'Reptilicus' - When the accidentally thawed tail of a huge prehistoric monster is discovered, the process of regeneration begins growing into a full-sized monster...which attacks the city.
'Tentacles' - A prehistoric octopus of monstrous proportions, stirred from its sleep in the North Sea by underwater explosions, migrates to the U.S. Gulf Coast and menaces a seaside community. A scientist turns his trained killer whales against the octopus, and the giant sea creatures battle to the death.
Monster movies can be of the best sort. When production values are high, the creature can become perfect nightmare fuel. When production values are low and thrills have given away to hilarity, the creature can be something of a running joke every time it appears to cause mass destruction. With Scream Factory's latest double feature release of 'Tentacles' and 'Reptilicus' you get a little bit of both. On one hand you have a low budget 'Jaws' knock off, and on the other you have a movie so riddled with cheap effects and stock footage Ed Wood himself would be proud.
It isn't all sunshine and surf in paradise, something is killing people left and right. A ten month old child, an experienced local fisherman, and numerous pets throughout the island community have either gone missing - or what remains are found completely baffle Sheriff Robards (Claude Akins). Without any clues to go on, he enlists the help of local reporter Ned Turner (John Huston). Like the Sheriff, Ned hasn't seen anything like the damage done to the bodies either. Clearly the child and the man weren't eaten by a shark, if anything they look like they were digested whole, even the marrow in their bones appears to have been sucked out.
Running down any and every possibility he can, Ned turns to a local marine biologist Will (Bo Hopkins). While too busy training a pair of killer whales, Will sends some of his best men to investigate the area and see if there could be any biological cause for the deaths - if there were, the local marine life would offer some kind of clue. Meanwhile Ned pursues other avenues - including butting heads with local industrialist Mr. Whitehead (Henry Fonda) who recently installed a new aquifer tunnel through the area. Could the tunnel be the cause of the wholesale death and destruction? Or could the tunnel have awakened something far more deadly? Will's divers unwittingly uncover the source of everyone's troubles.
Descending to the bottom of the ocean in a diving bell, the two men are able to explore the area and get a first hand view of the situation. Even armed with high-powered spear guns, the two men are no match for one of the planet's most deadly, most elusive undersea predators - a gigantic octopus! The creature is so big it can swallow a man whole and even take down entire boats with its massive tentacles. As the only man capable of killing the prehistoric creature, Will must use all of his knowledge of the sea, including his trained killer whales to hunt down the creature before it kills anyone else.
Talk about a gas of a movie! Written by Steven Carabatosos, Tito Carpi, and Jerome Max and directed by Ovidio G. Assonitis 'Tentacles' is the kind of movie that took the basic "Man VS Nature" story of 'Jaws' and just went full tilt boogie with it throwing every genre convention at the board hoping something stuck. Sadly in terms of plot and story structure - none of this movie makes a lick of sense. Why does the sheriff turn to a grizzled old reporter for help? Why does this reporter know the exact right people to ask obvious questions to? Why does Shelly Winters brag about her sexual conquests to John Huston? Why is Henry Fonda even in this movie? None of that matters. What matters is the wholesale death and destruction at the arms of eight sucker-filled tentacles!
Cheap probably doesn't even begin to describe the effects for this movie. Apparently a gigantic puppet octopus was constructed for the shoot complete with wires controlling the arms for some genuine aquatic terror, but as the story goes, the first time the production put the thing in the water, it sank to the bottom and was irretrievable - so stock footage and a dead octopus in a fish tank had to make do. So much of the scenes featuring our deadly creature are made up of an octopus carcass, stock footage, or very obviously shot through a glass fish tank that it just gets goofy and one can't help but laugh.
Then you have the performances. Shelly Winters, John Huston, and Henry Fonda are so wonderfully wasted in this movie. I say wasted because when it gets right down to it, these iconic actors and filmmakers have absolutely no real reason for being in the movie at all. They don't play any kind of key role in the climax or anything that happens plot wise, so really they're there to just cash a check and burn some screen time. The only two actors that are important are Claude Akins and Bo Hopkins. I giggled with delight every time Bo would wax philosophical about being able to understand fish, and I couldn't help but be amused at seeing Akins wearing a badge since my favorite western happens to be Rio Bravo.
With a production like 'Tentacles' you have to just go with the flow and let yourself be entertained. The film is just fin from start to finish and it's even more fun since it's an Italian production with that special sort of sound design that just completes the cheesy experience. Give it a watch, it's well worth the time.
Copper miners in the remote tundra of Lapland happen upon an amazing discovery while drilling - the severed tail of some sort of prehistoric creature! Still fleshy and bloody - they do the only sensible thing and take the partially frozen mass back to a team of scientists for study. The scientific team lead by Professor Otto Martens (Asbjorn Anderson) and Dr. Peter Dalby (Povl Woldike) do the even smarter thing and thaw the tail out! Granted thawing the hunk of flesh was an accident, but when they discover that the piece of the animal flesh is still alive they show off their incredible brilliance by working to resuscitate it. Rather than killing it with fire, they show off their amazing discovery to the entire world and this would have been fine if the thing had ever stopped growing. Only it doesn't stop growing and soon it breaks free from the lab and is on the loose to spit green oozy acid onto the hapless public.
General Mark Grayson (Carl Ottosen) does what he can to combat the creature with his army of stock footage, but there is a fatal flaw to using brute force against the creature - any piece of the animal can spawn new Reptilicus monsters! With one arm tied behind his back. Gen. Grayson must figure out a way of trapping the beast and killing it in such a way that every last part of the monster is destroyed.
Released in 1961, part of me believes this is the movie that Ed Wood was born to make - but never got the chance to. 'Reptilicus' has an elaborate puppet for a monster that uses cheap forced perspective shots to make it look gigantic. Virtually every character takes a momentary pause in the action to pontificate about some heady yet unrelated world issue before going back to task at hand. Then you have the stock footage, miles and miles of stock footage linked only to the scene in question because some of the cast are dressed like military commanders and sit in a jeep with a radio.
At its heart, 'Reptilicus' wouldn't be the movie it is without the titular creature. Talk about goofy! Too cheap to use state-of-the-art stop motion effects, the production apparently decided a rod puppet with model train backgrounds and scenery was the trick to use. Also, numerous shots are over-cranked because apparently slowmotion means huge? It's an odd effect in of itself and then you add in the animated green slime that just leaps out of the creature's plastic mouth and you have the makings of an entertaining little flick that is actually very age appropriate for youngsters. I have a feeling that if I'd seen this when I was five or six years old I would have loved every second of it. As an adult, it took me a bit of time before I was fully pulled into the movie. The front end of the film is rather laborious since they take a mile to go about ten feet, but the payoff is there.
While not the greatest movie ever made, 'Reptilicus' is a hoot. It may not be the most thematically cohesive movie to pair with 'Tentacles' but they do make for a decently goofy double feature. It's certainly not the best double feature Scream Factory has ever released, but it's good time and and can't see too many people being disappointed by this one.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Tentacles' and 'Reptilicus' arrive on Blu-ray thanks to Scream Factory. Both films are pressed on a single BD50 disc and housed in a standard case. The cover art offers a reversible option allowing fans to see the numerous international posters and marketing materials created for each film. The disc opens to a standard Film Select menu allowing users to choose which film they want to see. From there viewers can select special features related to the specific film.
I've got to tip my hat to Scream Factory for doing the best they can sourcing quality masters for their releases. Some are amazingly vibrant as is the case with 'Tentacles' and some are simply the best they're probably ever going to get as with 'Reptilicus.'
For such a bright and colorful movie, the only possible way it could look any better would be for it to get it's own solo disc release to free up the bitrate. As it stands, 'Tentacles' looks fantastic! With slight film grain present throughout the run, detail levels are incredibly pleasing - especially during the underwater scenes which can be a real pain to shoot even with the best of equipment. Colors are spot on allowing for plenty of primary pop while keeping flesh tones accurate and pleasing. Black levels likewise are just as impressive providing a solid dimensional feel to the film without too much crush intrusion. Where some may worry are the intermittent scenes where the image may look overly soft. Don't worry, if you pay close attention - these are the scenes with some kind of special effect that had things been in focus I would be willing to bet they'd look far worse. I fully believe these scenes look the way they do to disguise the production's technical shortcomings. There is some slight speckling here and there but over all the print is in fine shape.
As the older movie of the bunch, 'Reptilicus' is in decidedly rougher shape. Even as the artwork notes that the film got a fresh HD transfer for this disc, it's still pretty beaten up. I imagine the restoration effort to bring this one to full glory would be extremely time consuming and expensive. As it rests, 'Reptilicus' looks pretty good over all. The opening scenes of the movie can look a little flat and waxy, almost like some sort of noise reduction was employed but then about ten minutes in detail kicks in and man does the movie look good. Detail, colors, black levels - everything looks fantastic - even stunning at times. Then the creature footage hits. I don't know the conditions in which these scenes were shot, but this is where the HD presentation runs into some trouble. Print damage is the primary problem as these shots are loaded with optical and mat effects that would require a major restoration effort to fix. It's a noticeable difference from cut to cut. Likewise grain structure is much heavier during these scenes because of the camera apparently being over-cranked at the time there is also some slight strobing happening. most of the time everything's okay, but some shots of the big lizard look like an absolute dog. Amazingly enough the numerous stock footage shots actually blend into the movie quite well without any depreciable artifacts worth mentioning, so that's something!
Being an Italian production and without any location sound to speak of, everything has that wonderful artificial and hollow tinny sound to it. It's difficult to talk about any kind of imaging effect since this sound recording method tends to leave things sounding a bit flat, but it does have plenty of bounce to it. Dialogue shines through since most of the exposition scenes happen without too much in the way of complex action going on. In fact most of the cast is either talking at a table or on the phone. Music and sound effects have their place and never trip over the dialogue. Without any kind of drop outs or age related artifacts, I was very impressed by this audio track.
As a Danish-made film that had several actors dubbed to english, sound is a bit wonky at times but all around stable. I say wonky because some of the voices just do not match up with the actors and can sound like someone from another room is speaking over them. But that really is my only gripe for this track, everything else comes through just fine - including the titular monster's goofy scream. Due to the improved audio clarity, I got a nice chuckle the first time I heard that beast. Sound effects are actually very vibrant - especially during the combat scenes which are virtually all stock footage. Likewise levels are kept pretty even since much of the film is dialogue that keeps to the midranges. As with 'Tentacles' there doesn't appear to be any kind of age related anomalies on this track making it just as impressive.
Sadly, special features are a bit lacking on this disc. I imagine these would be tough ones to assemble anything meaningful for.
Trailer: (HD 1:01) Wow, just…wow. They went so far as to actually get Percy Rodriguez to do the narration of this trailer so it sounded exactly like the 'Jaws' trailer! And that tag line "The most gripping suspense you'll ever experience!" just sells the movie.
Photo Gallery: Well if you haven't gotten enough kazoo music from the main movie you get to enjoy a full sampling of it through this gallery of behind the scenes pictures and stills!
Trailer: (HD 1:58) This trailer is just tons of fun filled with late 50s early 60s marketing cheese.
Radio Spot: (1:00) This is a heck of a radio spot! I really wish they still marketed movies this way.
Photo Gallery: Like the 'Tentacles' photo gallery without the zany music!
Perhaps the pairing of 'Tentacles' and 'Reptilicus' wasn't the best, but they're two great movies just the same. Sure they're not exactly "good" movies but if you're nostalgic at all for some 60s and 70s monster movie fluff, you're in for a wild double feature ride! All around fans should be pleased with each film's respective A/V qualities. With only trailers and marketing materials making up the bonus features, some might be disappointed at the lack of extras, but at this price point it's hard to be too upset since you're getting two incredibly goofy movies. Fans and the curious alike should be very happy with this Blu-ray from Scream Factory - easily recommended.