Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Megacetacean vs. Octopoid

And for fun over the weekend, I watched Tentacles, which is available on Blu-ray in a double feature with Reptilicus. (I recorded Tentacles off of TCM Underground, so I don't have Reptilicus to do a review on.)

The movie starts off innocently enough, with pleasant beach scenes somewhere in southern California. A young woman there with her toddler goes to get something out of her car, and gets stopped by one of her friends so the two have a talk. In some clear foreshadowing, we get camera angles some of which would block the mother's view of her baby. So eventually the baby and baby seat are just gone. The mother looks frantically, and finds the seat in the ocean! Her baby is obviously dead!

Ned Turner (John Huston, who thankfully is nowhere near as pompous when he acts as his can get when he directs) is a journalist married to Tillie (Shelley Winters) and they have a young son. Ned hears about the baby's death, and the odd circumstances, and he wonders what's going on. It turns out that it's not the first death, and when Ned sneaks his way into an autopsy, he finds that one of the deceased has basically been sucked clean, leaving just a skeleton.

Apparently some company has been constructing an undersea tunnel, and Ned suspects that company's tunneling of being somehow responsible, so Ned begins to pester the head of the company, Mr. Whitehead (Henry Fonda), and Whitehead's flunky Corey (Cesare Danova). They and the oceanography institute, under a team led by Will Gleason (Bo Hopkins) investigate.

More people get killed, including some of the people doing the investigating, and eventually they all come to the same conclusion we've already been kinda, sorta shown: there's a giant octopus, much larger than anything heretofore known by man, that has been lured out of its lair by the sonic waves or some such from the undersea tunnelling. Frankly, this seems faintly ridiculous to me. Most of the other creature movies used radiation in no small part because it's known to cause genetic mutations. Night of the Lepus had the good sense to use a drug experiment gone wrong.

Anyhow, it's up to the oceanographers to stop the giant octopus before it goes on more rampages and kills more people. One minor problem is that it can come up out of the sea and destroy boats. And then there's the minor issue of the junior regatta, in which Ned and Tillie's kid will be competing. Gleason finally hopes his killer whales will be able to help deal with the octopus.

Tentacles is silly fun, even if it's not particularly good. Fonda phones in his performance the same way he would in The Swarm, never mind that he's not given too much to do. Shelley Winters shamelessly overacts. Bo Hopkins talking to his whales is a hoot. The whole thing is clearly derivative of Jaws, except that this one has ridiculous plot problems. Remember that baby that got killed? Much too far away from the shore for the octopus to get him.

Winters is involved with the best humor in the film. In one scene Ned chides Tillie about eating too much candy, and Tille, referring to her ample size, says, "This isn't candy; this is passion!" Later, as she's entering her son and his friend in the regatta, she says she wishes she could take part, at which point the friend says, "Then we'd need a tornado to move the boat!"

If you're looking for something entertaining to watch with friends and a bowl of popcorn, you could do worse than Tentacles.

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