Synopsis: What secret lurks 20,000 feet below the waves in the paranormal realm called The Bermuda Triangle? That’s the question a scientist (Burl Ives), his student (Carl Weathers) and a young man (Leigh McCloskey) haunted by nightmarish memories of his Bermuda childhood ask themselves. The answer involves a beauty (Connie Sellecca) who has sold her soul for eternal youth. And a giant sea turtle that leaves death in its wake. Eerie and hypnotic, The Bermuda Depths was produced by Arthur Rankin, Jr and Jules Bass (The Year Without a Santa Claus), who meld their imaginative fantasy style with the live-action horror genre.
The Bermuda Depths 5.75
eyelights: Connie Sellecca. its underwater shots.
eyesores: its performances. its discrepant model and creature shots. its weak script.
“I exist for you.”
Jaws x Splash x Gamera = The Bermuda Depths
Arthur Rankin, Jr and Jules Bass are legends. Their company Rankin/Bass is responsible for many classic holiday specials, starting in 1964 with ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer‘. They also made animated feature films, such as ‘Mad Monster Party?‘ and the beloved ‘The Last Unicorn’.
But what’s little known is that they also delved into live action filmmaking along the way. One of these efforts is a TV movie called ‘The Bermuda Depths’, that first aired on ABC on January 27, 1978 and was later released in Japan due to the involvement of Tsuburaya Productions.
The picture is a science fiction monster movie crossed with romantic fantasy elements. It tells the story of Magnum, a young man returning to Bermuda to find out the truth about what happened to his father when he was but a boy. He has no idea just what’s in store for him.
(Hint: Think GIANT turtle from Hell)
The reason I picked this up is because it was only ever released on DVD through Warner Bros. video-on-demand service – and, for some reason, I found it at my local library for 2$. Since I found the synopsis on the back intriguing, I thought it would be worth giving it a shot.
Wow… that’s highly debatable now.
I think the only reason I’m as forgiving of this thing is because of Connie Sellecca, who is absolutely breathtaking as Jenny, a girl Magnum used to play with as a boy and who mysteriously turns up on the beach; she’s so naturally beautiful, delicate and pristine.
It doesn’t make of her a terrific actress, but then she’s given very little to do, so she comes off better than the rest of the limited cast, who all overact with nary a care. My favourite must be Carl Weathers, who shouts his lines, pops his eyes out and poses dramatically.
Of course, Weathers was always a weak actor -or at least an eternal ham- and this was one of his first-ever performances. In any event, his skills are as spare as his scalp, with him nearly bald in a few waterlogged scenes (though he’s since acquired a thicker head!).
The storytelling is also weak, showing us in flashback Magnum and Jenny’s friendship but not explaining the relation, awkwardly killing off Magnum’s father but giving no context for it, and providing exposition by having character reminisce or argue about past events.
- “Hey, how long has it been?” (Um… let me see if I can remember the memory we both share.)
- “Hey, I didn’t tell you (blank)?” (Well, no, since we haven’t seen each other in years.)
- “I don’t like this because (blank).” (And let me explain why this doesn’t matter…)
Characters somehow appear out of nowhere, sometimes they argue then change tone completely in a split second, revelations come to some of them but aren’t expressed to the audience, …etc. It’s like the filmmakers had never made a movie before and just improvised through it.
By the end, all the pieces were in place and yet we still didn’t know the truth about Jenny, how she’d survived, what forces she’d made a deal with, how that pertains to the turtle that she and Magnum found when he was just a boy (even though she’d become immortal centuries before!).
And how was it possible for Eric (Weathers) to mistakenly spear Jenny under the water, leaving her to die – only for her not to die? And how was it possible for Eric to kill off the creature – but somehow it came back to the surface, headbutted a helicopter and sunk their ship?
On that note, b-t-w, the giant sea monster is a joke: it’s basically a less animated version of Gamera – which is already really stiff. So it’s basically a giant green plastic turd that floats underwater in a tank (instead of a real ocean) and that sometimes comes out of hiding to attack.
Really. You have to see the headbutt to believe it.
I mean, all of the model shots are complete garbage. The picture is rife with inserts of boats being shifted around by some “unknown” force and they all look like plastic boats in someone’s bathtub. The same goes for the plastic helicopter that comes to rescue Magnum and Eric.
Tsuburaya Productions are the people behind the popular Japanese series ‘Ultraman’, which, as anyone who’s seen it knows, is a ridiculous show with a dude in a silver full-body superhero costume fighting other dudes in rubber monster suits: This picture never had a chance!
By the end, which inexplicably finds Jenny kissing a passed out Magnum on the beach and walking away into the sea, we have no idea what just happened other than a big !@#$-ing turtle killed Magnum’s dad, Magnum came back, and then Jenny returned to the sea with the turtle.
We also don’t know why Magnum decides to throw in the towel (quite literally, by tossing a necklace Jenny had given him into the ocean as he leaves) instead of pursuing the love of his life. Because, yes, after all of this, ‘The Bermuda Depths’ gives us a downbeat ending.
…leaving us sinking in our seats.
Date of viewing: January 28, 2017