrible across the board in Miami Connection, with Y.K. Kim leading the pack with his thick accent and indecipherable dialogue. The performances are at times beyond belief, like during either of the “letter” sequences, which are some of the most bafflingly awful showcases of acting I have ever seen.

If there is anything honestly good about Miami Connection, it is the aesthetic. The look of the movie is just delightful, and you can feel how charmingly low budget it was, and how much people enjoyed being involved with it. It still doesn’t make any sense and is amateurish from top to bottom, but it sure as hell has charm. Scott Tobias sums up the movie perfectly in his review for The A.V. Club:

Hits the sweet spot between stunning ineptitude, hilariously dated period touchstones, and a touching naïveté that gives it an odd distinction.

The ending of Miami Connection takes an unexpected and dramatically dark turn for a movie about man-children singing about fighting ninjas and “stupid cocaine.” The absolute slaughter that takes place in the last few minutes feels like it belongs in a totally differently film, which just adds to how endlessly bizarre Miami Connection is on the whole (there is apparently an even darker alternate ending to the movie as well). The ending title message about pacifism is also one of the most confusing and jarring conclusions to a film I have seen since Dracula 3000, but it is somehow amazing at the same time.

Something that is never addressed in the movie is the fact that all of the central characters appear to be far too old to be living together in a small house, let alone be typical college undergraduates. Speaking of which, the University of Central Florida could not be plastered on this movie any more than it already is: if one of the main characters is wearing a shirt, there’s a 90% UCF branding is on it. I think the wardrobe might have been provided by the college bookstore.

Miami Connection is one of the best good-bad movies out there: the acting is ridiculous, the writing is silly without being aware of itself, and the plot is out-of-this world strange. If you have the opportunity to catch this one, I can’t recommend it highly enough. For bad movie fans, I would go so far as to say that Miami Connection is a must-see movie, alongside movies like Troll 2, Manos: The Hands of Fate, Birdemic, and Samurai Cop.