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Friday, January 30, 2009

The Bermuda Depths (1978) review


This is a new section devoted to rare, obscure and 'as yet to be released on legitimate DVD' movies. Some films may have been released in some part of the world, or on some public domain label, or some may have simply never been released at all on the digital format. This section is designed to keep these films alive and to provide remembrance to those who may have seen them in some form or other, whether it be on the silver screen, video tape, or the small screen at home.


Leigh McClosky (Magnus Dens), Connie Sellecca (Jennie Haniver), Carl Weathers (Eric), Burl Ives (Dr. Paulis), Julie Woodson (Doshan), Ruth Attaway (Delia)

Directed by Tom Kotani (Shusei Kotani)

"I met this girl on the beach...she was beautiful...absolutely beautiful...her name was Jennie Haniver."

Magnus returns to his childhood home, a mansion on some craggy cliffs overlooking the sea, to learn the truth behind his fathers death. Meeting up with an old college friend, Eric, a marine biologist working with Dr. Paulis, Magnus joins the two in their search for gigantic creatures living miles below the oceans surface. Upon his return to Bermuda, Magnus sees a beautiful woman named Jennie Haniver who he discovers was his only friend when he was a little boy.

The two played with a very large turtle whose egg had washed up on the beach. Jennie disappeared beneath the sea shortly thereafter. Now, with Magnus' return, the mysterious and beautiful woman reappears engaging in a strange romance with her childhood friend. Inexplicable events transpire revealing a hellish connection between the ocean dwelling female and a gigantic sea turtle hunted by the scientists in the enigmatic Bermuda Triangle.

The second of a trilogy of films co-financed by Rankin/Bass and Tsuburaya Productions, the first was THE LAST DINOSAUR (1977) starring Richard Boone and the third was THE IVORY APE (1980) starring Jack Palance. This second film is the most fondly remembered of the three and possesses a sense of mystery and fantasy with merely a touch of superstitious horror trappings for good measure.

It wasn't the first time Rankin/Bass had partnered with a Japanese company on a picture. Prior to this in 1967, they partnered with Toho Studios to produce KING KONG ESCAPES, a lively and enjoyable monster romp meant to tie in with the animated series produced in America by Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass. This new trilogy of films played theatrically overseas but went straight to television in the United States. Considering that STAR WARS (1977) had just reinvented the wheel in terms of special effects in movies, the more old fashioned and quaint style of fantasy filmmaking was quickly becoming extinct. With these lower budgeted efforts unable to compete with the state of the art offerings from the big studios, television was their safehaven, at least in America.

The direction is good and is aided immeasurably by both a romantic and mystery enhanced soundtrack. This description also applies to the main theme, "Jennie", a ballad referencing the peculiar lady of the sea. Written by Jules Bass, the vocals are by Claude Charmichel. The musical score was created by Maury Laws, who made a career creating the music for the Rankin/Bass duo. The caliber of the cast adds a lot of added incentive to this picture, even more so than the previous movie in this trilogy, THE LAST DINOSAUR (1977). That film focused more on the monster elements of the script while THE BERMUDA DEPTHS (1978) focuses far more emphasis on the doomed romance angle and subtle fantasy than relying solely on the giant creature angle.

A number of scenes stand out. Most of which all revolve around the strange relationship shared by both Magnus and Jennie. Director Kotani handles the entire movie masterfully, never quite letting the viewer know whether what they are seeing is "real", or a figment of the protagonists imagination. By the end, it's apparent that what you've seen is a fine film directed by a Japanese man hiding behind an American pseudonym.

One of the most poignant scenes takes place during the last ten minutes. After the scientists have all been killed, Magnus is washed ashore unconscious. Jennie appears from the sea yet again. She leans down and kisses him. The look on her face tells everything. After all that has taken place, she can never be with him again. She returns to the sea, descending the waves never to see her love again. Magnus takes a boat leaving Bermuda and away from all the bad memories he has carried with him from childhood. As the boat exits the harbor, he takes the necklace Jennie had given to him and tosses it into the sea as the poetic ballad plays on the soundtrack.

What's particularly fascinating about this relationship that can never be, are the parallels with vampirism. Similarly, one of the undead that has forsaken their soul for an eternal existence among the damned, can never walk among the living, nor love as a human again. Here, the character of Jennie Haniver is said to have given her soul to the Devil in exchange for immortality instead of perishing with other travelers aboard a doomed vessel during a massive storm at sea. It's stated by a strange woman named Delia that she sometimes appears as a small child, or as an attractive woman; and that her appearance heralds the death of those around her.

Once Magnus realizes the involvement of the woman he's befriended and loved for years, he turns his back on his home and Jennie altogether stating to Doshan in a graveyard, "I never want to be near the sea again....ever." As he leaves, the camera pans over to a statue of a woman. Descending down to the base of the monument, the stone reads, 'Jennie Haniver, 1701-, Lost at Sea'. The image of the statue is the same as the masthead of the vessel that had carried Jennie across the sea centuries before.

Leigh McClosky is a great choice for the role of the tortured and lonely young man struggling with the loss of his family as well as the enigma of the sea, the stunning Jennie Haniver whom he is in love with. McClosky found fame in many famous television programs throughout the 1980's. He also appeared in Dario Argento's INFERNO (1980), one of the Italian maestro's lesser efforts. McClosky also starred in the enjoyably raunchy sex comedy, HAMBURGER, THE MOTION PICTURE (1986).

The alluring Connie Sellecca followed a similar career trajectory finding a great deal of work in television shows and movies made for the small screen including two cult pictures made for television, CAPTAIN AMERICA and CAPTAIN AMERICA 2 (both 1979) both of which starred Reb Brown in the lead as the popular comic book character.

Carl Weathers was fresh off his famous role of Apollo Creed in ROCKY (1976) when he appeared in this US-Japan co-production. Prior to this, Weathers also did a lot of tv work, but mixed it up with a good number of movie roles, too. He had played bad guys in two blaxploitation pictures, BUCKTOWN and FRIDAY FOSTER (both 1975) in the beginning of his career. Weathers will forever be remembered for the memorable role of Rocky Balboa's nemesis and friend, in the ROCKY series (at least up to the fourth installment).

Burl Ives will likely be best remembered for his many record albums as well as his voiceover work for the claymation favorite, RUDOLPH, THE RED NOSED REINDEER (1964). He was also a regular on tv commercials being a spokesperson for Luzianne Tea as anyone growing up in the late 70's early 80's will attest. Ives also co-starred in the previously banned Sam Fuller art picture, WHITE DOG (1982).

THE BERMUDA DEPTHS (1978) is an accomplished fantasy love story with slight horror overtones that will appeal mostly to those who caught it on television during its original run. Curiosity seekers will no doubt find something of interest, but more hardened and less patient viewers may find this wonderful movie a bit slow going. This rare and obscure gem doesn't deserve to remain so, and hopefully one day, this intriguing and romantic fantasy picture will receive its long overdue legitimate DVD release.

This review is representative of a fan made project meant to preserve the most complete version of THE BERMUDA DEPTHS yet available. Combining a number of different versions to create this 97 minute composite, this is the best way to see this virtually forgotten piece of genre filmmaking until a legitimate release is made available. To obtain a copy of this complete version, inquiries can be sent to this email address--


teocarlo said...

Thanks for the site! One of the best sites on the film.... Join our group on FaceBook! Hope you don't mind the link between the two!

venoms5 said...

Hi, teocarlo. Thanks for the kind words. I don't mind the link at all. Anything to make more people aware of the movie can only be a good thing.

It's a wonderfully poetic and mesmerizing film especially for those that grew up on fantasy and monster movies.

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