For centuries the world’s oceans have inspired mankind with an unparallelled sense of fascination and terror. I believe that it is true to say that more is known about outer space than is known about the world’s own oceans. Ever since the first mariners began to explore the seas there have been tales of great monsters that have emerged from its depths to prey on the unwary. These tales have developed and evolved over time and have provided fuel for some of our great writers and film makers imaginations.
Here I present you with five films, from five different film makers who have dared to imagine what untold terrors and monstrosities the watery depths hold. Some of the creatures we will be meeting here have found ways to negotiate land. So best to stay inside, lock all your doors, turn off all your lights and whatever you do…Don’t go into the water!!
The films are listed in no particular order and come complete with their trailers. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to embed the trailers for Godzilla or It Came from Beneath the Sea, maybe this is a problem with the encoding due to them being very old films. However I have provided a link to their location on YouTube.
Dinocroc, 2004. Directed by Kevin O’Neill. Written by Dan Acre, Frances Doel and John Huckert.
Having seemingly stepped down from directorial duties, B-movie master Roger Corman now seems content with settling for the role of executive producer. Dinocroc is one of the first and best of a series of monster movies for which he has acted as the executive producer. The plot is nothing new: the skeleton of a prehistoric ancestor of the modern day crocodile is discovered and a team of scientists use its DNA to create prototypes. Inevitably one escapes, grows to a great size and begins eating everything and everyone who gets in its way. The silly and over familiar plot, however, is kept afloat by some above average special effects and acting. The creature is well designed and manages to create a certain sense of menace. There are also some wonderfully old school, monster movie style sequences, The Dinocroc snaps up a bikini clad water skier. Add to that a surprisingly suspenseful and exciting finale and one walks away feeling that Roger Corman still retains his crown as the B-movie King. He was to follow this film up with Supergator (2007) Dinoshark (2010) Dinocroc Vs Supergator (2010) and errr Sharktopus (2010).
Godzilla, 1954. Directed by Ishiro Honda. Written by Ishiro Honda, Shigeru Kayama, and Takeo Murata.
Turning back the clock now, this is one of the films that started it all. Godzilla (Gojira) is woken from his slumber beneath the sea by American nuclear weapons testing and proceeds to terrorise the coast of Japan. Okay the special effects are so dated now, the scene in which Godzilla stamps over Tokyo is obviously a bloke in a rubber suit destroying cardboard houses. However the film still carries an undeniably powerful message which would have been especially potent at the time. The scenes of the terrified Japanese civilians who’ve been affected by Godzilla’s rampage evoke the news reel images of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The films anti-nuclear weapons message still has as profound an impact today as it did then. Forms of terror have changed but the fear evoked is the same. Overall Godzilla is a film with a conscience, which none of the subsequent sequels, or the dire American remake in 1998, could hope to re-create.
Dagon, 2001. Directed by Stuart Gordon. Written by Dennis Paoli, based on the story by H.P. Lovecraft.
Back to contemporary times, we now have an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s long, short story ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’. Updating the story to modern times and switching the location from America to Spain, the story involves a young man Paul and his girlfriend Barbara, on a sailing holiday, whose boat gets wrecked just off the remote fishing village of Imboca. Forced to go ashore to seek help, their peaceful holiday soon turns into a living nightmare as people begin to disappear and strange, not quite human things begin to emerge with the coming of night. Director Stuart Gordon continues to prove himself to be a deft hand when adapting the work of Lovecraft. He also did Re-animator (1985), From beyond (1986) and most recently Dreams in the Witch House (2005) for the television series Masters of Horror, which was probably one of the best and most horrifying Lovecraft adaptations to date. Dagon stays true to its source material with sequences which many Lovecraft aficionados will be familiar with. It also adds to it by developing on the more horrifying aspects of the story, which were only hinted at in the original story. Plenty of gore and a suitably bleak ending will also ensure that hardcore horror fans, unfamiliar with Lovecraft’s work are well satisfied.
It Came From Beneath the Sea
It Came from Beneath the Sea, 1955. Directed by Robert Gordon. Screenplay by George Worthing Yates and Harold Jacob Smith.
Another one of the films that started the whole Sea monster craze. The plot is very similar to that of Godzilla: a giant octopus has its feeding habits affected by nuclear testing in the Pacific ocean and as a result rises up from the deep and proceeds to terrorise the California coast line. This is the film which has the famous, climatic scene of the gigantic stop motion octopus attacking the golden gate bridge and unlike Godzilla, this time it is the Americans who are being forced to face the consequences of their continued experiments with nuclear weapons. While the film may not pack the same emotional punch as the Japanese Godzilla did, it’s still dumb fun. I wouldn’t like to go as far as to say that the sight of a giant octopus attacking one of America’s famous landmarks has resonance in a post 9/11 culture. Although interestingly, or not as the case may be, in January 2002 a films was released entitled Octopus 2. This dealt with a giant Octopus, err attacking New York harbour and included a scene where it crawls up the Statue of Liberty.
Jaws, 1975. Directed by Steven Spielburg. Written by Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb, based on the novel by Peter Benchley.
Is this the greatest sea monster movie of all time? Most probably. Adapted from Peter Benchley’s bestseller, this is one of those rare films that managed to be far superior to its source material. This was partly due to Spielberg’s decision to cut out the unnecessary subplots which clutter the novel, but more to do with the way in which he expertly avoids all the clichés of the 1950s monster movies. The shark itself is kept mostly out of sight for two thirds of the film, which leaves the audience to only imagine at what is attacking the innocent swimmers. When it finally gets revealed, well nowadays one can tell that it’s made of rubber yet this never manages to detract from the primal terror that has been conjured up throughout. Even after all these years the sight of the human head falling out of the bottom of the boat, still has the power to make one jump, and Roy Schneider’s final show down with the sea’s greatest killing machine, complete with the inimitable line ‘Smile you son of a b*tch!’ will never fail to get the adrenaline pumping.
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