Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #517
Also known as Monster
Number of Views: Two
Release Date: May 16, 1980
Sub-Genre: Monster Movie
Country of Origin: United States
Box Office: $2,500,000
Running Time: 80 minutes
Director: Barbara Peeters, Jimmy T. Murakami (uncredited)
Producers: Martin B. Cohen, Roger Corman
Screenplay: Frederick James, Frank Arnold, Martin B. Cohen
Special Effects: Rob Bottin, Roger George, Chris Walas
Cinematography: Daniel Lacambre
Score: James Horner
Editing: Mark Goldblatt
Studio: New World Pictures
Distributor: New World Pictures, Shout! Factory (DVD)
Stars: Doug McClure, Ann Turkel, Vic Morrow, Lynn Schiller, Cindy Weintraub, Anthony Pena, Denise Galik, Lynn Theel, Meegan King, Breck Costin, Hoke Howell, Don Maxwell, David Strassman, Greg Travis, Linda Shayne, Lisa Glaser, Bruce Monette, Shawn Erler
Suggested Audio Candy
 James Horner “Main Title”
 James Horner “Final Confrontation”
You have to hand it to Roger Corman, he sure knows how to turn a profit. No other can boast of such an unprecedented run of hit movies and, of over 400 projects he has had a hand in, nary a single one has failed to pocket him a return. If I knew the key to his success then I would likely be perched in a platinum throne sipping Dom Pérignon from a crystal slipper but I shall attempt to hazard a guess. Say what you want about Corman but he knows precisely what it is that an audience craves and sets out to provide these ingredients in spades. We’re talking crowd pleasing explosions, gushing grue, and gratuitous nudity and not necessarily in that order. It is his belief that we should be supplied with at least one of the three every handful of minutes and it’s hard to argue with that logic when you consider his canny knack for turning profit.
One particular example of his ability to raid the pockets of the moviegoing public involves the worldwide success of Steven Spielberg’s original summer blockbuster Jaws. Desperate to grab himself a slice of this lucrative pie, he set out to mimic Spielberg’s fortitude on just a fraction of the budget and achieved this with Joe Dante’s Piranha enjoying a successful theatrical run and turning a handsome profit. Not content to rest on his laurels, Corman soon dipped his toes into the swim a second time with Humanoids From The Deep proving once again that it wasn’t safe to go back in the water.
On this occasion, omnivorous fresh water fish were replaced with a rampant posse of genetically altered life-sized amphibians. Think The Creature of The Black Lagoon, multiply by a few dozen, then stuff their gills with Viagra and you should have some idea what to expect. You see, the humanoids in question here have bigger fish to fry than simply wrecking murderous havoc on the inhabitants of the quaint fishing town of Noyo. Their primary concern is procreation and that means finding the most buxom babes they can get their webbed hands on, ripping off their bikinis with their teeth, and filling them up with their love tadpoles.
Their timing couldn’t be any less convenient as it coincides with the announcement of plans to erect a cannery to give the small town’s economy a much-needed boost and create more jobs for the locals. While corporate firm Canco appear to be offering the shot in the arm the sleepy town desperately needs, they are also responsible for a blunder that will place its residents in severe jeopardy. After conducting scientific experiments on salmon and administering growth hormones in an attempt to plump them up some, an unforeseen natural disaster allowed their subjects to flee the laboratory and head directly back into the deep blue. There they fell foul to larger predators and the resulting hybrids are anything but a fisherman’s friends.
Tensions are already running high in Noyo with opinion divided as to whether the construction of the cannery should be allowed to go ahead. However, once the humanoids begin decimating the locals in particularly grisly manners, it is required for opposing forces to set aside any differences and introduce some good-old fashioned community spirit to save the day. Enter pillar of the community Jim (Doug McClure), narrow-minded town bully Hank (Vic Morrow), spirited Native American Johnny Eagle (Anthony Penya) and Canco’s very own Dr. Susan Drake (Ann Turkel) and there is no shortage of bad blood between them. With the 93rd annual Salmon Festival looming large and the body count rapidly rising, things are perfectly poised for one helluva showdown.
In typical Corman style, every box is ticked and his three key ingredients are all present and correct. Frequent pyrotechnics light up the skies, male victims are promptly ventilated in all manner of imaginative ways, and beautiful women are stripped bare and violated uncomfortably. This blatant excess angered director Barbara Peeters and she was actually fired before shooting wrapped after opposing the amount of unnecessary nudity requested by Corman, leaving Jimmy T. Murakami to finish what she started. If there was friction, then it doesn’t show in the end product and its lean 80 minutes motor past like rocket-propelled driftwood.
Where Rob Bottin’s scaly humanoid creations are concerned, a hefty pinch of salt is required as they belong very much in B-movie territory and require a stretch of the imagination to take at all seriously. Like the creatures of fifties features that clearly inspired their design, they amount to little more than men in rubber suits although much attention is paid to supplying them with long, lecherous limbs and rows of razor-sharp snapping teeth to assist in selling their authenticity. Like any good monster movie worth its salt, they remain ambiguous until around the halfway mark but, once their identity is shared with the audience, any subtlety goes straight out the window and seaweed is lobbed about with gay abandon.
The performances are as you would expect from a film that never takes itself too seriously and the cast play it admirably straight to prevent Humanoids From The Deep from careering into downright parody. Morrow is well cast as stubborn firestarter, McClure makes for a reasonably charismatic ageing hero and Cindy Weintraub (The Prowler) gives a spirited turn as his resourceful wife Carol. Meanwhile, numerous scantily clad vixens scream in all the right places and shed their linen accordingly as they line up for the philandering. It’s not anything approaching high art, but then, that was never Corman’s intention. Neither is it particularly suspenseful but, what it lacks in chills, it compensates for rather magnanimously in thrills and spills, making for ideal Saturday afternoon entertainment.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Grue Factor: 4/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: You only need to look at other movies coming from the Corman production line around the turn of the eighties such as Bruce D. Clark’s Galaxy of Terror and Allan Holzman’s Forbidden World to have a fair idea of what to expect here. There are numerous gory dispatches on proud exhibit including torn off faces, exposed rib cages, decapitated heads, decimated dogs and enough blood spray to fill a fair few bathtubs to boot. Full frontal nudity is also on the platter and there are as many discarded bikini tops as there are human remains, making this very much any B-movie enthusiast’s wet dream.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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