HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP [1980] [HCF REWIND]

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HCR REWIND NO. 98: HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP AKA MONSTER [1980]

AVAILABLE ON R1 DVD AND BLU RAY

RUNNING TIME: 82 mins

REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic

 

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In the Pacific North Western town of Noyo, many fishermen are having their livelihood endangered due to a new salmon cannery being built. Racist Hank Slattery, who takes out his biased aggression on a local fisherman Johnny Eagle who is against the cannery, and several others, are for the cannery because it will make life more prosperous for them. Jim Hill witnesses the mysterious explosion of a ship which had caught some kind of monster in its net, then finds his wife’s dog horribly mutilated. After this begins a series of attacks by humanoid sea creatures where human males are killed but the females are raped….

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Humanoids From The Deep is a straight down-the-line, unashamedly trashy monster movie that doesn’t try to be any more than it is, and I like it a lot. It’s not really an especially good film, but it succeeds it what it sets out to do, and is typical of the many films that Roger Corman either directed or produced [he’s not actually credited on this one, but he executively produced it and certainly made many of the creative decisions] in that a lot was achieved with very little. For instance, for this movie they only built three monster costumes, and only one that actually worked properly, but you wouldn’t know it due to the skilful editing. It rips off everything from The Creature From The Black Lagoon to Jaws to Alien, though to me it’s always seemed closest to a forgotten [and very hard to see] effort from 1959 called The Monster Of Piedras Blancas. In any case, it adroitly mixes monsters, gore, nudity, an ecological message and even some social commentary [a typical Corman trait in his pictures which were set in the present day] into the cinematic equivalent of junk food which probably isn’t very good for you but sure is tasty in a superficial way and goes down a treat at the right time.

I guess it was the success of the Corman-produced Piranha which led to Humanoids From The Deep being put into production, though it was initially entitled Beneath The Darkness to attract a decent cast. After completion, Corman asked director Barbara Peeters to reshoot certain scenes including two monster rape scenes which were initially only shown in shadow. She refused, so was fired and Jimmy T.Murakami shot the added footage, though rumours persist that Corman shot it himself. One of the actresses Cindy Weintraub was asked to strip for a nude scene, refused, then at the premiere was shocked to see her character, played by someone else, nude in a shower! Star Ann Turkel publically protested at the exploitative additions to the film, though interestingly some of the added footage, mostly featuring monsters attacking nude teenagers, was then deleted, perhaps because it was rather repetitive. A rare example of Corman wasting footage perhaps, but then  quite a bit of footage from this movie, particularly the fairground climax, did find its way into Corman’s inferior 1996 TV remake of the same name, which toned down the nasty elements and added more humour. The 1980 Humanoids From The Deep was a hit though it caused a great deal of controversy.

The reason? The two monster rape scenes, and by extension the whole idea that these creatures want to mate with human females. It’s merely an extension of those 50’s creature features where the monster carries off the heroine but is saved from possibly a fate worse than death at the last moment. Think how obvious it is what is on the Gill Man’s mind when he watches Julie Adams swimming, follows her and mimics her movements in that great ‘underwater ballet’ scene from The Creature From The Black Lagoon. The two rape scenes in Humanoids From The Deep, though distasteful, last about five seconds each so I really don’t see what the problem was [and this is coming from someone who often finds the portrayal of rape in cinema very morally questionable]. More than that, the whole thing is just ludicrous beyond belief; it’s highly doubtful that such creatures would want to mate with humans anyway.

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There is no doubt that you can tell that some of the film was reshot, because it really does look like two different films stuck together for a while, a crude and exploitative one, and a more subtle and thoughtful one which is as much about the conflicts between big business and small business [a quick look at all the Tescos popping up all over the country illustrates how timely this aspect of the story still is] and racial aggression, at it is about monsters.  The film really has been trimmed to the bone, with the only half-decent attempt at characterisation being the villainous Hank, played with great relish by Vic Morrow, but then this kind of film doesn’t always need much of this kind of stuff, it just needs to keep moving, gather suspense and race to an exciting climax. The numerous point-of-view shots as monsters swim under the sea and walk past houses do increase the tension though to be honest the film isn’t especially scary despite minimising the humour which most Corman productions of the time had. The climax though, as the creatures rampage through a fairground, is really well staged and is sustained for a decent length too. It was reprised, badly, for the ending of Alligator 2: The Mutation, though of course the very final scene of Humanoids From The Deep was nicked totally from a certain recently- released sci-fi/horror hit.

There’s a juicy amount of gore in this movie with bloody rippings, slashings and an especially good decapitation, all of it good work from Rob Bottin who soon went on to do his brilliant work for The Howling and The Thing. The monsters look really good with their outsized craniums [shades of the Metaluna mutant from This Island Earth], their huge mouths and their extended forearms; a considerable amount of work went into making these creatures very different from the typical Gill-Man look and as ugly as possible, and even half-plausible as mutations half-fish and half-human. Of course the explanation for the creation of the creatures is nonsense, or is it considering what they can do with genetics and stem cells these days? Science seems to increasingly have a way of making the most outlandish premise in old science-fiction and horror movies a bit more believable. Overall the script is mostly just concerned with racing the story along at top speed but does have the odd loopy touch like a hilarious bit involving a couple about to have sex, the man being a ventriloquist with a dummy in the tent with them.

Doug McClure, as usual in his films, is a reasonable leading man but nothing more, getting the job done but not projecting much charisma. One of the stars of the movie is actually composer James Horner. Another one of the many successful folk who started their careers in Corman pictures, his eerie, often dissonant and musically quite complex scores for films like this, are to me often more interesting than his later Hollywood work. Humanoids From The Deep isn’t the most attractive film visually and really doesn’t have any artistic merit whatsoever, but it is certainly Fun with a capital F if, like me, you have a weakness for this kind of movie!

Rating: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

Dr Lenera
About Dr Lenera 2951 Articles
I'm a huge film fan and will watch pretty much any type of film, from Martial Arts to Westerns, from Romances [though I don't really like Romcoms!]] to Historical Epics. Though I most certainly 'have a life', I tend to go to the cinema twice a week! However,ever since I was a kid, sneaking downstairs when my parents had gone to bed to watch old Universal and Hammer horror movies, I've always been especially fascinated by horror, and though I enjoy all types of horror films, those Golden Oldies with people like Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee probably remain my favourites. That's not to say I don't enjoy a bit of blood and gore every now and again though, and am also a huge fan of Italian horror, I just love the style.

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