Scream Factory’s been cranking out some great double-feature sets of a lot of my favorite guilty pleasures recently, including Food of the Gods and Frogs, Empire of the Ants and Jaws of Satan, and, perhaps the one I’m most looking forward to, a heaping helping of Umberto Lenzi's sharp Italian cheese-fests, Ghosthouse and Witchery !
One of the sets I had my doubts about, however, was the double dose of giant monster mayhem that is 1977’s Tentacles and 1963’s Reptilicus. Folks around these parts know Reptilicus as one of our most popular Hall of Shame entries; a truly terrible Godzilla riff from king-of-crap, Sidney W. Pink. Tentacles, meanwhile, was an unknown commodity to me, and, judging from the reviews I’d found online, I was actually thinking I might want to keep it that way! Of course, curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to give the flick a spin.
A low-budget Italian production helmed by Greek director/writer/producer Ovidio G. Assonitis, Tentacles is an obvious attempt to cash-in on the success of Spielberg’s Jaws. Right from the get-go, however, the film’s surprisingly mean-spiritedness reared its ugly head as a mother and her infant sit on a bench overlooking the ocean. When the mother sees a friend driving by, she rushes over to have a quick chat, and, in a niftily shot sequence, her baby suddenly vanishes, his stroller seen floating in the water below. This threw me for a loop for two reasons.
1) Assonitis had the balls to kill a fucking BABY!
2) The scene was actually competently shot!
It was then that Tentacles had my full attention.
Immediately after, there’s another death; this time fisherman who’s remains bob up in the water in front of a pair of terrified teenagers. It’s here we meet Ned Turner (John Huston), a reporter who’s been serving as something of a thorn in the side of Trojan Construction – a corporate outfit that is currently building a tunnel beneath the harbor that the sleepy oceanfront community desperately needs to help boost tourism. Curious as to the cause of the mysterious attacks, Huston is warned by local lawman Sheriff Robarbs (Claude Akins) not to dig too deep given the political pressure he’s under to keep Trojan CEO Mr. Whitehead (Henry Fonda) happy, but Turner’s never been one to resist shaking up a hornet’s nest.
After more attacks, Turner convinces Robarbs to call in legendary marine biologist, Will Gleason (Bo Hopkins), who sends along a few of his best divers to investigate. Gleason’s divers discover a mass graveyard of dead fish and destroyed equipment before encountering the film’s big bad – a giant octopus that literally strips its prey down to the bone. Despite the fact that he’s still recovering from a nasty diving accident, Gleason is determined to dive to discover what happened to his men, much to the chagrin of his wife Vicky (Delia Boccardo). When Gleason determines the creature that’s stalking and killing people in the bay is a giant octopus somehow lured out of the depths by Trojan’s illegal tunneling techniques, he hatches a plan to kill the tentacled beastie.
Tentacles isn’t a great movie by any stretch, but, as far as Jaws rip-offs go, this is definitely amongst the most goofily entertaining. The film boasts an impressive cast (one that also includes Shelly Winters as Ned’s divorced sister, Tillie), fairly solid direction, and cheap-yet-effective FX work that makes a lot of use of mostly-convincing miniatures, practical effects, and good ol’ fashioned camera trickery and cost-effective editing. Sure, the premise is goofy, some of the performances are abysmal, and much of the dialogue is ridiculous (there’s also some inconsistent dubbing over a few of the Italian actors where they can’t seem to make up their minds about the characters’ accents), but it’s really entertaining stuff so long as you go in with an open mind!
As for Reptilicus, well, enough ink has been spilled on this site about that film, so let me direct you to Big McLargehuge’s epic write up right here!
Scream Factory presents both films on Blu-ray for the first time, and the results are really quite impressive. Tentacles looks particularly amazing, with a vibrant, crisp, and highly detailed transfer that’s only marred by the occasional bout of flickering. Reptilicus, meanwhile, is a bit grainier and suffers from more print damage, but given its vintage, overreliance on stock footage, and the fact that nothing’s really been done to clean up the source, the image quality isn’t half-bad! Both films feature 2.0 DTS HD Master Audio tracks, and, while neither is a sonic marvel, they’re more than serviceable, with crisp dialogue and punchy bass.
Bonus features are limited to trailers (HD) and photo galleries (HD) for each film, with Reptilicus sporting an additional supplemental in the guise of a short radio advertisement that’s howlingly funny stuff.
While this isn’t the best of Scream’s double-feature offerings, it’s still quite an entertaining collection, and, for fans of so-bad-it’s-good cinema, you really can’t go wrong picking this one up! Recommended!