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When fish attack.

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Rated G
Copyright 1972 Conquest of the Deeps Limited and Company
Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 21 December 2009

Capsule Review:    

This movie lied to me.

Heck, it has lied to every person who ever looked at the cover art, because what is depicted on the cover is a minisubmersible being menaced by a huge prehistoric-looking fish as a giant eel bites a diver in half. The movie's tagline is "The most fantastic undersea odyssey ever filmed!" Anybody with any experience watching Ray Harryhausen films that looks at that picture and reads that description will instantly conjure up exciting scenes of monstrous underwater denizens. However, actually watching this film is a ghastly disappointment. I think that most of it was filmed in somebody's aquarium.

Motherlover, that is disappointing.

See, there is this underwater laboratory called Sealab. One day a huge underwater earthquake makes the cylinder roll off the mountain (an underwater mountain) it was built on and down into a trench. Cmdr. Blake (Ben Gazzara) heads up a rescue operation that has to contend with numerous realistic dangers like strong underwater currents, limited battery power, and sand. Yes, sand. Watching the minisubmersible being menaced by a gentle dusting of silicon dioxide is tedious. Actually, the whole movie is a waste of time, but the first half is especially frustrating; the rescue sub makes a few exploratory test dives to assess the situation. Do you have any idea how much of a bummer it is to watch forty minutes of exploration dives that are discontinued once the minisubmersible encounters a situation that might be dangerous?

"Whoa, that jellyfish almost hit us head on! Let's go back to the surface and think things over. Somebody could have gotten hurt."

Just about the time I was ready to throw my hands up in the air in complete disgust, the female member of the crew (Yvette Mimieux) forced the minisubmersible to dive well below the "completely safe and kosher" depth. Forgive me for getting excited here, because it was not a particularly stimulating development, but something actually happened!

Holy cow!

The submersible's journey into the unknown discovers that Sealab fell into an unexplored cave. Inside that cave are dangers unknown. OK, so one of those dangers is a rogue current that makes Cmdr. Blake and Ernest Borgnine (yes, he's in this, too) grip the controls for five minutes straight as they exclaim to the others that they cannot keep control of the craft. On the outside, we see the model submersible wobble in the tank. That's about as thrilling as the movie gets, so you are just going to have to deal with it. I had to. For almost one hundred minutes I had to deal with watching a movie where nothing exciting happens. Ever.

When the rescue team finally wobbles their way into the cave we get to see the incredible creatures hinted at on the cover. They are all regular lobsters, fish, and eels, filmed up close so that they look large. The huge prehistoric fish on the cover? That's a lie. It's a fish. It doesn't eat anybody. It just swims up to the camera. Whenever anything has to interact with the submarine, they put the model in the aquarium with the fish (or crustacean) and filmed that. The models are not even particularly convincing; I wouldn't have been surprised if they used regular aquarium toys. The only thing missing was bubbles coming out of them.

The real problem with this movie is that they were trying to make a realistic film like "Fantastic Voyage." It works when the setting is inside of a human body. It does not work when you film fish in an aquarium.

Things I Learned From This Show:  

Green Dot Building a rolling undersea habitat, on top of an undersea mountain, next to a bottomless undersea trench, is really freaking stupid.
Green Dot Crustacean: crus·ta·cean (kruh-stey-shuhn)n., 1. Any aquatic arthropod that has a chitinous exoskeleton and ratchet-action limbs.
Green Dot Ernest Borgnine is 3/4 Italian, 1/4 monkfish, and all SCUBA.
Green Dot The only thing more boring than watching paint dry is watching paint dry underwater.

Stuff To Watch For:  

Green Dot 11 mins - Is anything going to happen?
Green Dot 14 mins - Wow, an earthquake!
Green Dot 41 mins - OK, is anything else going to happen?
Green Dot 54 mins - You are right, the only way that piece of seaweed could possibly have gotten down here is if some meddling human put it there. I tell you, these underwater accidents are destroying the earth one kelp at a time.
Green Dot 83 mins - If that is supposed to be the fish on the DVD cover, I am very upset.
Green Dot End Credits - Just in case you were wondering: that was supposed to be the fish on the DVD cover, and nothing else happened.


Dr. Andrews: "I wonder if Einstein meant his theory of relativity to encompass the relativity of beauty?"
Dr. Leah Jansen: "Has anyone ever observed, Dr. Andrews, that you have a very fishy way of flirting with the ladies?"

Chief Diver MacKay: "Well, we'll try again tomorrow. Should take no more than ten, twelve hours to recharge our batteries."
Cmdr. Blake: "Negative. All we can do now is go deeper. How do you think we would have stood up under that sand avalanche with another five hundred feet of water on top of us?"

Dr. Leah Jansen: "And those jawfish! The ones I've seen have been only two inches long. Look at them!"

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