Monday, February 7, 2011

UP FROM THE DEPTHS / DEMON OF PARADISE

The latest "Roger Corman's Cult Classics" double feature from Shout! Factory pairs two Philippine-shot aquatic monster fests - UP FROM THE DEPTHS (1979) and DEMON OF PARADISE (1987) for the first time on Region 1 DVD.

UP FROM THE DEPTHS is a threadbare JAWS retread directed by long-time Corman collaborator Charles Griffith (EAT MY DUST) and starring Sam Bottoms (APOCALYPSE NOW). The thin story has a small Hawaiian vacation resort terrorized by a prehistoric shark-creature.

Anne Dyer's script clearly is meant to be a spoof, but Griffith's direction - and the performances of the cast - are so leaden and dull that any laughs the movie evokes are entirely unintentional. The deliberate gags fall flat, but there are a few chuckles to be had by the ineffective prop monster and ridiculous plot contrivances.

DEMON OF PARADISE, directed by Ciro Santiago (who had produced DEPTHS for Corman's New World Pictures eight years before) is a semi-remake, with a humanoid fish monster terrorizing a different Hawaiian resort (this time, on a river). Resort owner Angie (Kathryn Witt, COCAINE WARS) and the local sheriff (William Steis, RAIDERS OF THE SUN), team up to hunt down the critter, which, in this case, was awakened by dynamite-fishing locals.

Santiago's (ANGELFIST, KILL ZONE) fish story is a bit more lively than its co-feature, and the monster suit is pretty cool. The tropical Phillipine locations are picturesque, the cast is about adequate for a direct-to-video, Eighties B- movie, and the pace isn't bad. It's also funnier than DEPTHS, and, usually, on purpose.

The DVD double feature presents both films on one disc, in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfers. Both prints are a bit worn and evidence occasional specks, scratches and/or other minor damage, but are otherwise quite watchable and vast improvements over the VHS editions from the 80s. Special features include trailers for both films, TV & Radio spots for DEPTHS, and a brief "Making Of" retrospective featurette on DEPTHS, which includes on-screen interviews with Corman and effects men Chris Walas (ENEMY MINE, DEEPSTAR SIX) and Robert Short (CHOPPING MALL). Also included are trailers for other Corman titles available or coming soon from Shout! Factory, including Santiago's FIRECRACKER, HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP, CAGED HEAT and JACKSON COUNTY JAIL.

Neither movie is particularly good, but Shout! has done a great job presenting them on DVD. As with other double-feature discs in the line, the viewer as the options of watching each film individually, or together in a "grindhouse experience" that includes trailers and vintage concession ads. If you're a fan of these films - or just these kinds of movies, in general - you may find the disc worth picking up.

BUY: Up From The Depths / Demon Of Paradise (Roger Corman's Cult Classics)