HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:64
WARNING: THE SCORES ABOVE ARE A COMBINED SCORE FROM BOTH FILMS, THE INDIVIDUAL SCORES ARE CONTAINED BELOW IN THE INDIVIDUAL SECTIONS OF THE REVIEW
Back once again, this time with another set of Scream Factory double features, and this time from a much more obscure lineup. I love me some creature features and Shout has definitely satisfied that craving (for the time) with a set of movies ranging from 1961 to 1977, both with a bit of a unique twist. 1977’s “Tentacles” is your classic monster from the sea, rampaging across the high seas, while 1961’s “Reptilicus” is that old fashioned “Godzilla” style monster mash, rampaging through cities, towns, eating poor people and the poor military is helpless to do anything. Both are interesting looks into the past, with “Tentacles” being the obvious weak link in the chain, although neither movie will ever be hailed with the term “classic” attached to their names.
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the press release for these two movies. “Tentacles” was an old childhood rerun that was watched over older sibling’s shoulders on a cheap wood framed TV back in the early 80s. A movie so bad that even MGM wouldn’t release it on its own, but was paired with “Empire of the Ants” as a Midnight movie presentation 10 years ago (which, ironically “Empire of the Ants” was released by Scream Factory a few weeks ago). I had pretty much forgotten most of the movie by this time, as the last viewing was over 25 years ago, but still I don’t remember being too scared by the experience. Watching it 25+ years later still hasn’t changed my opinion, as “Tentacles” is a little bit of a bore. Filled with cheesy dialogue and nonsensical plot points that lead nowhere, it meanders around until it just finally “ends” with little fanfare.
The film starts out with a giant octopus stalking and then devouring a baby off of the side of a beach, then gulping a peg legged seaman off of his boat, before heading out to sea to attack a boat full of Greek vacationists. The only unfortunate thing is that we don’t get to SEE any of it. There’s a bloated and rotting corpse (of the seaman) that pops up out of the water, but that’s really the only thing you see gruesome or terrifying in the whole movie (even the tentacles picking the girl out of the water are barely seen). It seems an underwater construction/drilling team has ticked off a giant mutated octopus with their illegal actions, and now it’s terrorizing this small seafaring town. A reporter (John) is dutifully trying to pin the acts of terror on the evil Mr. Whitehead (Henry Fonda), really the plot is almost inconsequential, as you watch the octopus tear things down and shots that almost appear as if director Ovidio G. Assononitis was taking copious amounts of the famed 1970’s hard drugs.
As a monster movie, “Tentacles” is pretty much a failure. There are almost no shots of the actual monster, and the destruction is kept to a minimum, with a lot of time spent on John Huston’s character trying to make SOME sense of the plot. However, as a ridiculous drug infused audio experience it’s almost hysterical. The first hour just coasts along on auto pilot, without a single one of the main actors seeming to care one iota, but then the final 30-40 minutes the director throws his hands up in the air and says “I’m done, just shoot what you want” as shot after shot goes by with seemingly aimless and pointless direction behind the motion of the camera. Entire minutes go by without a single voice being heard, just the bizarre electronic music pulsing in the background, and no monster in sight. With this much star power you would expect an amazing, or at least entertaining movie, but Shelly Winters, John Huston, Bo Hopkins and Henry Fonda are pretty much only there for extra beer money once they cash their paycheck. It’s stupid, it’s ridiculous, and a little bit entertaining at the same time, but unfortunately not a great movie.
“Reptilicus” is on the opposite end of the spectrum here. A Danish film dubbed into English, it stands as one of the most horribly awesome movies ever made. This is one of those films that I honestly don’t know why “Mystery Science Theater 3000” didn’t get ahold of, as it just BEGS to have Mike, Servo, Gypsy etc just rip into it with no mercy whatsoever. The dialog alone had me in tears I was laughing so hard, and the awful (translated as awesome) special effects along with the plastic model sea serpent smashing a model town was enough to have me laughing and grinning the entire movie.
A Danish drilling team, led by Svend Viltorft (Bent Mejding) have found something fantastic. After the tips of one of their drilling machines came up with leathery flesh and blood on the tip, the call in a group of scientists headed by Dr. Otto Martens (Asbjorn Andersen) who realize that they have discovered a prehistoric reptile under the surface. Bringing up a piece of the remains to the surface, they bring it to the University to study the frozen remains. After a slight accident in the lab that results in the piece being thawed out, the scientists discover that the piece of ancient reptile is healing itself, regenerating into something who knows what. The curious nature of man is nothing to sneer at and the soon the entire world is watching what is growing in their laboratory. Dubbing the creature, Reptilicus, they soon find they’ve bitten off more than they can chew, as the few feet of tail they unearthed soon regenerates into a 90 foot monster that is out of their control.
Escaping into the wild, the beast is tracked down by the U.N. brigadier general, Mark Grayson (Carl Ottosen) and blasted with every bit of firepower he has at his disposal. The ancient lizard is too powerful for such measures and, while wounded, slips back into the ocean to regenerate once more. Not to be defeated so easily, the hot headed general tracks down the monster in the shallow waters and starts blasting at him again, this time driving him out into the populated city where Reptilicus can smash, eat, squirt green slime and just plain destroy everything in sight Godzilla style. Realizing that they can’t blow him up, as the little pieces will just regenerate into new monsters, the general and the scientists have to bring their heads together and devise a way to take down the monster without risking small bits of the monster being lost.
Oh….my…. goodness. I haven’t had this much frun in a long time. A good old Godzilla style monster flick, that runs at a brisk 83 minutes that doesn’t keep you looking at the remainder on the time clock. The actors are desperately trying to make a classic film, but this is a time when not only were sci-fi and monster flicks expensive to produce, but they required good actors with a good script, something which “Reptlicus” has nothing of. The movie plays out almost like a full blow parody, with goofy caretakers, a general who chews up every bit of scenery he can, and hot Danish women who have no point in the story but to look cute and then randomly save the day at the end. Much of the movie is just Reptilicis rampaging around the countryside and eating everything, but then there are random spots in the movie where the plot goes sideways and we spend nearly 10 minutes watching General Grayson having a good time around the city with one of the said gorgeous Danish women. Then a few moments later we’re watching them try to blow the snot out of the poor lizard once more. It’s a fantastic ride of awful awesomeness that just needs to be seen to be understood.
Rated PG and Unrated respectively
Despite being a low budget 70s flick, “Tentacles” actually looks really really good. Film grain is heavy, consistent with that era and budget, but it looks like it was fairly unmolested and remains very natural looking. It has a sun touched warmth to it that looks inviting and the bright sunny beach scenes look exceptional. There is a bit of crush during the underwater sequences, but for the most part they really nice, with clean detail and solid clarity. The only way I see this looking any better, besides from a fresh master, is maybe a bit more bitrate on its own disc, and even then the differences would be very slight.
Being 16 years older, “Reptilicus” is definitely a bit worse for wear than “Tentacles”. Many of the scenes looking very solid, with albeit heavy grain and wonky touch to the focus, but other scenes are overwhelmed with heavy heavy grain and the film gains a very soft texture. The disc says it was given a remastering, but the elements still look like they’re in rather rough shape. A full restoration work is most likely never going to be attempted due the money and effort it would take for very little return on investment. The real issue here is print damage, as there are a lot of optical effects and matte shots that would require some serious digital wizardry to get looking great once more. The fine detail is there in spades, and the disc itself seems clear of any encoding artifacts, which greatly helps to offset the copious damage the print seems to have. A solid encode, and a decent presentation for sure.
It seems that both movies have been given a fully uncompressed LPCM 2.0 track, which is kind of surprising as LPCM is rather wasteful in the day and age where lossless compression would have freed up some bitrate for the video. Still, uncompressed PCM is about as issue free with compression as you can get, and the audio track for “Tentacles” certainly sounds rather pleasing. It’s your standard low budget 2.0 track, and that means no surround usage, no real LFE to speak of and a very front heavy presentation. There’s some mild channel separation among the two mains, but nothing wild, which leaves it a mainly dialog heavy film with some front forward effects.
Being that this was a Danish filmed dubbed into English, it plays out like one of those old Kung Fu movies where the lips and the voices are rather out of sync. Thankfully it adds to the already ludicrous humor of the movie and is the least of our worries. Much like “Tentacles”, “Reptilicus” is a very front heavy track that mainly uses the mains as a method of getting stable dialog across. The action scenes seem a bit hot though, as the dialog gets a bit drowned out when Reptliicis himself start rampaging. It’s a solid audio track and for a low budget Danish flick, it sounds really rather good.
• Still Gallery
• Radio Spots
• Theatrical Trailer
• Still Gallery
• Radio Spots
• Theatrical Trailer
Both movies are C- grade material, and are pretty much for the hard core monster mash cinephiles, but they’re still well worth a watch if you’re fascinated by the bizarre and the obscure. Their presentation on this disc is most likely about as good as they’re ever going to look, being that their obscure nature and cheap budgets don’t lend themselves to multi hundreds of thousands needed for a full restoration and remastering. Rental for sure.
Starring: John Huston, Bo Hopkins, Shelly Winters, Asbjorn Andersen, Povl Woldike
Directed by: Ovidio G. Assonitis : Sidney W. Pink
Written by: Steven W. Carabatsos, Tito Carpi : Sidney W. Pink (original Story), Ib Melchio (Screenplay)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 AVC/1.66:1 AVC
Audio: English LPCM 2.0 (Both Films)
Studio: Shout Factory
Rated: PG : Unrated
Runtime: 100 minutes : 83 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: June 16th, 2015
Buy Tentacles/Reptilicus Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It
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