Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tentacles (1977)


The world was awash with Jaws rip-offs in the late ’70s, and for every aquatic amusement like Piranha (1978), there was a bottom-feeder like this Italian/American coproduction about an ornery octopus (or squid, depending on the scene) stalking the shores of Southern California. Since much of the picture was obviously shot in Italy, there’s a logic gap because the coastlines in many scenes don’t look right for the story’s American location, but of course that’s the least of the movie’s problems. The script, presuming there was one, is a string of drab clichés about wooden characters investigating mysterious maritime deaths, with an intrepid reporter trying to blame the trouble on corporate irresponsibility while a fish whisperer correctly identifies the murder weapons as, to quote the movie’s Italian-language title, Tenatacoli. Landlocked vignettes with slumming American actors (Claude Akins, Bo Hopkins, John Huston, Shelley Winters, even Henry Fonda) are juxtaposed with oceanic mayhem featuring Italian bit players, giving the flick a stitched-together feel. And while some of the fright scenes have decent jolts, the FX are pathetic: The illusion of the titular monster is created with crude animatronics, grainy rear projection, shoddy miniatures, and silly inserts of real octopi that look too small to pose any real threat. Things get completely absurd when the barely seen monster attacks a regatta, overturning dozens of boats while zooming through the water like a torpedo. A few stretches of the movie have so-bad-it’s-good zing, but for the most part it’s just depressing to watch Hopkins and Huston (the Hollywood stars with the most screen time) churn through pointless dialogue, often with Italian actors whose English-language lines are dubbed, when all the audience really wants to see is stuff like the climax in which the fish whisperer sics his two favorite killer whales on the giant octopus. No, really.

Tentacles: LAME

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