An occasionally reoccurring device often found in action/adventure films is the old ‘even the odds’ bit. This is where, during the climactic battle between the Good Guy and the Bad Guy, one or the other of them will either forego some advantage or purposely take on some disadvantage for the fight, so sure are they that they will still be able to overcome their foe. This can take the form of (for example) someone eschewing a pistol for bare hands (Commando), dueling with their sword in their off hand (Princess Bride), or telling their opponent in advance exactly which appendage they are going to use to pummel them with, and where (Billy Jack).
When the hero plays this card, its demonstrative of his chivalrous nature or superlative skill (or both). When the villain does the same, however, its an indication of his overconfident folly, and a foreshadowing of his inevitable defeat.
At the risk of dooming myself to a villainic downfall with my hubris, I’m going to make a similar gesture in this review. I swear that, after this brief introduction, I will not touch upon, to any degree, just how blatantly the made-for-TV debacle known as The Beast rips off Jaws and other Big Killer Something in the water films, so help me Jabootu. Just know that Beast was not only written by Jaws author Peter Benchley, but he served as its executive producer as well. I won’t say if this seems to have influenced the production in a derivative way or not; I will leave all such conclusions to those who’ve seen the film themselves. I do reserve the right to draw comparisons between Beast and any other non-Big Killer Something in the water movies it seems to, uh, ‘pay homage to’, however.
That out of the way, time to fight left handed.
Beast opens with a helicopter-mounted shot skimming across the ocean as the credits roll (this is not a good start). This continues on just a little bit too long to hold interest, but before it becomes too excessively annoying, the camera angles up just a bit to show a sailboat floating placidly on the sea (wow, haven’t seen that kind of a reveal before, no sir). With the first close up shot of the boat we know straight away that she’s crewed by Mr. and Mrs. Victim, if for no other reason than her name : “Occupational Hazard”. Say, I’ll bet that’s going to be tragically ironic at some point. Or just plain stupid, which ever.
The first lines spoken by Mr. V involve the need to secure the sails and fire up the engine, owning to some disadvantageous currents. Mrs. V whines that she hates the engines and wants to use the sails. Mr. V tells her to be grateful for the engines, as they’d be out there “until Christmas” if they had to tack against the currents. Since we have no idea when the movie takes place, his statement is rather meaningless.
Mrs. V (wearing shorts and a low cut midriff top) saunters up to her hubby saying “I don’t want to be grateful. I’m spoiled, and I want my way.” The good thing about her delivery here is that we can all relax now. When the Beast eventually attacks the boat, Mrs. V will be well out of danger, as she was clearly hundreds of miles away in an acoustically perfect sound booth recording her lines, and not on a boat at sea after all.
More playful little bantering between our couple occurs, and Mrs. V asks hubby to set the auto-pilot, then seductively walks below decks (do we all know what this means, or shall I break out the puppets?). Hubby should have known better than to comply, as the music cue heard just after Mrs. V’s ‘I want sex’ insinuation was neither Enigma nor Barry White, but the kind of bass clarinet wailing and single note violin keening you probably last heard when Roddy McDowell stepped back inside Hell House for the first time in decades (requiem eternam, Roddy).
Mr. V fails to pick up on this, however, and dutifully heads below after setting the auto-pilot.
The scene fades to night, and the camera does slow tracking shots across different areas of the interior and exterior of the boat. As this was made for TV, shots of the cabin (with Mr. and Mrs. V about their business) are not included. What we see in lieu of a sweaty straining back is a tight shot of the ship’s engine (we assume), who’s Plot Convenience is about ready to detach (as indicated by a water leak around it).
Later, we do go inside the cabin, where Mrs. V is just now tying the front of her blouse, playfully ticking hubby and saying “That was fun”. Its been about six hours at least, here; suddenly I feel so inadequate. Not to worry, as these two are not long for this world.
Mrs. V goes out on deck to pilot the boat, and hubby drifts off to sleep. The camera cuts back and forth between Mrs. V, hubby, and the rapidly failing Plot Convenience. When the Plot Convenience finally does come off a torrent of water gushes from it, rapidly filling the engine compartment. Surprisingly, the Victim family’s first indication of this event comes only when the water has risen enough to spill out onto the floor of the cabin above where it reaches the sleeping Mr. V’s hand, rousing him from his slumber. Now, this would mean that about half of the boat’s internal space or so is flooded. They don’t have alarms, or blinking lights, or anything to warn them of this, other than the empirical act of seeing some ocean inside the cabin? Heck, my car lets me know when I’ve forgotten to shut the headlights off.
Hearing the engine cough like John Goodman running a marathon and seeing the rigging lights fail, Mrs. V comes to the conclusion that something might be wrong with the boat (like maybe they’re out of wiper fluid, perhaps?). Mr. V wakes up and sees a good deal of water where it probably shouldn’t be, and reaches into the engine compartment to try and fix things. After fiddling with things for a whole six seconds, he abandons his repair attempts and radios for help. Just as he’s about to broadcast their position, the entire electrical system on the boat shorts out (why would an emergency radio be so susceptible to damage?), in order that no one might come and pick up the Victim family before the monster has had a chance to kill them.
Grabbing a bag of emergency supplies they make their way to the boat’s rubber raft, and escape. In a startling move of ineptitude, hubby drops one of the oars into the water as he jumps into the raft. Mrs. V calls out “The oar!”, to which her brain surgeon of a mate replies “Forget it, forget it!”, and proceeds to paddle away with the solitary remaining oar. Isn’t this a bit silly? I mean, the oar is a couple of feet away at most, and its not as if the ship were about to blow up or anything. I’d think they’d ever so slightly need a device which represented 50% of their propulsive capabilities.
The whole sequence is inter-cut with what are apparently Beast POV shots (underwater and looking up at the boat). Seems our little beastie is going to take his own sweet time about offing people, however, as he makes no move to attack in any of these shots. Well, you know, his motto is “do you want it done now, or do you want it done right?”.
This sequence ends with the now be-rafted Victim couple looking on with palpable ennui as bubblers are turned on next to a plywood mock up of a sail boat floating in a water tank somewhere on Universal’s back lot. I know its supposed to be a yacht sinking in the middle of the ocean, but that’s not what it looks like, so that’s not how I’m going to describe it. You can’t make me.
An unknown amount of time goes by (it is still night), and we fade to the couple now sleeping peacefully in their raft. Sensing that they’ve let their guard down, the Beast chooses that moment to attack (how long has this thing been just hanging about?). The Beast butts the raft, pitching the bow up about 30 degrees or so. Mrs. V awakens with a start, asking “What was that?”, to which Mr. V questions “What was what?”. Yeah, rather difficult to notice the Something Big which just slammed into your tiny rubber raft hard enough to raise the bow a couple of feet out of the water. A real ‘Princess and the Pea’ situation, hey?
Mrs. V points out the sounds of something scraping against the raft and remarks that she smells ammonia (your clue alarms should be going off like mad about now). Mr. V turns to see if something in their survival pack might have broken open, and hears a ridiculously small (for what’s supposed to have caused it) splashing sound behind him. He spins round again, and finds that Mrs. V is no longer aboard the raft. Calling her name desperately, he jumps into the water trying to locate her. She is no where in sight, but Mr. V does manage to find a water logged Julia Roberts, much to the relief of a nearby, and rather panicked, Patrick Bergen (okay, I made that part up).
Climbing back into the raft Mr. V has just enough time to whimper over his lot once or twice before being jostled out of the raft into the ocean again. The Beast’s ‘catch and release’ philosophy now apparently satisfied, he makes short work of Mr. V, and thus the obligatory opening death sequence comes to a close.
Fade to (presumably) the next day at a small harbor town, which blocky titles helpfully inform us is “Graves’ Point, Washington”. A quick cut and we see our hero, as played by William Peterson (looking a bit too William Katt-ian for my tastes), sitting casually on his front porch railing. He’s sipping a cup of coffee and reading the morning paper, just to show us what an Average Joe he really is. It hasn’t been established yet, but his name is, and I swear I’m not making this up : Whip Dalton. Nope, that’s not a nickname, either, but his true legal name.
As a rugged faced Whip takes in the morning air, a car pulls up to the house, and he calls to his daughter Dana that her ride has arrived. Dana walks out to the car and she and Whip engage in that relaxed, playful father-daughter banter that has never existed anywhere outside of Hollywood, ever. Let’s see, Whip has a great relationship with his daughter, and we didn’t see a mother anywhere. Uh oh, we feels a romance between a widowed all-around Great Guy hero and an as yet to be introduced female lead on the horizon here, we does.
And with the next scene we’re spot on. Cut to a helicopter shot of, well, another helicopter, skimming over the ocean at high speed. As the camera zooms in to the cockpit we hear some expository dialog between the two Coast Guard officers inside. Thankfully, even though both of the forward two doors and one rear cargo door have been completely removed, not even a slight breeze intrudes into the cockpit to interfere with the dialogue. The man, Ensign Raines, asks the woman, Lt. Marcus, why she would want to come to a place where there’s no ‘action’, like Grave’s point. Marcus replies with some tough-as-nails banter to establish that she is both the no-nonsense type, and the inevitable romantic interest for our Whip (taken out of context, that last sentence sounds a bit perverted). Exposition done with, Raines goes back to piloting the chopper toward their destination.
Cut to a medium sized fishing boat crewed by Whip, his assistant Red Shirt, â€¦ and no one else. I’m not a fisherman by trade or hobby, but it seems that a commercial fishing vessel this size should be crewed by, say, six men or more. Anyway, Whip and Red Shirt (he actually is wearing a red outfit) are hauling up their nets and remarking on the pitiful catch therein. As Whip recalls the glory days when fish would practically leap into the boat, Red Shirt offers that they could resort to ‘trap fishing’, to which Whip strenuously objects, as its illegal. Red Shirt protests that they could use the money, but Whip waxes philosophical on the evils of trap fishing, making it clear that he’ll have no truck with it.
This is meant to portray Whip as both an Average Joe anyone can relate to as a buddy, as well as a Righteous Joe anyone can look up to as a hero. Unfortunately it is instead the first in a painfully long series of episodes which will soon make Whip out to be a pompous, judgmental, self-righteous jerk who elects himself to be a combination savior/lecturer to everyone else around him. It also gives us a quick taste of Whip’s illogic, when he preaches about how there would be plenty of fish for them if no one fished with traps. This is rather like walking into a forest with a rifle and complaining that if there weren’t so many dastardly hunters out there killing deer, you might run across something you could blast into oblivion yourself.
As the men work, the chopper flies over their boat, segueing to another shot of Raines and Marcus. Marcus asks Raines “What’s with the acrobatics?” in response to his steady, straight, level flight at about 200 feet over a fishing boat. Raines replies that he’s just saying ‘hi’ to a friend (and providing a reason for involving Whip in their doings in a few minutes).
They reach their destination : the small raft the Victim family met their fate in earlier. To explain how the Coast Guard knew just where to look after Mr. V’s radio transmission had been cut short, the camera cuts to a close up shot of a blinking orange cylinder toped with a large telescoping antenna. Presumably this is some sort of emergency beacon, but the problem here is that it was not shown to have been activated previously, was quite clearly never shown to have been on the raft at all, and would most certainly have been dumped overboard by the impact that sent Mr. V into the drink the final time.
When Markus prepares to dive into the ocean to retrieve the raft Raines warns her of ‘the currents out there’, even though visibility is great and the seas are as calm as a swimming pool (wait, you don’t suppose â€¦ nah, we can see a horizon. But that was close.). After all, this is a Coast Guard rescue mission, sent out to pick up survivors of an accident at sea, so the last thing they’d want to do is go mucking around with the water, or anything they find in it. Since the trained Coast Guard officers operating out of a rescue chopper don’t dare risk a quick dip in La Mer, the only way to retrieve the raft is to call for, you guessed it, Whip to come to their aid.
A jump cut now shows Red Shirt (he still hasn’t been given a name) hauling the raft out of the Big Bad Ocean as the USCG chopper hovers above them. Red Shirt remarks to Whip elatedly that the raft should be worth a couple of thousand dollars, and both men visibly gloat over their booty, apparently forgetting that there were supposed to be two living human beings in that valuable little thing they just snatched up.
Fade back to the harbor where Whip, Red Shirt, and the two Coast Guard officers sit around the stern of Whip’s boat (waggishly named ‘The Privateer’) mulling over what might have happened to the owners of the raft. While inspecting the raft Marcus notices some clear jelly on the inside of it, which she decides to scoop up with her fingers (would anyone do this?). When she winces at the smell, Whip picks some up as well, and questions aloud “Ammonia?” [CLUE CLUE CLUE].
Since they’ve probably now spent about four whole minutes (on and off screen) pondering the fate of the two people that still haven’t been found, Whip asks Lt. Marcus what the “disposition” of the raft is. When she indicates a lack of understanding, Raines tells her that the custom around Graves’ Point is that anything salvaged is retained by the salvager. Marcus begins to apologise as Whip points to an approaching boat, whining “Who invited these guys?”. Marcus replies that her orders were to contact the harbor master, which we assume resulted in the dispatch of the boat Whip seems so unhappy to see. Whip fires at her “You one of those people that always follows orders, Lieutenant?”. Well, considering that she’s in the military, I for one would bloody well hope so! (Yes, I know that the USCG is under control of the Department of Transportation during peacetime â€“ you get my point, regardless).
When the boat pulls up Whip is pleasantly greeted by Jamison, personal assistant to the harbor master. Whip is conspicuously not greeted at all by either of the two Sheriffs with Jamison. Jamison tells Whip that he’s been sent to pick up the raft Whip retrieved, which sparks a volley of made-for-TV invectives between Whip and one of the now verbose Sheriffs . Marcus steps in to diffuse the fracas, identifying herself as the USCG officer that made the report to the harbor master’s office. When Jamison rather politely re-states that he has been sent by the harbor master to requisition the raft, Whip (our hero, mind you) shoots back “Look, tell Schuyler to buy his own raft, he’s got the money!”, as if gross income had anything to do with maritime laws of ownership or salvage.
And how dare the harbor master actually ask his assistant and two Sheriffs to rightfully enforce those laws? The way Whip reacts, its as if Schuyler were invoking jus primae noctis on some poor honeymooning couple, rather than just asking for some salvaged property.
To our honest surprise, Jamison establishes himself as being on Whip’s side of things by saying “Come on, Whip, just give me the raft. Of course â€¦ I don’t know what state it was in when you found it [wink wink], or what kind of damage it sustained in your â€¦ efforts to retrieve it [wink wink]“, which elicits a gleeful smile from Whip. Whip and Mike (hey, Red Shirt finally has a name!) then proceed to “give the harbor master his raft [wink wink]” by tearing it to ribbons with boat hooks, giddy as schoolboys rummaging through the girl’s locker room after school one day.
After completely ruining a raft that was supposed to be worth a few thousand dollars, Whip and gang toss the remains onto the bow of the Sheriff’s boat. To make sure we know who’s Good and who’s Bad, the movie sets up this quick exchange : as the Sheriff’s boat pulls away, Whip mutters “What a jerk.” Raines protests mildly “He’s not so bad”, to which Whip answers “Not Jamison. Graves.” Everyone clear, here? Whip closes the scene by saying to Marcus (an officer in the Coast Guard) “Next time you need a gopher, lady, call someone else.”.
This is another example of just how much of a doofus Whip is. When the Coast Guard asks him to help with a rescue mission, he’s all a-twitter over the raft they find, but expends little if any thought on the two people that should have been in it. He later shows ire that a USCG officer would actually have the gall to follow her orders when it meant that he might have to give up his found treasure to the rightful, legal authorities. He thinks that the fact that the harbor master is well off financially should completely negate any pesky maritime codes, thus allowing him to retain some salvage under a kind of ‘finders keepers’ arrangement. And when its clear that he must relinquish the raft to proper, legal authorities, he needlessly destroys a valuable bit of property in a petty fit of immaturity that positively reeks of a ‘then no man shall’ philosophy.
Best of all, in destroying the raft, he’s also destroyed any physical evidence which might have helped the town’s version of Quincy figure out what happened to the two missing people who’s abruptly terminated distress call prompted the whole operation in the first place. Our hero, ladies and gentlemen.
Raines and Marcus walk off, and some dialogue between them establishes for us that Schuyler Graves (who picked out the names for this thing?) is completely Evil, as he’s committed the unpardonable sin of being a good businessman and actually owns property. What’s next? Eating tuna? Not recycling a pizza box? Voting Republican? When will his reign of terror end!?
Back on the Privateer, Whip tells Mike that they’re done for the day, and that he can go home to his wife (oh, you’re dead Mike). Whip then asks how she’s doing, which Mike answers by saying “Out to here”, and putting his hand in front of his stomach in the universal symbol for ‘pregnant’ (oh, you are sooo dead). Whip also makes sure that Mike is okay money-wise, as, even though things are lean at the moment, all Mike has to do is ask. Awww, what a guy. P’raps if Whip would have politely asked Graves for a share of the raft’s salvage on behalf of Mike and his pregnant wife, rather than hacking it to shreds with a boat hook in front of six witnesses, he might have had a little something for his needy employee.
Whip finishes cleaning up the boat, and comes across a curved claw or talon about the size of his fist. He picks it up, and winces as it cuts him, just so we realise that its sharp and all. He ponders it for a moment or two and then abruptly swings his gaze out to sea as the camera zooms in for a close up and the music swells to a crescendo, just so we realise that this is dramatic and all.
If you’re wondering why Whip felt the need to look out to the ocean, or what the close up and music meant, remember that this was made for TV. It was all to let us know that we’re about to go to commercial and get sold on how much easier it is to simply dial 12-12-5150-2 then the phone number as usual in order to save $0.17 on your monthly hour long call to your cousin in Kingston, Jamaica, instead of just hitting [speeddial]-6 like usual.
After the commerc-, uh, I mean after the scene fades out, we open on a bar. A quick panning shot of stock Random Bar Patrons and the camera settles in on Whip as he displays the claw to the bartender who’s played by an actor that looks as close to that bald guy from The Hills Have Eyes as possible without actually being him. Luckily for the plot, the bartender’s cousin works as a scientist at the Portland zoo, and Whip is given his card. Hey, that was easy, now wasn’t it? Good thing our hero didn’t have to expend as much effort in finding an expert as, say, ripping up an inflatable raft, hey?
This is followed by an extremely brief scene of the infamous Schuyler Graves disembarking from a ferryboat. His Evil image is reinforced here by showing him wearing a polo shirt, smoking a cigar, and carrying golf clubs. [cue Adam West as Batman] “You â€¦ diabolical â€¦ fiend!”. Graves is played by Charles Martin Smith of Never Cry Wolf and Starman fame. I’m not trying to disparage Smith’s abilities as an actor in any way, but I’m sure that more than a little bit of the decision to cast him stemmed from his small stature and frankly un-macho appearance. This is not a critique of Smith, but rather an indictment of the film for structuring things in such an overly simplistic way. The hero is a virtuous, ruddy working man, and his foil is an un-masculine capitalistic real estate baron who (we learn) cheats at golf. These archtypical characterisations are about as subtle as those ‘Every Gun Kills A Jap’ propaganda films from WWII.
Cut now to Whip and Mike out at sea, and another demonstration of Whip’s fine heroic character. They come across fellow fisherman and grimy little odd-boy Lucas Coven (Larry Drake), and cheerfully decide to accost him for reasons not yet established.
Side note: I have a theory which states that Larry Drake has a clause in his contract stipulating he play an abnormal person of some sort in any film he’s in (Darkman, Dr. Giggles, etc.). Similar to Barbara Striesand, who’s managed to consistently play characters that everyone else in her films is inexplicably attracted to.
As they close on Lucas’ boat we see that the movie’s simplicity has not let up : the boat is a disgusting mess and Lucas himself is disheveled to the point of using a length of rope in lieu of a belt. Whip pulls the boat to a stop a few feet away from Lucas’ vessel, and we see Lucas fumbling to hide the small black buoy he was working with. This is, apparently, the type of buoy used in â€¦ trap fishing [GASP!].
The blocking for this sequence just has to be seen. Whip is high atop his boat at the helm, and Mike walks out to the bow, putting him below Whip, but still above the filthy Lucas, and the two Good Guys proceed to question him. Do we all get the symbolism, here?
Self-appointed policeman that he is, Whip grills Lucas about his activities, as if its any of Whip’s damn business. When Whip doesn’t believe Lucas’ assertion that he’s not trap fishing, Whip yells out “You know something, Lucas? You don’t lie very well.”, and throttles his boat forward, as if he’s about to ram Lucas’ much smaller vessel. Lucas dashes to the helm and pulls away, leaving Whip and Mike to laugh heartily at the silly little dirty man they just intimidated into fleeing.
Doesn’t this just fill you with Whip’s warmth and goodness?
Now that Lucas has evacuated the area, Whip and Mike start checking it out, probably in hopes of finding a stray watch that might have fallen off the wrist of a nun as she was being eaten alive by the Beast (those are worth almost 20 bucks, you know). What they find instead is a few of the illegal and much abhorred ‘fish traps’. As they haul the first one up, Whip remarks “No traps my ass. Let’s see how many fish the bastard killed!”. Oh, you mean as opposed to THE ONES YOU HAUL UP IN YOUR NETS? Sheesh, what a hypocrite. I mean it’d be one thing to decry Lucas for using illegal fishing methods that might give him an unfair advantage, but to criticize him for the simple act of killing fish when Whip is a fisherman himself makes no sense.
Hauling up the traps, Whip and Mike find that the woven steel cords mooring them have been cut cleanly in two in most cases, and the traps themselves have been demolished. The only thing left of them, in fact, seems to be a few rusted lengths of metal, some chicken wire, and two fake fish stolen off the wall of a Red Lobster. As the two fishermen ask each other what might be able to wreak such havoc we fade to a Beast POV shot, rather lazily cruising the ocean floor, as if in ominous answer to their query. Wow. Art. Hmm. [yawn]
Later that night we open on a scene of unmitigated dread and horror : Marcus pulls her jeep up to Plaza del Whip for what we just know will end up being the foundation scene for their inevitable romance. Her knock on the door is answered by perky little Dana, who calls for her father after inviting Marcus in. All joking metaphors aside for a moment, from the second Whip enters the room Marcus acts like a little schoolgirl in love. She smiles and laughs frequently, shifts around on her heels, and wiggles her shoulders and neck slowly, just like a fifteen year old girl working up the nerve to ask the quarterback out to the Sadie Hawkins Dance next Friday.
Her visit is ostensibly to get his signature on her report of the salvage operation earlier that day (why would a civilian need to sign off on a USCG report?), but she also remarks that she’s very much into diving. The word in town is that Whip is the man to see when it comes to diving (and just about anything else, save for humility and courtesy, as we shall see), so she [giggle] wants his help exploring the local wrecks. Whip asks, with more than a little insinuation, how experienced she is, to which she replies (with some understandable indignity) that she’s a Coast Guard diver and can handle just about anything. Whip crosses his arms, raises his Smug Emitters to about seven, and says “Well, I don’t know. Currents around Grave’s Point are pretty strong.” with no traces of either playfulness or bantering to be detected at all.
Being the tough-as-nails type, Marcus answers back that “Well, you should just know that I could match you dive for dive any day of the week.”, making me wonder just how it is one ‘out dives’ someone else. As she walks past him Whip asks without facing her if Saturday would work out, and Marcus spins around to face him, all aglow and beaming to where I fully expected her to say “You like me! You really really like me!”.
Now I happen to have known one woman who had been in the Army, one in the Marine Corps, and two in the Navy, and I think that Marcus’ deportment in this segment falls quite appallingly short of what they would call ‘maintaining a military bearing’, even for the Coast Guard. She doesn’t have to stand at parade rest, or anything like that, but to giggle and twirl around like a Norman Rockwell painting made flesh doesn’t seem reasonable behavior for someone with such a regimented vocation.
Now that Saturday has been inked for our two newly fledged love birds, we can end this little root canal of a scene, and fade to Lucas’ boat. Mothers, take your children out of the room, as Lucas is shown not only pitching traps into the sea (now, didn’t Whip teach him any better than this?), but taking copious swigs from a bottle concealed in a little brown bag as well. Oh, the humanity!
Side note : does anyone even know anyone who drinks their liquor from bottles inside brown bags, or does this only happen in movies?
A jarring and unexpected cut to Whip’s ringing phone. The caller ends up being the bartender’s cousin, and he tells Whip that they’re sending the claw on to some world famous marine biologist for study, as they’ve ruled out land animals as the source. It doesn’t exactly strike me as realistic that a biologist (or whatever he is) would call up Joe Random Fisherman to keep him informed on the latest movements of the specimen he sent in, or to get his permission to do this or that with it. Not sure we can even chalk this up to plot advancement, as the movie could easily have had the marine biologist backfill us by saying “yes, doctor so-and-so sent this to me when he couldn’t make anything of it”.
A few seconds later and we’re back at Lucas’ boat. The still-swigging Lucas is merrily tooling away from the place where he planted his traps when he suddenly sees a large shape looming up from the deep just off his starboard bow. He steers over hard to port, and an underwater shot shows a vague pinkish shape bump the bottom of the boat. Lucas looks behind him and sees the shape again, this time falling off astern.
The first time I saw this sequence I was absolutely certain that it was setting up the old ‘drunk has an encounter with the unknown and no one believes him’ routine, but this is not developed at all. Since my copy of the film was the edited down version released ostensibly as an actual movie, I’d lay even money that a scene or two along those lines lies somewhere in the TV footage removed to make it fit onto one tape. It just occurred to me : seeing some of the scenes that were left in, can you imagine what they cut?
One thing they didn’t cut was the utterly laughable optical effect of the Beast as seen by Lucas. The visual they were going for was that of a large shape becoming visible as it rises from the depths to hover just below the surface. What we see in The Beast looks more like a giant pink squid suddenly de-cloaking five feet below the water, photon torpedoes ready to fire. Even when its at a static depth and constant visibility, the visual is not in any way convincing. It simply looks like what it actually is : an effect shot, far too ‘neat’ to be anything real, and lacking the visual distortions you’d expect from viewing something that’s under the surface of the sea. Anyone wanting to see a truly well done version of this visual is quite strongly encouraged to check out the 1970 Toho film War of the Gargantuas, my hands-down favourite giant monster movie.
Anyway, back in our film, Dana is listening as her friend Hadley outlines her plan to essentially prostitute herself out to the first land developer that can provide her with a comfortable lifestyle, as the two late-teens take lunch by the pier. As the discussion moves on to matters of “boys” (their term), wanton strumpet Hadley spots two scuba divers getting off the ferry (please note my spelling here) and she begins to flirt with them (oh goody, you guys are dead, too!). When they turn to face Hadley we see that one looks like Keanu Reeves with Billy Idol’s hairdo from the 80′s, and the other looks like Quasimodo sans hump. Yep, that’d get my loins all fired up if I were a chick, fer sure.
Cut to what I think is my favourite scene in the entire film. There’s a quick tracking exterior shot of the town’s bustling financial district (which looks suspiciously like Spilikin Corners), and a fade to the inside of Schuyler Graves’ office [cue the 'Imperial March' music here]. Whip is standing in front of the desk, and Graves is seated in his nice big cushy chair (that monster!). Drink in this dialogue, won’t you (edited for length) :
Whip : “I want to take a look at that â€¦ inflatable”
Graves : “Oh yeah â€¦, I remember that now. We scuttled it.”
Whip : “You scuttled it !?!”
Graves : “â€¦ Yeah, it was damaged beyond repair. Which surprised me, actually. You’re usually a little bit more subtle than that.”
Whip : “God, you’re an unbelievable jerk!”
Now, let’s break this down. Whip came in wanting to check out the raft that he ripped to shreds earlier, reacted with genuine surprise when told it had been disposed of, and winds up calling Graves an unbelievable jerk when Graves states that they disposed of it because Whip himself ruined the bloody thing. Who’s the hero, again?
And yes, it does get worse, oh my Brothers. Whip preaches about how evil Graves is for owning so much of the town, to which Graves retorts with the statement that his plans have been and are continuing to “transform a dying community into a thriving one.” Whip, of course, openly laughs at and mocks this statement, as well as Graves himself. He doesn’t rebut Graves’ position with anecdotal evidence, environmental impact statements, or any other factual presentments of any kind. Rather he begins to play with various things on Graves’ desk and make snide references to Graves’ Harvard education and the prestigious company he keeps. That’s right : be ashamed of erudition and accomplishment. Hang your head in dishonor if you’ve created jobs or if you actually have a bank account.
Graves deftly counters “What, I’m supposed to feel guilty because I didn’t drop out of school and go broke like you did?”. This is the first time ever in my life that I felt the urge to shout “You go, girl!”. But hold your applause, as the film clearly maintains that yes, Graves should feel guilty for his achievements. Whip reminds Graves of how he used to keep the kids from picking on him when they were school mates (don’t think I’ve ever seen that used in a film before, boy howdy. Where’s the evil twin brother, we wonders?) . Whip ends the scene by lowering himself down to Graves eye level (SYMBOLISM ALERT!) and whispering “You’re still the same old little creep that you always were, and it makes me sick what you’re doing to our island.”. If that scene sounded oddly familiar, then think : George Bailey, Mr. Potter, and a good deal more believability.
Once again, let’s take a moment to consider this. I’m not giving anything away by saying that the film does not depict any more of Graves’ impact on the community in addition to what they’ve shown so far (which is close to nil). Graves simply is not the usual greedy land baron who carries on development with blatant disregard to its effect on the local economy/history/ancient Indian burial ground, etc. that we’re used to seeing. If the film wants us to view him as a greedy robber baron, how about DEPICTING HIM THAT WAY?
As it stands, all indicators point to Whip being an embittered, lonely man who’s insanely jealous of an old grade school friend that ended up making something of himself. I can not by any stretch of the imagination begin to see Graves as some evil foe to be toppled righteously by our hero Whip (or by anyone else, for that matter) within the context the film is providing. The only way I could begin to take the dynamic seriously is if it were presented as some kind of rabid Communist propaganda film, and Graves’ crime is simply that of being bougeroise, thus a de facto oppressor of the proletariat. Other than that, Whip is cordially invited to smooch my back porch if he thinks he’s a hero.
Convinced Whip is a sanctimonious doofus yet? Good, ’cause here’s another scene to make sure that opinion takes root.
Whip arrives back at his humble (disgustingly huge, two story, right on the beach) abode to find Dana and her slutty friend, as well as the two scuba divers newly arrived to the island. Dana introduces the divers as Chowder and Spike [snicker] to her father, and they say that they’ve come to Grave’s Point to dive off some of the local shipwrecks.
May I please take a second to remark that, out of five characters in this scene, we have a Whip, a Spike, a Chowder, and a girl with the first name of Hadley? Thank you, just had to say that.
At this Whip plants his feet apart and crosses his arms doing his best to imitate an old Steve Reeves as Hercules pose (need I mention it utterly fails to work?) and sets his Smug Emitters to about five. As with Lt. Marcus the night before Whip pronounces sagely that the currents out there should not be braved by any save the mightiest of divers, lest ye perish. Even though the divers answer that they’re “advanced open water” qualified (I assume this actually means something), and even though they offer to pay him a thousand dollars just to transport them to the site for the day, Wise Man Whip merely wishes them luck, and walks away. Dana protests to her father that they need the money (which they do), but he reprimands her, saying it is not in him to take “blood money”, as “those kids are in way over their heads”. He could tell this just from talking to them for eight or nine seconds? This guy is good. Or just a doofus, which ever
Another noteworthy point : given their behaviour, it should be obvious to Whip (as its obvious to the audience) that the divers are simply going to turn to another captain to take them out. Given that Whip has been described as “the local dive god”, this means he’s consigning Spike and Chowder
Cut to a new group of soon-to-be squid fodder, the ocean going research vessel of Dr. Talley (he whom the claw was sent to). Talley’s young assistant Christopher enters what we presume is Talley’s lab, holding said claw and wearing an excited grin. We can tell that Talley is a scientist, as he’s first shown looking into a microscope, he speaks with an accent, and his lab is filled with jars and tubes and stuff (you just know he’s got a Tesla coil stashed somewhere in there, too). Chris shows him the claw, which is wrapped up in a real scientificy-looking Ziploc baggie, and Talley instantly identifies it as belonging to the species Architeuthis Dux. Hey, he’s no slouch himself! Silly me, I always thought taxonomy involved actual work and referencing huge books and running tests and stuff.
Back atCasa de Whip, our hero is returning home from a carefree romp on the beach with his bikini-clad daughter (this is just a little bit creepy, by the way). They arrive just in time to answer the ringing phone, which turns out to be a call from Dr. Talley. Talley informs Whip that he and his staff are headed to Grave’s Point to study Whip’s “extraordinary discovery”. He’s also sent Whip a package containing a videotape Talley has made on squid, as well as the claw. At first I objected to the fact that he sent this remarkable artifact back to some unwashed rural bumpkin, but then I realised that Talley had probably gleaned all there was to know about the claw in the few seconds he handled it, so what possible use could it serve, you know? I still would like to know, however, why members of the scientific community feel such a need to clear their activities with Whip.
Cut now to a shot on the surf as Mike (the dead guy) and his very pregnant wife discuss which flavour of ice cream her cravings are demanding. As they carry on about what sex the baby will be (Mike, did I mention you were dead yet?), Mrs. Mike notices some debris further down the beach. Nearing it, Mike remarks that it looks like a whale. Odd statement that, as to everyone else it looks quite a bit more like two lids from those cheap Styrofoam ice chests sitting next to a folded beach umbrella embedded with prickers along its length. Proving that she isn’t exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer either, Mrs. Mike adds “Looks like somebody took a chainsaw to it”.
I hate to quibble (well, actually I rather enjoy it), but what we see on screen looks to be the work of a chainsaw upon a whale in the same way that Volcano looks to be an instructional video for geologists preparing a PhD thesis. Chainsaws are usually known to messily tear things apart, not simply un-create roughly 97% of the target’s flesh, sending an even larger percentage of the blood off to that mysterious netherworld Sai Baba claims to draw his materializations from.
Cut to Whip’s, where Mike slams down a four inch thick slab of the back seat of an old car onto a kitchen table as both men pronounce that it’s a whale. I’m doing my best to ignore the fact that the piece of whale meat [cough] they’re inspecting is rather a good deal larger than any of the few pieces Mr. and Mrs. Mike found on the beach. To distract me from my musings in this vein, Whip comments that it’s from a baby whale as it doesn’t have its “full ration of fat” yet. So, just how often has Whip hacked up whales of varying ages to develop this background knowledge?
Whip then shows Mike the squid video Talley sent him, and puts forth his theory that a squid killed the whale. Mike scoffs, and Whip persists, and they repeat this a few times. Of course, the only reason to have Mike doubt Whip’s seriousness so much is to provide Whip with an excuse to explain to him (and thus the audience) the characteristics of the giant squid, and to estimate how big the one in question might be. Its like, you know, ominous, and all that? Hmm.
Now we go out to sea where divers Chowder and Spike [snicker] are onboard filthy little Lucas’ boat, being ferried out to the one wreck Whip refused to take them to. If anyone believes there’s even the slightest chance that these two will still be standing (under their own power) at the end of the film, let me know, as I’ve a bridge I’d very much like to sell you.
As Spike and Chowder [snicker] go through some ‘guy-diver’ ritual thing before descending, the dialogue they speak makes me think that these are two for-real divers that were cast just for this scene, and everyone simply assumed they would be able to speak their half-dozen or so lines at least somewhat convincingly. They were, of course, quite sadly mistaken.
The two head down to the wreck, and we cut briefly back up to Lucas swigging away on his booze and leering over the centerfold of a nudie magazine. For those interested, it looks like a Playboy, but the last letter or two are blocked by a cleverly folded corner of the front page, and by the top of the frame (I think to avoid any trademark / royalty hassles). Here’s more reason to despise Lucas, as what wholesome, good natured man could possibly react with anything other than revulsion at the sight of a beautiful nude woman? Hmm.
Needless to say, the two divers do get et up by the Beast, and the film presents us with its first bit of factually incorrect squid lore. When attacking the divers, the squid shoots out a large volume of purplish ink to keep the divers from seeing more than a few of its tentacles as it moves in for the kill. The problem is that the ink jet is solely a defensive move. As a predator moves in on the squid, the squid ejects a small stationary cloud of ink to distract the attacker, then jets away in another direction, leaving the predator with nothing but a mouthful of bad tasting chemicals. Of course, it ‘looks cooler’ to have the monster partially obscured as it attacks, so let’s not worry about reality, hey?
There’s an ‘Independence Day / The Crawling Eye rip-off’ joke of some kind to be made here, but I can’t quite figure it out. I’ll keep you posted.
As in all Giant Killer Something movies, the monster has a ridiculous (and anatomically questionable) battle cry. For no valid biological reason, the squid makes an audible screeching sound like the distorted cry of an eagle as it strikes. I’m not sure why Hollywood thinks that everything from tarantulas to snakes to sharks would make such audible screeching and roaring when they grow Big, but I really wish they’d get over it.
Some of you might be thinking “Hey, sounds like the divers handled those currents Whip was so paranoid about just fine, and probably would have had a swell time, had it not been for the nasty inconvenience of involuntarily exploring the digestive tract of a mollusk. Sounds like ‘constant as the Northern Star’ Whip was wrong here.”. Know what? You’re right.
Seeing a cloud of blood (well, Tempra paint) welling up near the dive buoy, Lucas drops his magazine and throttles his boat back to harbor to get help. Why he doesn’t just radio is anyone’s guess.
Cut to the USCG chopper skimming over the treetops and out to sea, we assume in answer to Lucas’ (eventual) distress call. Since Whip is the hero, the chopper’s flight path must necessarily cross right over his boat, so that Whip can get hisself involved. Whip calls in to them on the radio (as Mike puts the whale meat [cough] into a cooler) asking what their hurry is. To my complete surprise, Raines doesn’t respond with any variant of “You’re not the boss of me”, but rather tells the two civilians in detail what’s going on. Whip asks for their heading, which Raines dutifully gives out, since Whip is a fisherman and all.
Jump cut to the sight of the attack. The chopper is now hovering overhead as a few divers (including Marcus) from a small USCG boat check things out. They pull up some ‘chewed up’ wetsuit bits, an air tank, and a flipper or two, and Marcus calls out that she thinks that’s all there is.
Several questions arise here. Why would the air tank float up? The flippers I’ll give you, but a compressed air tank? If it didn’t float up, then the USCG divers must have gone down, in those treacherous currents everyone speaks with hushed fear about, to pick it up off the bottom. If so, why does the chopper tell them to keep looking, even after they say they’ve found it all, thus re-endangering their lives for the sake of two rather obviously dead divers? And finally, why is there no sign of blood or ragged flesh on the recovered fragments. If we are to believe that the Beast mangled the divers up, then its quite logical to assume that some flesh and blood would get crushed into or at least smeared onto what the victims were wearing.
This is precisely the way the ‘chewed up’ clothing was handled in War of the Gargantuas (to repeat the reference). The Gargantua was fond of eating people, but would spit out their clothing when he was done (as we discard sunflower seed shells or watermelon seeds). The clothes would be ragged and cut up, but there would be zero traces of blood, or monster saliva for that matter. Thing is, this is no big deal in Gargantuas, as, well, it’s a Toho film and all (that is, its enjoyable to watch). In The Beast, its just plain lame.
All these questions and observations must be put on hold, however, as Whip arrives on the scene bellowing at the assembled USCG team “Get out of the water, he might still be down there! Get out of the water !!”.
Of course, Marcus should reply something like “You’re not the boss of me”, but instead she franticly orders everyone to comply with their flannel-shirted savior’s obnoxious command. What are the odds that the Coast Guard boat on scene might ‘accidentally’ fire off a Mk 48 torpedo or two at the Privateer, consigning her and her loud mouthed captain to the briny deep? C’mon, guys; I won’t tell if you don’t?
Back on land, Dana and Hadley pull up to Dana’s house, and see that the USCG chopper has landed on the section of beach comprising their front yard, and that Whip, Mike, Marcus, and Raines are inspecting something laid out on a small blanket. Is a civilian’s front yard an entirely appropriate location to examine bits of dead bodies? Wouldn’t the CG have facilities of their own for this?
So the four principals are discussing the ammonia smell permeating the bits, and Whip remarks that ammonia is the giant squid’s “calling card” according to Dr. Talley. When Marcus asks Whip “About this theory of yours-”, Whip interjects with “It’s not a theory”. Well, you’re right on this one, Whip. With no real evidence at the moment, its more speculation than theory, my blowhard friend.
The two girls approach and Dana asks what is going on. Snap zoom on Whip as he says that a couple of divers were killed. Snap zoom on Dana as she puts her arm around Hadley and asks what happened in a voice that I think was at least meant to be trembling with dread and sorrow. Man, can’t you just feel the emotion here? Yeah, neither can I.
Without waiting for Whip’s reply to Dana, we cut to that night at a town meeting in a building somewhere. Given the size of the town, a ridiculously large mob of reporters (over a dozen) is trying to gain entrance, but is held back by the police officers stationed outside. The oddly grinning Mike (why is he so happy here?), being a friend of Whip’s, is instantly ushered in past the uniformed bulwark, which then closes ranks again to prevent entrance by any lowly reporter to a rather important meeting that the rest of the town (and then some) would want to know about.
Mike walks in on a packed house as Whip is in the middle of relating all those scientificy things about giant squid that really should be told to us by the film’s designated scientist. Time to go into nit-pick mode again:
Whip states that the largest whole carcass ever found was 45 feet long. Wrong â€“ the largest one measured 60 feet, and was found back in 1878, so the film should have known about it.
Whip states that no one knows at all how big the squid get. Wrong â€“ fragments of squid found in the bellies of whales extrapolate out to specimens of 100 feet or more in length. If some eyewitness accounts are to be believed, at least one squid almost 175 feet long has been encountered. This is not a scientific certainty by any means, but its quite a bit more than not knowing anything at all.
Whip states that the sperm whale is the squid’s only enemy. Wrong â€“ other whales and possibly sharks have been known to eat squid, the only proviso being how large the particular specimen is. Hyenas will eat baby lions, but won’t go near an adult one singly, for example.
To Peter Benchely and J.B. White (writers) : do some research, guys! I found the above out in like three minutes from an encyclopedia, and I’m not even being paid to do it. Look, I’m prepared to deal with a certain degree of factual deviation in a film, especially a horror film. Just don’t make a point of stating ‘facts’ which are obviously bogus, or easily discovered as such. Don’t wave it in my face, and I won’t get all pedantic on you (see my whining about decompression in my Sphere review).
So Whip continues to tell the assembled town representatives (including Hadley and Mike, serving who knows what functions) that the squid was most likely driven to Grave’s Point when its local food supply ran out, and how their own diminished stocks of fish bear this theory out. Hey, I thought the lack of fish was because of dirty, perverted Lucas’ trap fishing? When someone asks Captain Knowitall what they should do, Whip lays out his master plan to foil the Beast. His plan â€¦ are you ready for it â€¦. [drum roll] uh, wait for it to go away.
That’s right, ladies and gentlemen of the audience, the hero feels that the wisest course of action is to simply do nothing at all and hope the Big Killer Something infesting their waters gets bored with the local scenery, and heads on out at some point. If the Beast is anything like me, he most certainly will get bored and move on. Rather quickly, I might add. Whip also states that he doesn’t think a giant squid can even be killed (???).
When Lucas offers that he could kill it, Whip asks how could he possible manage to do that (you know, apart from the normal harpoons and guns and explosives and poisons and Richard Harris and all). Lucas suggests that he will make homemade depth charges and “blow it into cat food”. Whip reacts rather extremely at this. Bobbing his head up and down in utter contempt at one who would actually do something about their problem, Whip fires back “Great! And kill what’s left of the fish in the process ?!”. Uh, what? So, because of the need to protect the fishing industry, rather than tossing some dynamite overboard which might take out some fish within a few dozen yards or more of the squid when it gets blown up, we should all just sit back and wait for the squid to eat all of the remaining fish before it moves on?
You are such a doofus, Whip.
Lucas answers back angrily, mocking Whip’s suggestion they sit around and hope the Beast decides to go away. While he does have rather a valid point, Lucas has obviously never seen Dante’s Peak, or he would have known that openly disagreeing with the hero (especially mocking him) will get you a seat on Charon’s Ferry quicker than having sex in an abandoned summer camp.
Not content to leave Lucas the Transgressor to his Fate, Whip now launches into a speech. Walking toward Lucas slowly, gesticulating for emphasis, Whip preaches : “Okay, you go out and try and kill it. But just so you understand exactly what it is you’re dealing with [beat], besides its eight huge tenacals (sic) this thing has two whips. Each one is probably as long as this room and about three or four feet thick. Those whips are covered with suction cups the size of this notebook. In the center of each cup [beat] is a claw as big as my fist and razor sharp. The squid grabs and impales its prey with those whips and drags it toward its beak, shredding the flesh as it goes. And these things can shred a hunderd (sic) pound tuna in five seconds. Its beak [beat] is like an eagle’s, and it can bite through steel.”.
Viewers will usually find themselves adding “It can’t be bargained with, can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear, and it absolutely will not stop â€“ ever â€“ until you are dead!” out loud, without even realising they were doing so. Needless to say, the camera does a dramatic [cough] zoom in as Whip speaks.
He continues on a bit, one of his more interesting points being that they have no right to consider this squid a monster, and no right to kill it, as its only doing what comes natural to it. I can see that the movie was trying to curry favour with animal rights people with this, but let’s just see how enlightened our little Whipster is when a giant squid starts taking a bite out of him. I’m as opposed to buffoons who kill sharks (or anything else, for that matter) just for the sake of killing as the next person, but I think there is a case to be made here for ‘self defense’.
As a frustrated Whip leans against the wall, Marcus gives him a supportive smile from her place in the audience (awww), and Graves announces that they’re going to keep the water off limits until they decide how to resolve this crisis. Hey, for once they are actually going to close the beaches! (note: not a rip-off remark, so my promise still holds).
Cut to Mike’s, where he and the Mrs. have an extremely soap-operatic discussion about what they’re going to do, now that the waters are verboten, and tourism is down, and they owe so much money, and the credit card companies have canceled their cards and all (which is better than demanding a payment, one would think). This scene, more than probably any other in the film, makes you painfully aware that, not only are you watching a movie, you’re watching a made-for-TV movie. Everything : the awkward cut from the last scene, the blocking of Mike’s movements, the overdone delivery, and the totally unnecessary plot cul-de-sac itself just begs for a voice over by MacDonald Carrey saying “Brought to you by Proctor and Gamble”.
Back at the meeting hall, everyone has left but Lucas and Graves (so much evil in one place, think of what could happen!). Graves hires on Lucas to whack the squid (surprise surprise), and both men reinforce their primary character traits : Graves by pocketing a quarter left on one of the chairs (’cause he’s greedy, GET IT?), and Lucas by picking his nose when Graves holds out his hand to shake (’cause he’s dirty, GET IT?). Three guesses at how well this little partnership is going to come off, and the first two that aren’t “like ‘Jewel’ performing at a ‘Tool’ concert” don’t count.
Cut now to the Triton (Dr. Talley’s boat) pulling in (finally) to Grave’s Point, as Talley and Chris disembark.
But our story is elsewhere it seems, as a few seconds later we cut to Dana’s room where she’s trying on a dress for some upcoming shindig. Dana bemoans that its ‘too much’, whereas loose-moraled Hadley insists that its great. Actually, it looks to be a bit tight, but its not all that revealing or daring, when you get right down to it. Dana wonders if they should even go to the party, what with the recent horrible deaths of Spike and Chowder [snicker] (sorry, I just can’t take the death of someone named ‘Chowder’ seriously). Hadley brushes all such concerns aside with a grin, saying as she giggles “Dana, I have to get on with my life. You know, when you get right down to it, there are no yesterdays.”.
I’m genuinely torn here. On one hand, it seems a bit strange to be overly morose over the death of someone you knew for a few hours. Sure, the unnatural death of any human being is a tragedy, but I don’t know that I would be as heartbroken to hear that the bank teller I had been flirting with had been killed, as if, say, I were told that my uncle had been killed. So Dana’s depression seems a bit much given how little she knew the two guys.
On the other hand, Hadley’s giggly little pronouncement that tomorrow is another day strikes me as more than a little callous (or do I mean ‘vacuous’?). You don’t need to be in the depths of despair over it, but perhaps you could contain your toothy grin ever so slightly when speaking about the two mangled young men?
Oh, Aristotle, where are you when we truly need you? I mean, other than ‘dead’, of course.
Before Dana has a chance to respond to her friend, the doorbell rings. Here comes a quick little scene that, if you decide to watch this film, do not have any food or drink in your mouth at this point. Dana opens the front door to reveal Dr. Talley’s back (you know, hit the bell and turn around), and a slightly smiling Chris. A second after Dana opens the door, and after Chris’ eyes adjust to Dana, Chris’ jaw quite literally drops open. Cut to Dana, who’s not doing much of anything, then cut to a close up of Talley and Chris, as the camera snap zooms on Chris who is still openly staring at Dana, eyes glazed over, mouth agape. Then a close up on Dana who’s beginning to glow on her own, and a cut back to Chris who’s now morphing into a goofy semi-slack jawed smile. Talley is talking part of the time, but the camera is focused intently on the two agape youngsters.
If you haven’t seen the film yourself, its hard to describe how utterly moronic that last bit comes off. The camera work alone is enough to set you laughing, but when you add in the paragon of hormone-induced idiocy that is Chris, its more than you can cope with. Try and imagine a scene meant to establish that hideously unrealistic clichÃ© ‘love at first sight’ between two people, as done by a completely talent-free hack who lacks any sense of reality or subtlety. Come to think of it, that’s just what this segment is, in fact. All that’s needed to round things out is “Close to You”, or “Dream Weaver” playing on the soundtrack.
Dana somehow pulls herself away from her soon-to-be lover, and gets Whip (again, sounds kind of perverted out of context). Whip comments on the skimpiness of his daughter’s dress, to which she saucily replies “Then I’ll just have to find somebody to keep me warm, won’t I?”.
Now â€¦, I don’t know if it’s the quick-but-creepy bit with Whip and a bikini-clad Dana at the beach earlier, or just the idea that a teenaged girl would merrily make insinuations to her father that she might be having sex that night with any old someone, but I do know that something is just plain WRONG here.
As I was tossing my Penalty Flag at the TV for this bit, it occurred to me that Whip didn’t really say or do anything after Dana’s remark. Sure, he can intimidate drunken perverted trap fishermen all right, and he can boss around the Coast Guard no problem, but to actually respond to his teen daughter’s bawdy remarks about finding someone to keep her warm, well I guess that’s too much to ask for a father.
The scene eventually ends with Whip, Dana, and Hadley heading off to the ‘Founder’s Day’ party, accompanied (at Chris’ suggestion, or course) by Talley and Chris. The giggling and whispering between Dana and Hadley as they check out Chris indicate that they think he’s a ‘hot guy’, which of course marks Chris for death.
After a quick look at Lucas loading his boat up to go whack an Architeuthis, cut to Whip’s boat as he and Mike prepare to unveil the whale meat [cough] to Talley, Chris, and Lt. Tonight’s Guest Star (er, Henderson) of the USCG. I get the feeling that trip off to the party mentioned above was the last part of that night’s installment, and this bit opens the next, as everyone is dressed differently than previous and there is no mention made of when and why they left the ‘Founder’s Day’ party, though it appears to be the same time of day still. If all this sounds muddled, its because it is.
Set up for some hilarity : in preparing to open the lid of the cooler containing the whale meat
Unfortunately, the real (and quite unintended) laugh for this bit comes just a second later. Talley reaches in and scoops up some of the red glop (presumably blood), and sniffs it. He smiles and pronounces “Definitely Architeuthis”. So he could identify the genus (I’m giving him partial credit as he didn’t add ‘Dux’ to indicate species) based on one momentary whiff of the congealed few-days-old blood of one of the subjects victims? Who’d a thought biology was so simple? You know, if Talley had been around, there’s no way that whole ‘Piltdown Man’ thing would have even gotten off the ground (Doug says, making a reference only one or two anthropology students out there might get). It doesn’t help us hold in our laughter that we can see Henderson in the background, doubled over the railing and obviously ‘saying hello to his friend Ralph’, as it were.
Since one good laugh deserves another, Talley is relating the rich tapestry that is the life of Architeuthis for Mike, Chris, and Whip, when a casually dressed, bright-faced Dana pops out to the dock (must be the next day after all, it seems). When Dana offers to make the men some sandwiches (she is woman, hear her cook!) an all-too eager Chris leaps around Whip and rushes to her side, crying “Let me help” in a voice that is about three days away from singing “Time to Change” a la Peter Brady. Will you two just have it off so the Beast can get on with killing Chris, please?
And we cut out to sea for some more fun, this time with Lucas and his band of equally unwashed henchmen. If you’ve seen the original Humanoids From the Deep, compare Lucas’ mob with the dirty squad of fishermen / brown shirts Slattery commanded in that film. If you’ve not seen it, don’t bother, unless you enjoy watching semi-nude women being raped by guys dressed like tadpoles. Anyway, the Lucas team are laying down a chum line while one of the crew calls out in apparent seriousness (and I do quote, oh my Brothers) “Heeer, squid squid squid squid squid”. While I honestly do not know if a chum line would work on squid or not, I am rather certain that modified swine calls will be about as useful to fishermen as those years of tennis lessons are to the Menendez boys right about now.
Inevitably, of course, the squid attacks, as witnessed on two totally fakey ‘sonar’ screens which might get the film makers haunted by the ghost of the Atari Corporation for ripping off the game Battlezone. The crewmen drop off two of the home made depth charges, which explode rather weakly. Somehow the sound of this small underwater blow carries all the way back to Stately Whip Manor, giving the camera a chance to snap zoom on Chris and Dana, as she implores “Daddy, what was that?”. Whip then utters the three words you never thought this self-righteous SOB would ever put past his lips seriously : I â€“ don’t â€“ know. Man, I’ll bet that was hard to say, hey Whip?
Back on Lucas’ boat, the sonar [cough] appears to show the squid rising up to the surface to attack again. Discretion being the better part of quite a lot of things in Lucas’ philosophy, he decides to make some distance, but of course, the engine won’t start.
Do I even need to point out what a hoary old clichÃ© this is?
So the men prepare to battle the squid, grabbing rifles and other such weaponry. As a distinctly squiddy form breaks the water, they open up with a hail of gunfire, and one bald guy menacingly waves a boat hook in its general direction (in case the squid tried to board the ship and seize the bridge, I suppose). After a few seconds and a few hundred rounds, Lucas realises that it is in fact dead. This sets of another round of now-celebratory gunfire by the men, as well as some loud hoots and hollers (including one distinct “Yee Haw”, by the by).
A number of very brief scenes here and there show news of the kill spreading to all the principal and supporting characters, and one depicts a short presentation of an award to Graves. Just in case the audience thinks that this might really be the end of the Beast, with the film only half over and all, one of the men on Lucas’ boat is clearly heard to remark “Hey, Dalton said it was a whole lot bigger?”. Bum bum bwahahahaha! â€¦ uh, just a sec [clearing throat]: Bum bum bummmmm.
Cut to Graves entering his office where not only Whip, but Dr. Talley have made themselves at home by rummaging through Graves’ personal belongings (!). Talley even has some cabinet open and is peeking at the contents when Graves walks in (!!). Surprisingly, given the way the men are picking through Grave’s belongings, the conversation doesn’t begin with the indeterminately accented Talley saying “Ahh, Herr Graves. Kommen sie bitte mit uns.”. Instead, Whip whines that he and Talley weren’t allowed to get close to the dead squid (well, boo friggin’ hoo, slick). In contrast, Talley politely mentions that he would like to examine it. When Graves responds that it is no longer under his control, as he sold it, Whip’s eyes bulge from their sockets as he repeats “You sold it!”
[Level 5 Sarcasm]
Oh, no! Graves had the audacity to sell something that he paid someone to go out and kill! Won’t someone please think of the children!
[/Level 5 Sarcasm]
As Graves begins detailing that he was made a generous offer by the owner of an aquarium in Houston (Houston?!), said owner makes his entrance. Osborne Manning is every inch the stereotypical larger than life Texas business man, and, oh yes my Brothers, he is holding a cowboy hat as he walks in. Waiting in the hall to see Graves next we can just make out a hooker with a heart of gold, a cop on the edge who doesn’t play by the rules, and every prepubescent female character Dean R. Koontz has ever used in his novels (all one of her).
Leaving the building after a very short bit of dialogue that serves no purpose, Talley says that “what’s done is done”, and that he’ll talk to Manning about possibly being permitted to check the squid out. Whip (our hero mind you) spits “I wanna ring that little jerk’s neck”. Whip, I love ya man, but you really have to stop externalizing your internal anger at your own failed life, okay buddy? Calm down, come back to us, and we can give you the number of some people who can help. The first step is to admit you have a problem. That, or you could take your own life, which ever.
This ends with Talley asking Whip to take him out to where the Beast was killed so that, if he can’t see the squid itself, he can at least see what its habitat is like. Granted, I’m no world famous marine biologist (not a single microscope or specimen jar to my name, in fact), but I think I can safely prognosticate that its habitat will turn out to be what you science types refer to as “wet”. Forgive me if I speak too technically.
Hey, speaking of ‘wet’, we cut now to Chris and Dana sharing a romantic moment on the beach and obviously growing quite fond of each other (‘wet’ is a reference to the ocean, you pervs). Heedless of what Fate they are molding for Chris, Chris goes on and on about how his favourite book is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and Dana playfully adds that now he really is Captain Nemo, as he pilots the submersible for Dr. Talley. Gee, I’ll bet that’s all going to be tragically ironic at some point soon. Or, again, just plain stupid, which ever.
To help mitigate any sadness we might feel at Chris’ upcoming death, this scene carries on and treats us to some romantic (read : nauseating) dialogue spoken by the both of them. Dana asks what Chris will do once he’s “done exploring and everything” (her emphasis, not mine), and Chris mentions that he might just stay there. When Chris hints that she might be the reason why, Dana points out that they’ve only know each other for a few days. To this Chris answers (and I do quote, oh my Brothers) “Really? Seems like we’ve known each other our whole lives.”. Yeah, and next Chris is going to drag out some other ‘rarely’ used gems like “You have a very old soul”, and “I’ve never felt this way before”, and “Hey, its only a cold sore”.
As they bend their heads together to kiss, even the most rabid ‘Lifetime Network’ junkie in the audience will be throwing her version of a Penalty Flag down and screaming “Insipid little heap of trite @#%^!” loud enough to dislodge her complete works of Danielle Steel books on tape set perched on a nearby table. The cherry on top of this sundae is the sound of chimes which rise as the scene fades out, like we were suddenly on Fantasy Island or something.
Aboard Talley’s boat, Marcus is waiting to take a trip down in the submersible (for what reason, we don’t know) with Chris and some other Random Crewman. Talley calls a little informal meeting where he tells them that Graves has invoked his authority as harbor master, and is requesting that a representative of his go on the sub as well, to ensure that local regulations are respected, etc. Since the sub only holds three, and Chris and Random Crewman must go for mumblemumble reasons, Marcus has to give up her spot to Jamison. Oh how nice. Let’s get the hero’s squeeze out of harm’s way so the perfectly amiable Jamison can find his way into the belly of a mollusk. Of course, this will also allow the movie to set up a sensitive moment after the impending disaster, where Marcus will turn to Whip for consolation on the grounds that “It should have been me”. Man, where did the writers come up with this? You know, you can’t buy originality like this â€¦ (?)
Cut to Chris and Dana having a tender moment AGAIN!, this time at the docks as he prepares to depart. This has got to be violating some cinematic laws, here. You just can’t go around having a tender moment between two people when its been sixty six seconds since the last one between them (yes, I did time it). Do you realise that adult movies go longer between sex scenes than this? Uh, or so I’ve heard. Heh heh. They exchange some longing glances, and after giving Dana his St. Christopher medal, Chris heads down the dock to the ship (and his death). If you listen, you can hear Delroy Lindo in the background : “I just can’t wait for you to be dead.”. Okay, I made that up â€“ I was the one saying it.
Now we’re out at sea, and the three chosen men squeeze into the sub. Talley, Whip, and Marcus are somewhere on the ship, crowded around the ‘command console’. Picture a minimalist version Lt. Gorman’s console inside the APC from Aliens, then forget about that image, replacing it with something infinitely cheesier : large expanses of grey cardboard, broken up infrequently by cheap plastic lights and three 9″ black and white TVs stolen for the shot from out of the craft services’ RV, much to head chef Debbie’s chagrin, as she wasn’t able to catch her soaps that day. It really gives you a sense of awe that the movie could afford to blow a whole $17.87 at Radio Shack, just to give this shot that extra special something. Hmm.
As the sub descends, cut to the docks where Big ‘n Bold Manning is escorting Graves to the dead squid. Taking a look at the carcass (which doesn’t look all that bad an effect, if I’m too be honest) Graves asks how long Manning thinks it took the squid to reach that size (37 feet). Manning replies that examination has indicated that its probably only three months old. Okay, we know there’s quite a bit more running time left for the film, and at hearing that this one is only three months old, even Tibetan Monks who just yesterday were shown electricity for the first time are screaming that there’s another, even larger squid still out there (kinda cool to hear them say this, as they do it in that weird chanting, you know?). But just to make sure that we all ‘get’ it, Manning has this to offer : “Kinda makes you wonder, donit (sic)? If what we have here’s a baby, where’s his momma?”.
Back at the ship/sub, as Talley is watching his monitors and remarking that there should be more marine life at that depth, we hear an utterly unmistakable Aliens cue (the soft, tension cue). Not only do they rip off the cue, they play it over their ripped off version of the scene it was originally used for! As Talley, Marcus and Whip sit at a bank of monitors (Gorman, Ripley and Burke crowed into Gorman’s station), the sub slowly checks out the squid’s stomping grounds (the marines sweep the complex and/or processing station), and the squid appears (the aliens attack).
To give you an idea of how blatant this is : the first time I saw this sequence I made the quip “Pull your team out, Gorman!”, and my wife, who rarely gets my references, lost it completely, knowing exactly what I meant, even though she’d only seen Aliens once. ‘Nuff said.
Fortunately, even though the staging of the scene was a rip off, the composer only stole one brief cue. And of course I’m sure James Horner won’t mind a small cue stolen from Aliens, as he himself stole the whole score from himself when he had used it previously in Star Trek II. And Krull. And Humanoids From the Deep. And Battle Beyond the Stars. And â€¦ well, you get the picture.
So, the squid attacks, and everyone on the sub snuffs it, the action punctuated by the squid’s screeching sound.
Cut to a posh little party Graves is holding, as the camera does a slow pan across one of those models of the town that all evil developers have in their offices. Very quickly the atmosphere of the party is disrupted by an angry Whip (yeah, that’s a switch), who slams down a video tape next to Graves. In the middle of a formal gathering, he bellows “This is for you! If you’d a shown us the squid, you idiot, we’d a known it was the wrong one!”.
Yeah, and if your expedition would have waited an hour or two, I’m sure Manning’s people would have been happy to share their information with you, even if they didn’t choose to let Talley examine it first hand. Whip adds “I hold you responsible for what happened today!”.
Well, one, Graves didn’t force anyone to head out to sea so quickly. And two, like you have any authority to back any of this up somehow? Whip rounds off his moment of glory by angrily demanding Graves watch for Jamison on the tape and “look in the terror in his eyes the second before he dies!!!”. Not to burst your bubble here, but the previous sequence clearly showed the video going out well before the audio did, and both went well before the men were killed. Kinda takes the wind out of your sails, if’n ya thinks about all this here, Whip.
Side note : have I mentioned how much of a loudmouth, self-righteous doofus Whip is? I have? Oh, good.
So time for a somber Taster’s Choice moment back at Whip Central. He’s brining the typical Tray O Random Food up to Dana, who’s probably going to have some serious problems with intimacy for a while I should think. Dana of course waives of the proffered foodstuffs, as some gory deaths have done wonders to help her stay on her diet of late. When she moans to her father that she feels like she’s going to die, I couldn’t hear Whip’s response, as I was too busy remarking for him “No, honey, you’re not going to die. Just anyone you happen to flirt with, that’s all.”. Dana goes on with some TV tears and TV sadness, while Whip consoles her with some TV wisdom (like “you’re gonna feel this a long time”, and “you’re never gonna forget this”- gee, thanks for the help, Dad). Out of all this overdone sentimental muck, Dana wrings a promise from her father that he won’t go out to ‘get’ the squid. Of course, his lawyers will soon go over said promise for a loophole, as there’s no way formulaic movie like this is going to allow anyone but the (supposed) hero to vanquish the Beast.
Fade to Lucas’ office that night, where Graves is impressing Lucas to go kill the real squid, saying that Lucas bungled the job and grabbed the wrong one. Lucas hesitates, saying perhaps the mamma squid is more than he can handle. Graves finally begins to act like a miniscule fraction of the jerk he’s supposed to be, by threatening to close Lucas down for trap fishing (which he is guilty of, mind you) if he doesn’t go out and kill the squid. Realising that he’s gonna have to buy it sooner or later in the film, Lucas agrees.
And again we go back to Whip Regional Headquarters, so that Marcus can have her little emotional scene. As we predicted, and as with all movies (made-for-TV or real ones) in these circumstances, Marcus is in the doldrums for not having been the one sucked out of a small crack in a sub’s hull and into the digestive system of a giant squid. Here I’m going to come off all cold and unfeeling, but I really wish script writers would get past this ‘should have been me’ notion. Yes, I am aware of ‘survivor guilt’ and all that, but why is it that every single character in a movie who gets put into this position must bemoan the fact that they’re still alive just because someone else died? Wouldn’t it be nice for a change to hear “Man, that’s really sad about Jamison. He was a great guy, and I’m sorry he’s dead. But, hey, at least I’m still here, that’s something to be happy about”? Just for the sake of variety, if nothing else, you know?
Also we’re treated (finally) to Whip’s explanation of how he came to be widowed. As the story goes, his wife Charlotte was fond of sailing by herself, just to relax (get the hint, Whip : being away from you relaxed your wife. Think about it, man!). One day a storm rose, but she ignored the warnings, enjoying the challenge, or so he assumes. She was never seen again, and Whip took it that she drowned. Hey, I hate to be the one to break it to you, Whiplash, but actually she got fed up with your sanctimonious ranting and sick obsession with another man’s success, and is shacking up with Kevin Anderson now, you doofus.
I think two Sleeping With the Enemy references is all anyone is allotted for life, and I’ve just gone and used ‘em both up in this review. Oh, well.
Now that Whip has bared his pain (awww) Marcus says “Hey, we were talking about my feelings here, Mr. Selfish”. Well, she doesn’t really, but she should have done. Instead she bonds with him on some strange level and they tentatively hold each other’s hands, then, haltingly, kiss for the first time (“Sometimes when we touch â€“ The honesty is too much”, ad nauseam).
What would be cool is if that night Dana whacked Marcus in a blind fit of jealous rage both for taking her mother’s place, as well as for having a living lover while Dana’s was being digested a few hundred feet under water in the innards of an invertebrate. No, there’s no way that this is actually going to happen, but a man can dream, can’t he?
The next episod-, I mean scene, opens with Mike trying to find a job with someone, but no one’s hiring, as the second squid has forced the town to mark the oceans off limits again. All he finds, in fact, is a suggestion to see Lucas Tanner, the only one sanctioned to hit the seas (to kill said squid). Naturally this is supposed to present Mike with a moral dilemma â€“ lower himself to work with the filthy Lucas, the only game in town, or hold to his higher moral principals principals. Naturally, this fails to hit its mark, as Mike has a little something called an extremely pregnant wife at home that he’s responsible for.
In all seriousness, if you’re only responsible for yourself, whatever you choose to do is fine, as only you will prosper or fail by your choices. But if you’re the sole supporter of a family, then you loose a great deal of the luxury of free will, and had better get your butt doing some kind of paying work to take care of things. I don’t care if its putting on Kabuki makeup and doing a one-man version of ‘Merry Wives of Windsor’ at a local nudist resort â€“ feed your family, slick.
Meanwhile Lucas is in the local bar trying to drum up a crew for his second squid hunt. Everyone is turning him down, as they think its too dangerous. Um, why? Sure this one’s a good deal larger, but given that the first one was so easily dispatched, it seems odd that no one would want to make the venture, especially considering that their regular source of income (i.e. fishing) as been put on hold pending the squid’s death.
But someone does take Lucas up. From far off screen we hear “I’ll take up your offer, Lucas”, swish pan to Mike, who finishes “I’ll help you kill the Beast”. You know, its just so darned cute when films try and get all dramatic, isn’t it? Just like a toddler taking his first shaky steps, then plopping back down on his bottom. Though the dialog was a tad different and the set-up not at all the same, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the “I will pay for Amy to go home” speech Tim Curry’s character gave in Congo (if you need a laugh and you’ve got two minutes, watch this scene; you won’t regret it).
Another commercial fade out/fade in, and we open on Mike kissing his sleeping wife goodbye (and how!) as he heads off to his appointed hour. As Mike is black, I want to make it perfectly clear that this is in no way a racist comment, but parked in front of Mike’s house is a pickup truck that simply must have been driven right off the set of Sanford and Son, garish paint job and all.
Mike makes his way to the docks, and asks Lucas where the other crew are. Lucas replies that they chickened out, to which Mike asks “You mean there’s only three of us?”, apparently forgetting when he was exactly half of the crew on a much larger boat. Under the derisive chuckling of Lucas and Random Crewman2, Mike sets to work loading up the boat. It should be noted that even considering his open gloating over Mike working for him, Lucas is being far nicer to Mike than Mike and Whip have been to Lucas in the past.
Cut to a scene that might have been lifted right out of an Irwin Allen disaster pic. Talley and Manning are walking to the Triton as Manning remarks that it’s a shame the large squid has to be killed. “Can you imagine what one of those things would be like in captivity?” he asks, trying to subtly
Manning : ” â€¦ before I’m done with ‘er, ‘Sea Land, Texas’ is gonna be a world class aquarium an’ museum.”
Talley : “And the carcass of a giant squid would be a significant addition to your collection.”
Manning : “And so would one of the world’s foremost marine biologists.”
Talley : “You’ve lost me”
Manning : “How’d you like to be Chairman of the board of ‘Sea Land, Texas’ Dr. Talley?”
Talley : “I sit already on several boards, and frankly my time is very precious.”
Manning : “Resign from ‘em. I’ll double whatever it is they’re all paying you. I’m a very rich man, Dr. Talley. I could travel the world, do whatever I want, live like a Sheik, but I want to do more with my life than just p*ss it away. And that something is ‘Sea Land, Texas’.”
Can’t you just see that scene being played by, say, Robert Vaughn and Richard Chamberlain? Also worth noting is that Manning’s Texas accent here wanders over to Georgia for a bit, kind of vanishes all together for a moment or two, then comes back home.
A brief scene establishes that Lucas and a very unhappy Mike are now at sea and tossing out some whole fish as bait for the squid. Then its on to a largish commercial kitchen, run by the bartender (?), who’s giving some food to Whip gratis, so Whip can make poor little Dana a Feel Better About Your Dead Boyfriend Stew. As he leaves the kitchen Whip runs into two of Lucas’ former mates, and, as they outnumber him now, he greets them pleasantly. A drawn out bit eventually has Whip learn that Mike has gone out to sea with Lucas to kill the other squid.
Laughably, we cut to Whip running at top speed across the docks to his boat, presumably to ‘rescue’ Mike, as ‘exciting car chase’ music helps set the mood. And by that I mean we find ourselves laughing even harder because of it. This is more than a little silly, and far too overdone. Its not as if Whip alone knew of some hidden danger, or wasn’t aware that there was another squid termination mission being set up. And its not as if Mike were a little kid, or mentally retarded to where he couldn’t make decisions for himself. What’s more, why the rush? Its not as if everyone setting out on the ocean was being set upon immediately. Seriously here, Whip, you’re gonna have to stop trying to run everything and everyone. You’re a fisherman, man. Deal with it.
Oh yeah, and do I take it that Whip wouldn’t have been too concerned about some people being killed had Mike not numbered among them?
To pack even more emotion and drama in, cut away shots show a be-robed Dana looking in disbelief out the window as her father pulls away in his boat, an unmistakable ‘Daddy broke his promise’ look on her face, and a fork of lightening (accompanied immediately by the sound of thunder, of course) flashes off in the distance.
Fade to what appears to be that night aboard Lucas’ boat (its dark, so I guess its night). Fortunately, even though its dark and there’s quite a storm about, the rigging lights on Luca’s boat are illuminating things just as well as, oh, say, a few 10k lights placed up in the rafters above a water tank set, next to the rain machine would. Hmm.
Anyhoo, Mike and Random Crewman2 demand to return home, due to the storm and all. Perhaps they might also have mentioned that, with the rate they’ve been tossing out bait barrels, they’d need a boat roughly ten times as large to have been able to hold enough bait for more than a few minutes in the first place, but I suppose this took a back seat to that whole rain thing. The two men manage to convince Lucas, and Random Crewman2 heads to the bow to pull up the anchor. An underwater shot shows the anchor smack into the side of, and thus perturb, the giant squid sleeping on the ocean floor, as Random Crewman2 raises it.
Do I even need to mention what the odds of this are, or can I just get on with things?
And, finally, the screeching giant squid attacks, first pulling Random Crewman2 off the bow a la Mrs. Victim from the beginning, and then flailing about wildly near Mike on the stern. Somehow – and in four rewind-repeat viewings of this scene I still can’t figure out how â€“ Mike ends up entangled in a conveniently hung up cargo net, and gets knocked to the ground so that the squid can’t get to him with its whips (?). Frustrated at not being able to get at the one person that everyone knows is gonna get killed at some point, the squid reaches into the helm to go after Lucas, again making me remember how much better this kind of thing was done in War of the Gargantuas.
Now the camera makes a big mistake, and moves underwater to show us a medium close up of the Beast as it grapples the boat. Its been said that the two most difficult things to photograph convincingly in miniature are fire and water, as both betray their true scale by the way the move and behave. This holds true here, for when the Beast bites through the boat’s hull with its beak it releases a stream of air bubbles that positively scream “Hey, this is a five foot long model!” at us.
The Beast drags the entire boat under (and just to prove I’m not totally cynical, I will accept this happening, by the way), and one of the last things to drop below the ocean is a clutch of Lucas’ fish traps hung from the crow’s nest. Wow, how tragically ironic. Or just plain stupid, which ever.
Cut to Whip arriving at the scene later (how long did it take him to get there? It was daytime when he left, and now its night.). Noting the flotsam in the water, he begins calling for Mike. Whip, you twit, Mike was your partner, and he had a pregnant wife. There was no way he was going to see the end of thi-
What? Oh, no.
Hearing a noise, Whip looks over to one of the large buoys which dot the area and sees dear sweet (decidedly un-eaten) Mike clinging to it for dear life. Just how it was that he managed to extricate himself from the net he was clearly shown to be entangled in as the deck he was prostrate on went awash is anybody’s guess.
Can we get a ruling from Cathy Bates on this, here?
Now rather than follow all accepted life saving practises, Whip neglects to throw a floatation device or line at Mike, but chooses to jump in himself to save his buddy. The folly of this becomes even more clear when Mike, who looks like he has about thirty pounds or so on Whip, pants “I can’t feel my legs”. Since its going to be next to impossible for the lighter Whip to heave the paralyzed Mike way up into his boat, the movie fades to commercial, so the audience can just take it as a given that this did happen somehow, rather than actually staging it.
During the break, I’d like to mention my genuine surprise that Mike wasn’t killed. I left the ‘dead man’ references in the earlier part of the review as I was quite certain he was dead meat the first time I saw this movie. Sure, Mike is going to be shown in the hospital with a serious condition and all momentarily, but the fact that he’s still in possession of an EEG reading or body of any sort is frankly surprising, given the strict adherence to formula the movie has displayed thus far.
Right about now, some of you might be thinking “Hey, sounds like the movie managed to outsmart you, Mr. Fancy Pants.” Well, I have to say that, while the movie did deviate slightly from formula in sparing Mike, this comes at such a late hour and its impact on the rest of the film is so non-existent (he in the hospital, and is only shown again when he’s thinking of Whip) that this deviation doesn’t really earn the film any points. Its a classic case of “too little, too late”, as this little token can’t possible undo the balance of what the film is about.
Also, when springing these little non-formulaic surprises, it helps if the deviation adds something to the film, other than just a moment where most of the audience reacts with “Oh, thought he was gonna die”. After all, had Blade Runner ended with Rachel turning to face Deckard and saying “For you see, Mr. Deckard… I ATE THE MUSHROOMS!” many a viewer would have been surprised, but what would it really have added to the film?
The ensuing hospital segment which establishes that Mike will eventually be okay is interrupted briefly by a short scene of Graves running a gauntlet of reporters shoving microphones in his face and asking typical ‘watermelon watermelon’ questions. Graves is also confronted by one of Lucas’ former crewman who growls at him “The next time you send someone out to die, send yourself.” Graves’ only dialogue in this is, as you’d expect, a string of “no comment”s .
I have to say that this scene doesn’t really have much to support itself, as we’re to take it that everyone is somehow holding Graves directly responsible for two deaths and one serious wounding (which should have been a death, but never mind that). If Graves had sent Lucas out under a false pretense, and had hidden the existence of the second squid from everyone, then fine, I will buy that. You could even make a weak case for holding Graves culpable in the death of Lucas, as Graves essentially used the threat of (legally) busting Lucas for trap fishing to impress him into service. But I can’t quite see the death of Random Crewman2 and the wounding of Mike as Graves’ fault. They knew the risks, they made their choices. It doesn’t work to hold someone at fault for things simply because we’re supposed to view him as the Bad Guy.
Eventually the camera winds up on the beach as we see a mournful Dana clutching the medal Chris had given her between her hands and fighting to hold back tears (awww). Her sorrow is interrupted by familiar greetings from Les (have we even seen this character before?) and two Sheriffs deputies carrying about seven ‘beach closed’ signs between them. Amusingly, with the vast expanse of coastline that they have to mark off, they plant the signs about three feet apart from each other, with the words on the sign facing the water. Well, since Graves’ Point is just a bit south of Innsmouth, you never know who’s going to need to see it (yeah, make another vague literary reference, please Doug).
Whilst planting the signs, Les strikes up a conversation with Dana. Out of it comes the statement that the town thinks Whip either doesn’t care, or is afraid, as he refused their request to go out and battle the squid. Of course, if Whip won’t do it, who else could they turn to (other than other fishermen, the USCG, or anyone else in the rest of the country, that is)? Dana is incensed of course, and protests that her father isn’t afraid of anything. Les turns back to his work, shaking his head and muttering that he doesn’t know what to believe anymore, sounding very much like a man crestfallen at finding his personal god to be nothing but a mere man (and a rather obnoxious one at that).
Little does Dana suspect that Les was sent by Whip’s lawyers, in order to ‘guilt’ her into unilaterally releasing her father from his promise. Well, no, they didn’t so much as show this in the movie, but it does make sense in any case, so I’m holding to that theory. Especially since the next scene shows Dana telling Whip that neither of them should have to suffer Whip being called a coward, just because of a promise he made her.
As Manning, Talley, and Graves strategise in Graves’ office, Whip makes his dramatic (expected, cliched) entrance by calling out “Still want my help?”, casually propping himself in the doorway (how come he’s not playing with Graves’ personal things, we wonders?). The men welcome him to the team, and Whip states his two conditions. One, that they use his boat (even though the Triton is much larger and rather better outfitted). Two, that Graves goes with them, saying that if Whip is going to put himself on the line, so is Graves. Graves protests that that’s ridiculous (which, when you think about it, it is), but Whip’s and Manning’s stern countenances, and the smiling (?) from Talley show poor Schuyler that he has no way out.
Other than fulfilling an embittered vendetta, what possible use could a business man serve on a dangerous expedition to kill a large marine creature? If anything, wouldn’t Graves’ total lack of experience with the sea make him more of a hindrance, to where they’d be better off without him? Name one good function he could fill on the mission. Oh, you’re right : victim. Silly me.
Cut to a briefing aboard the Triton (the larger vessel designed to investigate marine life which they aren’t going to use) as Manning fills everyone in on the details of The Plan. The Plan is to lure the squid to the surface with what is in effect a very large Stren fishing lure, then shoot it with a harpoon carrying cyanide canisters. Graves repeatedly objects on this ground or that, but the rest of the team actively ignores him, and carries on discussion amongst themselves.
After the obligatory emotional parting scene between Whip and Dana which I’m not even going to discuss, cut to the outfitting of Whip’s boat. Saying that he doesn’t want to “run out of juice” on the expedition, Whip and Marcus load up the Privateer with a number of large barrels of fuel, as shown in close up (right now your ‘plot point’ alarms should be ringing like mad). Graves arrives, is silently ‘dised’ by Marcus when he complements her appearance, and the boat sets sail, accompanied by all the lingering shots of Dana’s pained expression that you’d expect at this point.
Out at sea Manning and Talley heave the lure overboard, and the music makes an utterly inexplicable dramatic crescendo, with broad sweeping figures being drawn by the orchestra’s low brass. Just what it was that was so dramatic about putting out a lure even the film doesn’t seem to know, as it fades to an unknown amount of time later, with the boat pulling up on the buoy near which so many sightings and deaths had occurred, presumably to distract us from a misplaced cue.
A few fades here and there, and we settle on a shot of the helm. Whip and Marcus are looking at some sort of fish finder / sonar that looks about as believable as Lucas’ similar-but-different device earlier. At least they didn’t recycle the same prop on us, I guess.
Even more fades to different angles of the boat at different times, as well as a shot of Dana cooking dinner and expectantly gazing out the window to the sea repeatedly. What is easily the most surreal moment in the film occurs here. As the camera pans to point out the window where Dana is looking, an eerie, disembodied female voice is heard to say “You are now entering another dimension-”. Fade to the boat as the voice continues “-so scout around and be patient, because you never know what could be hopping or flying toward you-” fade to Mike in the hospital “-from around the next corner. These people had gods for everything.” The voice is revealed to be Mike’s wife, reading to him from who knows what the heck magazine. As she reads, Mike gazes out the window to the sea as well. Lotta people praying for George Bailey, I guess.
One more fade to the boat, as Graves asks how much longer Manning thinks it will be (which, of course, goes unanswered). Fade again (stop it, movie!) to a different part of the boat some unknown time later, as Marcus mentions that perhaps the sound of the boat’s engines is scaring the squid off (’cause we’ve seen how much the sound of Lucas’ engines scared it off. Three times). Nevertheless, Whip announces to the men on the stern that they’re just going to drift around for a while and see what happens. Hey, just like the cinematography!
I shouldn’t have made that last remark, oh my Brothers, as we fade yet again to the same boat a little bit later from a slightly different angle. Then we fade again two seconds later to another shot of the boat from a different angle. Then we fade to Dana not eating the meal in front of her a few seconds after that. THEN WE FADE TO WHIP IN THE RIGGING A FEW SECONDS AFTER THAT !!!
Okay, I’m better now. I think they’ve finally settled down a bit with the camera work, too. Immediately (and I do mean immediately) after Graves states that the one thing he knows is that the squid isn’t there, Marcus calls to Whip that the squid is there. Again, Bob Denver is smiling right now â€¦
Just when I thought it wasn’t possible for the ‘sonar’ screen to look less realistic than it did already, the shots of the blip representing the squid prove me wrong.
Rushing to join in the action, Whip orders Graves to get out of his way (again raising the question of his reason to be there in the first place). Even though the lure and attendant gear is Manning’s, Whip takes over the controls, telling them when to apply the its brakes, etc. Whip allows the squid to run with the lure and build up some serious speed astern of them in the process. When he finally does call for Manning to brake, the mass of the squid as compared to the boat and the relative motion between the two of them should have torn the stern completely off the Privateer, or at least yanked the lure’s cable housing off the boat. Instead, the squid gives out another of its trademark screeches, and a close up shows a model of the Privateer’s bow pitch up a scale foot or two.
As they pull an all ahead full with the engines, they start the lure’s winch motor up, reeling in the steel cable. Cut away shots show the squid struggling against the pull, and screeching away like mad. Once its drawn to the surface, rather than attacking the boat, the squid simply sits a few feet astern flailing its tentacles and screeching away. Eagle Eye Manning, spotting the huge squid now surfaced a few feet away, offers up “I think I got a shot!”. What a marksman, hey? To make sure he has the best chance of hitting the squid, Manning turns himself into a special effect matte shot in front of it, and fires.
Within a few seconds the squid ceases all movement, apparently dead. During its brief ‘death’ throes (yeah, as if we might think this is the end) the water sloshing betrays the scale of the models yet again. I’m not sure why so many films featuring miniatures and water seem to think that simply showing things in slow motion will convince us its full sized. This is like hiding a large bald spot by swooping your hair over from one side : now we have two things that stand out as unusual.
Now that the squid is, uh, ‘dead’, and all, they secure three heavy mooring lines to it, and head back home. Shortly after getting underway the engines die with a loud metallic crunch. Checking out the engine compartment, Whip tells the crew than they blew a Plot Convenience, and the engines are therefore dead. Manning says that they’ll have to radio Graves’ Point and have someone come get them. Whip answers that they’ll have to wait until morning. Uh, why? You’re only allowed to have maritime emergencies from 9-5? You’ve even got an officer in the COAST GUARD with you, man. I think they’d be willing to help out.
Of course, Manning gives us a reason why we can’t wait ’till morning. Remember his comments about what a giant squid would be like in captivity? Remember how he said that ‘Sea Land, Texas’, was (surprisingly, given that its in Houston) not fairing too well? Well all that provided Manning with the motivation for a last-minute change in The Plan. Rather than cyanide, he shot the pink puppet fill of Phenobarbital, sending it bedy-bye instead of deady-bye.
Needless to say, this isn’t exactly well received by the rest of the crew. Things get worse when we learn that Manning didn’t bring the original cyanide canisters with him either. His whole plan, apparently, hinged on hitting the squid just right on the first shot, and them getting it back to shore within the 12 hours he calculated it would be unconscious for.
Just what it was they were going to do with it after getting it back to the docks isn’t exactly clear.
For the first time in the entire film, Whip has a reason to be ticked off. Berating Manning for his foolish actions, Whip fetches a large axe and prepares to cut the mooring lines to the squid to lessen the chance of them being dragged under when it comes to (I’m frightened. I actually agree with Whip’s sentiments and plan of action here.). As they argue back and forth we hear a splashing sound.
Cut to a small rubber raft now afloat on the sea, as Graves pulls himself into it. As Whip and Marcus tell him to come back aboard, Graves hysterically replies “That thing’s gonna wake up. I gotta get out of here!”, because, frankly, when there’s a giant squid on the loose, a rubber two man raft is far far better than a large fishing boat. Marcus calls back that “They’re sending a chopper from the base”, even though no one’s made any calls yet. Graves replies “What if they don’t get here in time?”. Rather than point out the relative speeds of a helicopter and an outboard Mercury powered raft, thus demonstrating that help could get to them quicker than they could get to help, Whip chooses to respond by saying that all five on board the Privateer may need to rely on that raft which could hold two people (three in a pinch for short distances). This surprisingly fails to persuade Graves, who slowly putters away.
Of course, this makes no sense, either. Forgetting for a moment the fact that only women and Bad Guys panic in movies (heroes are explicitly immune), it makes no sense that someone would panic in this particular way. Graves becomes so deathly frightened of the giant squid that he leaves the relative safety of a large fishing boat for a tiny two-person rubber raft? If the plan was to keep the squid moored to the Privateer, maybe you’d have a case, but Whip has made it crystal clear that he’s cutting the lines to try and get away. When panicking, you may not make the best of decisions, but you’d most likely not make an obviously horrible one. Panic makes people on fire run around in circles; it does not make them run back into the burning building.
Cut to two men racing in the dark to a USCG helicopter. Raines and companion hop in, hit a couple of switches, and the main rotor fires up. As I don’t know a great deal about choppers I can’t tell if this is realistic or not, but it seems odd that they could start it up like a car, no pre-flight checks, warm ups, or other preambles (readers are invited to share any knowledge on this they may have). I do know, however, that none of the chopper flying scenes so far have featured pilots who looked too terribly concerned with actually operating the cyclic or the collective controls whilst flying.
Back at the Privateer, whip is trying desperately to cut through the final steel cable tying them to the squid. Even though we were told that the drug should keep the squid out for twelve hours, it comes to just as Whip cuts the last strands, and it darts away. If you’re wondering why the squid left in such a hurry when there’s a whole boatload of food a few feet away, then you’ve forgotten about Graves in the raft.
Actually, I think there might in fact be some reason for this in the ‘missing’ TV footage, as, when Manning asks Whip what the plan is now, Whip answers “Nothing. We wait and hope that sonar works. And pray to God the Coast Guard hauls ass.” (emph mine). He could be referring to the boat’s sonar, hoping that it provides them with an early warning should the squid return. But I wonder if there wasn’t some little scientificy sonar device thrown together that was supposed to ward off the squid?
Either way, Graves is next on the menu. We cut to his raft, which he motors up to stop in front of the camera (why would he stop?). Reaching into the supply bag he took with him, he pulls out the orange cylinder with telescoping antenna we saw in a lack-of-continuity shot of the Victim family’s raft at the beginning of this mess. Lending credence to my theory that it’s a beacon of sorts, Graves extends the antenna and hits a switch on the side, brining it to beeping and blinking life. No sooner has he done this than our clue alarms hit the roof as he sniffs at the air (hmm, ammonia perhaps?). A huge tentacle breaks the water and descends on Graves as-
-as Mike wakes up with a start in his hospital bed. What ?!?
At this point two thoughts went through my mind. Either the whole movie was a dream sequence (I wouldn’t put it past them), or Mike was about to make some spooky pronouncement about suddenly feeling a disturbance in the Force, as if a rich white boy had cried out in terror, and was suddenly silenced (and, no, I wouldn’t have put this past them either). This is another point we’re left to ponder on our own, as Mike sinks back to his bed, tells his questioning wife that he’s okay, and closes his eyes.
Now here is the second place where I was wrong about this film (the first being my assumption that Mike was sure to die). When the panic set in that the engines wouldn’t work and the squid was only drugged, I assumed that Manning was a dolt for not only leaving the cyanide behind, but for leaving any other canisters of Phenobarbital behind as well. But no, I was mistaken, as, when we cut back to some preparations being done aboard the Privateer, Manning is heard to tell Talley that he’s preparing another canister in case the squid comes back. I won’t make a big deal about this; I will only ask Manning nicely why he didn’t use one or more of them while the squid was placidly moored to the boat, or when it first came to again, and then get on with things.
Manning, why didn’t you use one or more of the canisters while the squid was placidly moored to the boat, or when it first came to again? (doofus)
As Manning sits on the gunwale near the stern preparing his weapon, the Beast reaches up, grabs him and pulls him off the boat, and under the water to his death. Remember, I made a promise.
Next, the Beast heaves his tentacles and part of his funnel out of the water and splays out over the Privateer’s stern, hanging off the back of the boat. Again, I made a promise.
Dr. Talley is dragged down the now-slanting deck of the boat (promise) to an unfortunate death underneath a process shot, and the rest of this plays out just as you’d expect. The chopper arrives and takes Marcus up first, while Whip starts opening up the fuel drums with the axe. The Beast screeches rather a lot. When he’s caught by one of the whips (which can shred a 100 pound tuna in five seconds, remember) Whip struggles heroically
The resulting fire gives the Beast even more reason to screech, but, apparently, surprisingly little reason to move away from the burning boat. In fact the Beast tenaciously clings to the floating inferno for a whole fifty seconds (yes, I timed it), until the wild pitching of the boat dislodges one of the fuel drums, allowing in to roll right underneath the squid so that it can explode. Fans of the game Doom II will be able to pick out the famous
My final word about this sequence : several of the effects shots were â€¦ well, let’s just say Bert I. Gordon would be proud.
The next morning the chopper arrives at Whip’s (must have been a long trip â€“ the last scene was the dead of night), disgorging our wounded hero
Dana, Whip, and Marcus all embrace, and the accepting looks Dana gives Marcus prove that my dreams of a jealous assault by Dana with a kitchen knife upon Marcus will not come to pass. Now that our three have formed a family, Raines smiles at them, gives them a salute, and flies the chopper off into the sunset (er, sunrise).
And no, I did not make that last part up.
I can sum up why The Beast fails to work with two words. Those are “Whip” and “Graves”. There are other reasons, to be sure, which contribute, but I think its safe to say that these two characterisations comprise the bulk of the serious problems with the film.
What we are presented with for these two in The Beast is a rather stock relationship : the lower class hero versus the greedy businessman. David and Goliath, essentially. This kind of dynamic is used so often, as its easy to draw your audience in and make them sympathetic. The average American will see more of themselves in a righteous working man than in a successful businessman, so the easy route to take is to present the economic or social class (or ethnic group) most foreign to the audience as the Bad Guy. Suddenly Joe Average sees his own boss as the one dumping toxic chemicals on the ancient Indian burial ground, and he’s the t-shirted sword of justice come to bring him down.
Just the fact that Beast used this overly simplistic and grossly cliched premise isn’t what caused it to fail, however. The problem is that the film makers made it obvious they were invoking this dynamic, without including the actual character developments needed to support it. Whip is not the righteous voice of justice, and Graves is not the despicable capitalist who’s actions are creating (or at least assisting) the problem that is the movie’s focus. Were it not for this fundamental failing of a dynamic central to the movie’s premise, most of the rest of the objectionable points could be taken in stride, or at least ignored.
The scene between Whip and Graves in Graves’ office does much of the damage. In one fell swoop the movie has its would-be hero mocking and yelling at an essentially innocent villain. If a large number of truly despicable actions by Graves had been shown, perhaps we could accept our hero calling him names, or mocking his education. As it is, how many actual representations of villainy by Graves do we see or hear about : one. Raines and Marcus are discussing the position of harbor master, when Rains says “Schuyler Graves has expanded its scope. Its got a lot of people angry around here”. And that, oh my Brothers, is it. Based upon that, we are to take him as a villain.
Meanwhile, the would-be hero ruins valuable salvage rather than give it up to lawful authorities, treats people he doesn’t know with a holier-than-thou smugness, bullies those he feels are law breakers, takes it upon himself to selectively enforce the law, only moves to save a crew of three at sea when he learns one of his friends is among them, at all times gives off the distinct impression that he feels he is qualified to judge anything far better than anyone else, and becomes indignant when any of this is pointed out or called into question. Other than that â€¦
In closing, I’d like to just say :