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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Humanoids From the Deep (1980) review


Doug McClure (Jim Hill), Ann Turkel (Dr. Susan Drake), Vic Morrow (Hank Slattery), Anthony Pena (Johnny Eagle)

Directed by Barbara Peeters (Peters)

Tagline: "They're not human, but they hunt human women...not for killing...for mating."

Something stirs beneath the ocean's depths near the sleepy fishing village of Noyo. A number of dogs turn up mutilated with blame pointed towards a local Indian who protests the building of a cannery in town. When the mauled bodies of males turn up including the disappearances of a number of young women, it is soon discovered that a humanoid race of fishmen are responsible. Created from a chemical designed to increase the reproduction of salmon, the process goes horribly wrong. The creatures are now driven to mate with women to propagate this new race and man is now its biggest enemy.

One of the great drive in classics of all time made even more startling in that it was directed by a woman. However, after seeing the finished film and deciding there wasn't enough nudity in it, Corman ordered Peeters to bolster the skin factor on the picture. She refused so Corman let her go and had new footage shot for the film by several other people working at New World.

Before the film saw release, Ann Turkel was very upset that the picture was vastly different from what she signed on to do. She unsuccessfully campaigned against the Screen Actors Guild to keep the film from being released. Incidentally, HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP (1980) was originally offered to director Joe Dante who declined the offer as he felt he had just made that film with his then big hit, PIRANHA (1978). This ended Dante's tenure with Corman as he was receiving offers with a greater monetary value attached. Peeters was a New World veteran having done second unit on some films including the Ron Howard star vehicle, EAT MY DUST! (1976).

Doug McClure stars in this lively, and popular Roger Corman exploitation classic. McClure was, for a handful of years, the hero of horror and monster movies having starred in a series of dinosaur adventures for Amicus/AIP among a few other fantastical films. McClure is fine as the good guy here even though his acting style is interchangeable from one flick to the next. He essentially plays the same guy every time. He's probably most famous for his role on the long running western program, THE VIRGINIAN (1962-70). His role in HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP (1980) is basically the same as those seen in any number of sci fi monster films from the 1950's. The difference being his character is already married. There is a hint that there might be some attraction between Jim Hill and doctor Drake, but this angle is never explored; the film is too busy throwing nudity and blood at the screen to worry about character development.

At the start of his career, Vic Morrow made an impression as a gang leader in the 1955 drama, THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE. Morrow would later make a living playing tough guys and that persona extends to his role as the gruff racist Slattery. Despite attempting to murder Johnny Eagle at one point in the film, his attempt to rescue a little girl from the clutches of one of the monsters at the end puts him in harms way. The Indian saves him, though. A shame an additional scene showing Slattery making amends with his savior wasn't shot, or simply wasn't included in the final cut.

Morrow would be killed in a freak accident while filming TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE in 1982. A larger than expected explosion sent a helicopter careening to the ground decapitating Morrow and a child he was carrying. Another child also being carried by Morrow was crushed by the weight of the downed helicopter. Rob Bottin (THE THING) created the impressive monster design and costumes. You get to see a lot of them during the film's 78 minute running time.

The best shots of them occur when the good guys discover the creatures lair and end up being attacked by them. Interestingly, some shots have the creatures with elongated arms while other shots the arms are a normal length for a man. Possibly due to the reshoots, HUMANOIDS features a fair number of glaring continuity errors. One takes place during a fight between Jim and Johnny Eagle against Slattery and his goons. The Indian had blood covering his shirt after holding a dead dog. During the fight, the blood changes from shot to shot-- it's covering one side of his shirt, then in the next shot, it's barely any blood at all and not on his shoulder but in the middle.

Another scene has a woman in a truck attacked by one of the monsters while driving. The creature smashes half the windshield out. In another brief shot, the windshield has only a small hole punched out. During the same scene, the girls truck tumbles over a bridge crashing partially in the water below (the tide must have been out). As the truck explodes, various cables can be seen around the burning truck.

Action plays a big part of HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP (1980). There are a number of things blown up from boats to vehicles to houses. Enhancing these scenes, the various displays of pyrotechnics are repeated several times often from different angles. Fred Olen Ray would utilize this editing scheme in many of his later 80's action movies. The gore is also plentiful and the blood runs liberally. The conclusion wherein the creatures attack a festival contains a lot of gruesome moments and even squeezes in some nudity here, too. One shot of a decapitation followed by a close up of the monster carrying the head around was removed for the US release but is found on the foreign DVD releases of the film. The last shot features something of a nod to ALIEN (1979) when one of the girls raped by the monsters earlier in the film gives birth to one of the fish creatures.

Future award winning composer, James Horner created the suitably ominous and action oriented soundtrack. Some of the cues here would subtly materialize later in future scores from this master musician. Some of the cues would even be recycled for later Corman movies such as SPACE RAIDERS (1983). Horner garnered attention from his earlier ambitious musical works on his Corman movies most especially his work on BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS (1980), a film that introduced the talents of future award winning director, James Cameron.

Corman would produce a remake in 1996 as part of a series of films shot for the Showtime cable network. A remake of PIRANHA (1978) being one of them in addition to a few other remakes of past Corman films. This Showtime series lasted three seasons. The remake is nowhere near as outlandish or as gruesome as the popular original. In addition, footage from the original film was implemented into the remake. None of these re-imaginings matched the ingenuity and flavor of there original sources.

Speaking of recycling, an entire sequence (not involving the monsters) was also used in the Corman produced 1988 remake of his own NOT OF THIS EARTH. That same film also featured some of HUMANOIDS gore scenes during its opening credits sequence among other Corman produced movies. The original will forever be remembered as one of the great schlock classics and is one of the best exploitation movies to ever (dis)grace a movie screen.

A hard R version of any number of 'Nature Gone Amuck' movies from years past, HUMANOIDS delivers heavily in its sleaze quotient. It proved to be one of the last great (and successful) exploitation movies from New World Pictures before Corman sold the company in 1983; the buyers being a trio of lawyers who attempted to bring an air of respectability to their new acquisition. Even still, the glory days of Corman's more notorious New World films remain fresh in the minds of cult film fans the world over.

DVD availability: Shout! Factory, New Concorde (Out of Print)


Anonymous said...

Yes i was quite surprised by the nudity having noticed the gender of the director in the credits so it makes sense that Corman added these on afterwards.I think the addition of this nudity enhances the movie which is already exploitive in its nature.
I hugely enjoyed this even if the explanation of the "humanoids" is ludicrous.The monster costumes are tremendous considering the small budget.McClues delivers as always in this (horror) fantasy which fits him like a glove.The "battle" finale at the fairground is one of the best horror endings i've ever seen so it's a shame to hear about any minor cuts.
Saw this for the first time yesterday,a major discovery,i give it a 9 out of 10 rating.

Sean M

venoms5 said...

Yes, one of the best exploitation movies. Corman knew how to make a good drive in picture. Even if the movie was "un-sellable", Corman would find a way to sell it even if it meant utilizing scenes not even in the movie or filming additional scenes to spice up the proceedings much as he did with the Italian film, ISLAND OF THE FISHMEN, released here as SCREAMERS in a trimmed down version with an added prologue.

I remember wanting to see HUMANOIDS when I was a kid and never could figure out why my mother wouldn't allow me to until years later.

Anonymous said...

This must've had an 18 certificate on release.But i got away with watching extreme stuff like similar to this at home on vhs.Having an older brother greatly helped!!

Sean M

venoms5 said...

I remember the first time it came on HBO around 1982 and my mother refused to allow me to watch it. At the time I had no idea why. I did manage to sneak and see GALAXY OF TERROR around the same time, though.

Jay Shatzer said...

I'm looking forward to the new slew of Corman DVD's that are about to come out. I've seen this film in bits and pieces on television, but I've never seen the full movie before. Looking forward to sitting down and watching it in it's entirety. Also looking forward to watching Galaxy of Terror for the first time. From the trailers, it looks like a wild ride. Thanks for another great review.

venoms5 said...

The original HUMANOIDS is a huge fave of mine. One of the best examples of an exploitation movie done right.

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