Review Date: September 19, 2005
Released by: Creative Axa
Release date: 7/25/2002
MSRP: 4935 yen (approximately $45.00)
Region 2, NTSC
Full Frame 1.33:1
Let me tell you a little story; I'm about ten years old and one day I find myself walking the aisles of some dingy mom and pop video store located somewhere off Route 1-A in central Maine. This was back in the day when tapes from labels like Paragon, Wizard and Continental were still easy to find, and my young eyes popped at the sight of these deliciously forbidden items on the shelf. Then I spotted this one tape with a lurid picture of a giant shark monster about to gobble up a bikini-clad woman. The title on the box was Up From the Depths
, and even though it would be many, many years before I saw the movie itself, the memory of seeing that cover art for the first time is a cherished one. As for the movie itself, though, that proved to be quite a different matter...
The Hawaiian Archipelago is home to many small islands, and amongst them is the beautiful and isolated Mahu Island. A popular destination for vacationers, Mahu is home to the usual assortment of creeps and charlatans that like to lurk around tourist traps and take advantage of the naive folks from out of town. Greg Oliver (Sam Bottoms
) and his mangy uncle Earl Sullivan (Virgil Frye
) are two such people. They run a boat tour business that actually specializes in conning tourists by taking them on phony underwater treasure hunts. Greg and Earl's antics continuously antagonize Oscar Forbes (Kedric Wolfe
), manager of the nearby Tropical Palace Hotel, where Greg's girlfriend Rachel (Susanne Reed
This tourist season, though, it's not just business as usual for anybody. The trouble starts when local marine biologist Dr. Whiting (Charles Howerton
) sends his young female assistant scuba diving into the deep for specimens, only to be horrified when a cloud of bloody water floats to the surface and she is never seen again - though her severed arm is later found in shallow water by a local. Then soon after Rachel, who is an aspiring model, goes out on a photo shoot to a remote beach with a photographer. Seeking the best possible angle, the unfortunate man wades out into the surf where he is promptly devoured by an unseen sea beast. And the body count only gets higher from there.
Dr. Whiting believes that the disappearances of his assistant and the others are the work of an unknown type of sea creature and is determined to capture it alive. Fishermen have brought him specimens of fish that are of species completely unknown to science, and he hypothesizes that a change in deep sea currents is bringing unknown marine life out of the ocean depths and into shallow coastal waters. But fearing talk of a sea monster will scare all his guests away, Forbes makes a concerted effort to cover up the presence of the monster...at least until Earl talks him into sponsoring a hunt for the creature!
Though ostensibly set in Hawaii, Up From the Depths
was actually shot in the Philippines, a nation that has proved attractive to many film American producers over the years. Due to its tropical climate and the fact that the terrain on many of its islands resembles that of Southeast Asia, filmmakers large and small have used it as a stand-in for Vietnam, including Francis Ford Coppola in Apocalypse Now
(which also happens to feature Up From the Depths
star Sam Bottoms; presumably he went directly to this production from that one). But besides war movies, the Philippines have also provided scenic locations for a number of other low-budget horror films going back into the 1960's, including the famed "Blood Island" films.
Anyone who watches Up From the Depths
soon discovers that, rather than being the straight horror thriller that it is usually promoted as, the film is actually very much of a comedy piece. Though the monster attacks are treated in a serious fashion, in between there's a lot of mugging and tomfoolery involving some of the human characters. It is not a movie that takes itself seriously, but ultimately the combination of horror and comedy doesn't work. It's neither scary, nor is the majority of the humor actually funny. Instead it's mostly a just chore to sit through.
The only humor that works at all is that spouted off by the character of Oscar Forbes. As played by Kedric Wolfe (who is a dead ringer for an ex-boss of mine), Forbes is a ridiculously exaggerated caricature who can never be taken seriously. Though a large part of the film's goofiness can be attributed solely to Wolfe's performance, he is a lot of fun to watch, and almost every memorable line that screenwriter Alfred Sweeney comes up with goes to his character (my own personal favorite Forbes moment comes when Rachel enters the hotel just after her photographer is devoured; looking understandably upset, Forbes asks her if she's pregnant, and then exclaims, "Oh my god! You've been raped!"). Though the rest of the cast is not bad, the only other performer who makes an impact is Virgil Frye as Earl, who is both amusing and convincing as the gruff con man who seduces tourists with tales of sunken treasure.
The monster is neither as good nor as bad as one would hope for. The creature looks to be many things (most especially plastic), but real is never one of them. Yet it also never looks as tacky and cheesy as would be necessary for laughs. Depending on the way that it is photographed, at times the creature appears to be a giant shark, which at least makes it look menacing. At other times it looks like an overgrown trout; rather than being scary it becomes more cute than anything else. Either way, it certainly never lives up to the image of that ghastly beast on the video cover when I was a child.
Overall, Up From the Depths
is not a lot of fun. The humor mostly falls flat, and it is neither exciting nor scary. In fact, the movie commits the worst sin possible for a movie to commit, worse than cheapness, incompetence, bad acting, incoherent writing or anything else - plain and simple, it's boring.
Up From the Depths
is presented in what appears to be an open-matte 1.33:1 transfer (the excessive amount of headroom visible on many occasions would hint 1.85:1 was the intended ratio). It doesn't look very hot. Everything has a faded, washed-out appearance to it. The only colors that have any strength to them are blue (which there is a lot of) and red. The image is soft and generally lacks the level of detail and clarity that we have come to expect from DVD. Night scenes and underwater scenes range between clear to murky and incomprehensible. On several occasions the image will shift from bright to dark then bright again, all in the space of one shot, much like the effect that one would see if one tried to make a copy from a video source encoded with Macrovision, only not quite as severe.
On the plus side, the film elements used are in decent shape, but appear a little beat up in spots, with a fair number of specks and scratches popping up. Grain isn't a problem, and there are no major instances of digital artifacting. But overall this is a disappointment, and I would be very, very surprised to discover that this was a new transfer. It would seem much more likely that it is an old video or laserdisc master of some kind that has been ported over for this release.
Two soundtrack options are included, one in English 2.0 Mono, the other in Japanese 2.0 Mono. The English soundtrack is fine. Dialogue is always understandable, and the sound effects are reproduced with little or no distortion. Everything is loud, clear and comprehensible, with practically no background noise of any type to get in the way.
This release also comes with Japanese subtitles which can be turned off (at least something was done right).
There are no supplements on this release.
Up From the Depths
does not have many fans (even amongst those who enjoy Jaws
rip-offs) and it is deservedly forgotten today. I feel no guilt in not recommending this release to anyone - its high price, below average transfer and lack of extras makes this a bad bargain even for those who may enjoy the film. Wait for the inevitable Region 1 release, if you decide to even bother at all.
NOTE: Some retailers of Japanese DVDs list this release under a renamed title of Jurassic Jaws
Movie - D+
Image Quality - C-
Sound - B
Supplements - N/A
- Running Time - 1 hour 25 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English 2.0 Mono
- Japanese 2.0 Mono
- Japanese subtitles (removable)