Database article for this piece of tripe]
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
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
At the risk of dooming myself to a villainic downfall with
my hubris, Im 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 wont say if this seems to have influenced the production in a
derivative way or not; I will leave all such conclusions to those whove 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, havent seen that kind of a reveal before, no sir). With the first close
up shot of the boat we know straight away that shes crewed by Mr. and Mrs. Victim,
if for no other reason than her name : "Occupational Hazard". Say, Ill bet
thats 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 theyd 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
Mrs. V (wearing shorts and a low cut midriff top) saunters
up to her hubby saying "I dont want to be grateful. Im 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. Vs 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 ships engine
(we assume), whos 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
familys 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. Vs
hand, rousing him from his slumber. Now, this would mean that about half of the
boats internal space or so is flooded. They dont 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 Ive 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 theyre out of wiper fluid, perhaps?). Mr. V
wakes up and sees a good deal of water where it probably shouldnt 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 hes 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 boats 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. Isnt 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. Id think theyd 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 Universals back lot. I know its
supposed to be a yacht sinking in the middle of the ocean, but thats not what it
looks like, so thats not how Im going to describe it. You cant 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 theyve 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 whats 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 Beasts catch and release philosophy now apparently satisfied,
he makes short work of Mr. V, and thus the obligatory opening death sequence comes to a
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. Hes sipping a
cup of coffee and reading the morning paper, just to show us what an Average Joe he really
is. It hasnt been established yet, but his name is, and I swear Im not making
this up : Whip Dalton. Nope, thats 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. Lets see, Whip
has a great relationship with his daughter, and we didnt 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 were 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 theres no action,
like Graves 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,
and no one else. Im 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 hell 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 Whips 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 werent 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 "Whats with
the acrobatics?" in response to his steady, straight, level flight at about 200 feet
over a fishing boat. Raines replies that hes 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. Vs 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 dont suppose
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 theyd 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 dont
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 hasnt 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 Whips 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
Since theyve probably now spent about four whole
minutes (on and off screen) pondering the fate of the two people that still havent
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
shes 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 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 hes 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 masters
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, hes 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 Whips side of things by saying "Come on, Whip, just give me the raft.
I dont know what state it was in when you found it <wink
wink>, or what kind of damage it sustained in your
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 girls 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
Sheriffs boat. To make sure we know whos Good and whos Bad, the movie
sets up this quick exchange : as the Sheriffs boat pulls away, Whip mutters
"What a jerk." Raines protests mildly "Hes 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, hes 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, hes also
destroyed any physical evidence which might have helped the towns version of Quincy
figure out what happened to the two missing people whos 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 hes committed the unpardonable sin of being a good businessman
and actually owns property. Whats 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 theyre
done for the day, and that he can go home to his wife (oh, youre dead Mike). Whip
then asks how shes 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. Praps if Whip would have politely asked Graves for a share of the rafts
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
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 youre 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 were 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 whos 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 bartenders cousin works as a scientist
at the Portland zoo, and Whip is given his card. Hey, that was easy, now wasnt it?
Good thing our hero didnt 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
fiend!". Graves is
played by Charles Martin Smith of Never Cry Wolf and Starman fame. Im
not trying to disparage Smiths abilities as an actor in any way, but Im 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 Whips 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 hes in (Darkman, Dr. Giggles, etc.). Similar to Barbara
Striesand, whos 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
movies 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
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 Whips damn business. When Whip doesnt
believe Lucas assertion that hes not trap fishing, Whip yells out "You
know something, Lucas? You dont lie very well.", and throttles his boat
forward, as if hes 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.
Doesnt this just fill you with Whips warmth and
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. Lets 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
itd 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 shes 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
shes 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 dont know. Currents
around Graves 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
doesnt have to stand at parade rest, or anything like that, but to giggle and twirl
around like a Norman Rockwell painting made flesh doesnt 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, didnt 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 Whips ringing phone.
The caller ends up being the bartenders cousin, and he tells Whip that theyre
sending the claw on to some world famous marine biologist for study, as theyve ruled
out land animals as the source. It doesnt 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 couldnt make anything of it".
A few seconds later and were 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
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, Id 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 didnt 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 Idols
hairdo from the 80s, and the other looks like Quasimodo sans hump. Yep,
thatd 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. Theres a quick tracking exterior shot of the towns 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, wont you (edited for length) :
Whip : "I want to take a look at that
Graves : "Oh yeah
, I remember that now. We scuttled it."
Whip : "You scuttled it !?!"
Graves : "
Yeah, it was damaged beyond repair. Which surprised
me, actually. Youre usually a little bit more subtle than that."
Whip : "God, youre an unbelievable jerk!"
Now, lets 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. Whos
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 doesnt 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.
Thats right : be ashamed of erudition and accomplishment. Hang your head in dishonor
if youve created jobs or if you actually have a bank account.
Graves deftly counters "What, Im supposed to
feel guilty because I didnt 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 (dont think Ive ever seen that
used in a film before, boy howdy. Wheres the evil twin brother, we wonders?) . Whip
ends the scene by lowering himself down to Graves eye level (SYMBOLISM ALERT!) and
whispering "Youre still the same old little creep that you always were, and it
makes me sick what youre doing to our island.". If that scene sounded oddly
familiar, then think : George Bailey, Mr. Potter, and a good deal more believability.
Once again, lets take a moment to consider this.
Im not giving anything away by saying that the film does not depict any more of
Graves impact on the community in addition to what theyve 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 were 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 whos 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 hes a hero.
Convinced Whip is a sanctimonious doofus yet? Good,
cause heres 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 theyve come to Graves 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 theyre
"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 hes consigning Spike and Chowder <snicker> to
less-capable hands. In other words, he doesnt seem to be concerned with their deaths
per se, merely that those deaths not reflect directly upon him. We will be given
two more examples of this as the movie progresses, by the way.
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).
Talleys young assistant Christopher enters what we presume is Talleys lab,
holding said claw and wearing an excited grin. We can tell that Talley is a scientist, as
hes 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 hes 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,
hes 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
Graves Point to study Whips "extraordinary discovery". Hes
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 isnt exactly the sharpest
knife in the drawer either, Mrs. Mike adds "Looks like somebody took a chainsaw to
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 targets flesh, sending an even larger percentage of the blood off
to that mysterious netherworld Sai Baba claims to draw his materializations from.
Cut to Whips, 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
its a whale. Im doing my best to ignore the fact that the piece of whale meat
<cough> theyre 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 its from a baby whale as it doesnt 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 Whips
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 theres 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 Ive a bridge Id 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). Heres 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 lets not worry about reality, hey?
Theres an Independence Day / The
Crawling Eye rip-off joke of some kind to be made here, but I cant quite
figure it out. Ill 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.
Im 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
theyd 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 doesnt just radio is anyones 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 choppers 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 doesnt respond with any variant of "Youre not the boss of
me", but rather tells the two civilians in detail whats 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 thats all there is.
Several questions arise here. Why would the air tank float
up? The flippers Ill give you, but a compressed air tank? If it didnt 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 theyve 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
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, its 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
"Youre not the boss of me", but instead she franticly orders everyone to
comply with their flannel-shirted saviors 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?
Cmon, guys; I wont tell if you dont?
Back on land, Dana and Hadley pull up to Danas 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 civilians front yard an entirely appropriate location to examine bits
of dead bodies? Wouldnt 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 squids "calling
card" according to Dr. Talley. When Marcus asks Whip "About this theory of
yours-", Whip interjects with "Its not a theory". Well, youre
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, cant you just feel the emotion here?
Yeah, neither can I.
Without waiting for Whips 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 Whips, 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
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 films designated scientist. Time to go into nit-pick mode again:
Whip states that the largest whole carcass ever found was
45 feet long. Wrong 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 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 squids only
enemy. Wrong 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 wont 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 Im not even being paid to do it. Look, Im prepared to deal with a certain
degree of factual deviation in a film, especially a horror film. Just dont make a
point of stating facts which are obviously bogus, or easily discovered as
such. Dont wave it in my face, and I wont 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 Graves 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
are you ready for it
. <drum roll> uh, wait for it to go away.
Thats 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 doesnt
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 whats 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
You are such a doofus, Whip.
Lucas answers back angrily, mocking Whips 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 Dantes Peak, or he would have known
that openly disagreeing with the hero (especially mocking him) will get you a seat on
Charons 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 youre 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 eagles, and it can bite through
Viewers will usually find themselves adding "It
cant be bargained with, cant be reasoned with. It doesnt
feel pity, or remorse, or fear, and it absolutely will not stop ever
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 lets just see how enlightened our
little Whipster is when a giant squid starts taking a bite out of him. Im 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
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 theyre 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 Mikes, where he and the Mrs. have an extremely
soap-operatic discussion about what theyre 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, youre watching a made-for-TV movie.
Everything : the awkward cut from the last scene, the blocking of Mikes 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
hes greedy, GET IT?), and Lucas by picking his nose when Graves holds out his hand
to shake (cause hes dirty, GET IT?). Three guesses at how well this little
partnership is going to come off, and the first two that arent "like
Jewel performing at a Tool concert" dont count.
Cut now to the Triton (Dr. Talleys boat) pulling in
(finally) to Graves Point, as Talley and Chris disembark.
But our story is elsewhere it seems, as a few seconds later
we cut to Danas room where shes 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 cant
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.".
Im 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 dont 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 Danas depression seems a bit much
given how little she knew the two guys.
On the other hand, Hadleys giggly little
pronouncement that tomorrow is another day strikes me as more than a little callous (or do
I mean vacuous?). You dont 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. Talleys 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, whos 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 whos beginning to glow on her own, and a cut back to Chris whos 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 havent 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 cliché 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, thats just what this segment is, in fact. All thats 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 daughters dress, to which she saucily replies "Then Ill
just have to find somebody to keep me warm, wont I?".
, I dont know if its 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 didnt really say or do anything after Danas 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 daughters bawdy
remarks about finding someone to keep her warm, well I guess thats too much to ask
for a father.
The scene eventually ends with Whip, Dana,
and Hadley heading off to the Founders 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 hes 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 Whips boat as he and Mike prepare to unveil the whale
meat <cough> to Talley, Chris, and Lt. Tonights 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 nights 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
Founders 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 <cough>, Whip warns Lt. Henderson to steady
himself. All puffed up and sure of himself, Henderson replies that he can handle it. Of
course, when they open the lid to reveal the rotting carcass <cough> inside,
Henderson makes one of those burpie gestures, and quickly excuses himself to
go puke, a la Constable Parrot from the Crunchy Frog sketch by Monty
Python. See, its funny, cause he said he could handle it, and now hes puking,
and its fun that way. Ha ha. Wherever he is, Bob Denver is smiling beatifically
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 (Im giving him partial credit as he didnt
add Dux to indicate species) based on one momentary whiff of the
congealed few-days-old blood of one of the subjects victims? Whod a thought biology
was so simple? You know, if Talley had been around, theres 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 doesnt 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 youve seen the original Humanoids
From the Deep, compare Lucas mob with the dirty squad of fishermen / brown
shirts Slattery commanded in that film. If youve not seen it, dont 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 dont know. Man, Ill 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 wont start.
Do I even need to point out what a hoary old cliché
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!
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
Graves belongings, the conversation doesnt begin with the
indeterminately accented Talley saying "Ahh, Herr Graves. Kommen sie bitte mit
uns.". Instead, Whip whines that he and Talley werent 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, Whips eyes bulge from their sockets as he repeats "You sold
<Level 5 Sarcasm>
Oh, no! Graves had the audacity to sell something
that he paid someone to go out and kill! Wont someone please think of
</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 doesnt 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 "whats done is done", and that
hell talk to Manning about possibly being permitted to check the squid out. Whip
(our hero mind you) spits "I wanna ring that little jerks 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 cant see the squid itself, he can at least see
what its habitat is like. Granted, Im 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, Ill bet thats 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 hes
"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 theyve only know each other for a few days. To this Chris
answers (and I do quote, oh my Brothers) "Really? Seems like weve 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
"Ive never felt this way before", and "Hey, its only a cold
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 Talleys boat, Marcus is waiting to take a trip
down in the submersible (for what reason, we dont 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. Lets get the heros
squeeze out of harms 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 cant buy originality like this
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 cant 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 Ive 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 cant wait for
you to be dead.". Okay, I made that up I was the one saying it.
Now were 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. Gormans 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 Debbies chagrin, as she wasnt 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
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
doesnt look all that bad an effect, if Im 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
theres 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 theres 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 heres a baby, wheres his
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
Gormans station), the sub slowly checks out the squids stomping grounds (the
marines sweep the complex and/or processing station), and the squid appears (the aliens
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 shed 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 Im sure James Horner
wont 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
you get the picture.
So, the squid attacks, and everyone on the sub snuffs it,
the action punctuated by the squids 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, thats 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 youd a shown us
the squid, you idiot, wed a known it was the wrong one!".
Yeah, and if your expedition would have waited an
hour or two, Im sure Mannings people would have been happy to share their
information with you, even if they didnt choose to let Talley examine it first hand.
Whip adds "I hold you responsible for what happened today!".
Well, one, Graves didnt 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, ifn 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 Tasters Choice moment back at
Whip Central. Hes brining the typical Tray O Random Food up to Dana, whos
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 shes going to die, I couldnt hear Whips response, as I was too busy
remarking for him "No, honey, youre not going to die. Just anyone you
happen to flirt with, thats all.". Dana goes on with some TV tears and
TV sadness, while Whip consoles her with some TV wisdom (like "youre gonna feel
this a long time", and "youre 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 wont go out to get the squid. Of course,
his lawyers will soon go over said promise for a loophole, as theres no way
formulaic movie like this is going to allow anyone but the (supposed) hero to vanquish the
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 hes supposed to
be, by threatening to close Lucas down for trap fishing (which he is guilty of,
mind you) if he doesnt go out and kill the squid. Realising that hes 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 subs hull and into the
digestive system of a giant squid. Here Im 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 theyre still alive just because someone else died? Wouldnt it be nice for
a change to hear "Man, thats really sad about Jamison. He was a great guy, and
Im sorry hes dead. But, hey, at least Im still here, thats
something to be happy about"? Just for the sake of variety, if nothing else, you
Also were treated (finally) to Whips
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 mans 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 Ive 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
doesnt really, but she should have done. Instead she bonds with him on some strange
level and they tentatively hold each others hands, then, haltingly, kiss for the
first time ("Sometimes when we touch The honesty is too much", ad
What would be cool is if that night Dana whacked Marcus in
a blind fit of jealous rage both for taking her mothers place, as well as for having
a living lover while Danas was being digested a few hundred feet under water
in the innards of an invertebrate. No, theres no way that this is actually going to
happen, but a man can dream, cant he?
The next episod-, I mean scene, opens with
Mike trying to find a job with someone, but no ones 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 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 hes responsible for.
In all seriousness, if youre only responsible for
yourself, whatever you choose to do is fine, as only you will prosper or fail by your
choices. But if youre 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 dont care if its putting on Kabuki makeup and doing a
one-man version of Merry Wives of Windsor at a local nudist resort 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 ones 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 squids death.
But someone does take Lucas up. From far off screen we hear
"Ill take up your offer, Lucas", swish pan to Mike, who finishes
"Ill help you kill the Beast". You know, its just so darned cute when
films try and get all dramatic, isnt 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 couldnt help but be reminded of the "I will
pay for Amy to go home" speech Tim Currys character gave in Congo (if
you need a laugh and youve got two minutes, watch this scene; you wont
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 Mikes 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
theres 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 its 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 <cough>
pull off some foreshadowing. The two make their way through a mass of stage business
taking place on the Tritons quarterdeck, and into Talleys lab. Enjoy this
linguistic marvel (and dont forget Mannings twang here) :
Manning : "
done with er, Sea Land, Texas is gonna be a world class aquarium
Talley : "And the carcass of a giant squid would be a significant
addition to your collection."
Manning : "And so would one of the worlds foremost marine
Talley : "Youve lost me"
Manning : "Howd 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
Manning : "Resign from em. Ill double whatever it is
theyre all paying you. Im 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."
Cant you just see that scene being played by, say,
Robert Vaughn and Richard Chamberlain? Also worth noting is that Mannings 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 (?), whos 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 wasnt 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 couldnt make decisions for himself. Whats more,
why the rush? Its not as if everyone setting out on the ocean was being set upon
immediately. Seriously here, Whip, youre gonna have to stop trying to run everything
and everyone. Youre a fisherman, man. Deal with it.
Oh yeah, and do I take it that Whip wouldnt 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 theres
quite a storm about, the rigging lights on Lucas 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
theyve been tossing out bait barrels, theyd 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 cant figure out how Mike ends up entangled in a
conveniently hung up cargo net, and gets knocked to the ground so that the squid
cant 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 boats 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
Im 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
crows 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
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
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 cant 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, Id like to mention my genuine
surprise that Mike wasnt 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 hes 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 youd expect, a string of "no
I have to say that this scene doesnt really have much
to support itself, as were 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 cant quite see the death of Random Crewman2 and the
wounding of Mike as Graves fault. They knew the risks, they made their choices. It
doesnt work to hold someone at fault for things simply because were 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 whos 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 doesnt
care, or is afraid, as he refused their request to go out and battle the squid. Of course,
if Whip wont 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 isnt afraid of anything. Les turns back to his work,
shaking his head and muttering that he doesnt 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 Whips
lawyers, in order to guilt her into unilaterally releasing her father from his
promise. Well, no, they didnt so much as show this in the movie, but it does
make sense in any case, so Im 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 hes 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 thats
ridiculous (which, when you think about it, it is), but Whips and
Mannings 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, wouldnt Graves total lack of experience with the sea make him
more of a hindrance, to where theyd be better off without him? Name one good
function he could fill on the mission. Oh, youre right : victim. Silly me.
Cut to a briefing aboard the Triton (the larger vessel
designed to investigate marine life which they arent 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 Im not even going to discuss, cut to the outfitting of
Whips boat. Saying that he doesnt 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 Danas
pained expression that youd 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 orchestras low brass. Just what it was that was so dramatic about
putting out a lure even the film doesnt 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 didnt
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 Mikes 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 boats engines is scaring the squid off
(cause weve seen how much the sound of Lucas engines scared it
off. Three times). Nevertheless, Whip announces to the men on the stern that theyre
just going to drift around for a while and see what happens. Hey, just like the
I shouldnt 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, Im better now. I think theyve 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 isnt there, Marcus
calls to Whip that the squid is there. Again, Bob Denver is smiling right now
Just when I thought it wasnt 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 Mannings, 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 lures cable housing off the boat. Instead, the
squid gives out another of its trademark screeches, and a close up shows a model of the
Privateers bow pitch up a scale foot or two.
As they pull an all ahead full with the engines, they start
the lures 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. Im 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 theyll have to radio Graves Point and have someone come get
them. Whip answers that theyll have to wait until morning. Uh, why? Youre only
allowed to have maritime emergencies from 9-5? Youve even got an officer in the
COAST GUARD with you, man. I think theyd be willing to help out.
Of course, Manning gives us a reason why we cant
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 isnt exactly well received by
the rest of the crew. Things get worse when we learn that Manning didnt 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 isnt 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 (Im frightened. I actually agree with Whips
sentiments and plan of action here.). As they argue back and forth we hear a splashing
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 things gonna wake up. I gotta get out of
here!", because, frankly, when theres a giant squid on the loose, a rubber two
man raft is far far better than a large fishing boat. Marcus calls back that
"Theyre sending a chopper from the base", even though no ones made
any calls yet. Graves replies "What if they dont 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 youd have a case, but Whip has made it crystal clear that
hes cutting the lines to try and get away. When panicking, you may not make the best
of decisions, but youd 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
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
dont know a great deal about choppers I cant 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 youre wondering why the squid left in such a hurry
when theres a whole boatload of food a few feet away, then youve 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 boats
sonar, hoping that it provides them with an early warning should the squid return. But I
wonder if there wasnt 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 familys raft at the beginning of this
mess. Lending credence to my theory that its 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 wouldnt 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
wouldnt have put this past them either). This is another point were left to
ponder on our own, as Mike sinks back to his bed, tells his questioning wife that
hes 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 wouldnt 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
hes preparing another canister in case the squid comes back. I wont make a big
deal about this; I will only ask Manning nicely why he didnt 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 didnt you use one or more of the
canisters while the squid was placidly moored to the boat, or when it first came to again?
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 Privateers 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 youd 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
hes caught by one of the whips (which can shred a 100 pound tuna in five seconds,
remember) Whip struggles heroically <cough cough> and orders Marcus to fire her
flare gun at the spilled fuel. Luckily he gets away from the whip (?) and the chopper
lifts them to safety as Marcus shoots the flare gun.
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 <SWISSSHH> sound from the games
final level mixed in with the subsequent secondary explosion noises here.
My final word about this sequence : several of the effects
well, lets just say Bert I. Gordon would be proud.
The next morning the chopper arrives at
Whips (must have been a long trip the last scene was the dead of night),
disgorging our wounded hero <cough> and Marcus, much to Danas delight. No
matter how many times I watch this part, the first three notes of the triumphant music cue
that plays when Dana first sees her father make me think Im about to hear a full
orchestra version of Frodo of the Nine Fingers, though, sadly, this never
comes to pass.
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 hes the t-shirted sword of justice come to bring
Just the fact that Beast used this overly simplistic
and grossly cliched premise isnt 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 whos actions
are creating (or at least assisting) the problem that is the movies focus. Were it
not for this fundamental failing of a dynamic central to the movies 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
Meanwhile, the would-be hero ruins valuable salvage rather
than give it up to lawful authorities, treats people he doesnt 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
In closing, Id like to just say :
Review by Douglas Milroy