DeepStar Six (1989, Sean S. Cunningham)

DeepStar Six is a bad looking movie. There’s maybe one decent special effects moment–very limited, slightly gory–and it comes at the end, after the film has flubbed bigger effects sequences and other gore moments. Director Cunningham pretends he’s doing “Jaws at the ocean floor” for a while, though it’s never even clear if there’s one monster or multiple ones. Because it’s not a shark, it’s some prehistoric crab thing.

Except the prehistoric crab thing looks like a fifties sci-fi alien mixed with Audrey II. And really cheap. Cunningham and editor David Handman do try to hide the cheapness, but they can’t. Worse, they cut away from the monster so often, it’d be preferable for them to just embrace the cheap and have the thing onscreen. Action sequences might make more sense.

The film takes place at an experimental ocean floor Navy installation. There’s a staff of Navy personnel and civilian scientists. The scientists are Russian Elya Baskin and South African Marius Weyers. It’s not clear why the Navy’s got foreign nationals installing underwater nuclear warhead launch platforms but whatever. None of the Navy personnel wears uniforms or has ranks (other than captain Taurean Blacque) and John Krenz Reinhart Jr.’s production design harkens back to those fifties sci-fi cheapies, not state-of-the-art eighties Navy stuff.

The sets are way too big too. No one’s cramped. There’s always plenty of room, especially in the submersibles. Or Cunningham and photographer Mac Ahlberg are just shooting through walls and it’s not clear because the direction’s so bad it doesn’t matter. Cunningham does nothing good in DeepStar Six. Sometimes he composes for the eventual pan-and-scan (the film’s an utter waste of a Panavision frame), sometimes he doesn’t. In the times he doesn’t, usually because there are just too many cast members in the shot, it’s slightly better. Not the direction, the experience of watching the film. It makes a little more sense, having all those people crammed into a frame. The shots having action taking place at different distances from the camera.

It’s a terribly directed film. Anything helps.

Because the special effects sequences don’t help either. The undersea exteriors are bad. There’s a dullness to them to “hide” them not being shot underwater. Of course, any of those bad underwater special effects are nothing compared when there are shots on the water. Then the composites are just hideous. And the mattes are awful.

Maybe the only surprise–which sadly isn’t Harry Manfredini having a good score (it’s not awful and it’s better than the film deserves, but it’s not good)–so a bigger surprise, actually, is the acting. Greg Evigan gives a better performance than Miguel Ferrer. Evigan’s the enlisted man, working class submarine pilot. Ferrer’s the working class mechanic. Ferrer freaks out at everything and dooms the cast on multiple occasions. Evigan’s romancing pseudo-Ripley Nancy Everhard. She’s the first woman to go through Navy Seal training and, for whatever reason, she wants to manage annoying civilians on the ocean floor.

Matt McCoy is the other submarine pilot. Nia Peeples is a scientist. She’s more convincing than Weyers, who just plays his part like an asshole. Peeples at least has some intellectual curiosity. Unfortunately she also gets the bulk of the objectifying and an unlikely romance with McCoy.

Cindy Pickett is the doctor. By the end of the movie, she’s probably turned in the best overall performance. She’s got nothing to do at the start and a weak finish, but once the monster attacks, she’s always active.

Everhard’s occasionally likable but not good.

Ferrer’s terrible. It’s not entirely his fault–Cunningham’s got a hands-off approach to directing the actors and Ferrer’s got some really bad writing. Lewis Abernathy and Geof Miller’s script is risible.

Given the bad script and the bad direction, the cast being at all likable is an accomplishment. Especially since it’s an And Then There Were None burn through the cast. Most of them don’t even get cool monster deaths–none of them do, not even when it’s a monster death because the special effects are so bad–but usually the movie doesn’t even try. It’s a disaster movie about the least prepared undersea operation in history. They’re not prepared for any problems. It’s stupefying.

So there’s the one good effects sequence, the curiosity of the adequate against the odds performances (he, Everhard, and Pickett are all extremely earnest, which helps), and the final jump scare. That one got me, even though I was waiting for it.

With a bigger budget, a better script, a better director, a better cinematographer, a better production designer… DeepStar Six might be downright mediocre. Instead, it’s pretty bad. If Cunningham had just embraced the cheapness though–gone for the fifties sci-fi–it might have worked out close to as is.

But of course Cunningham didn’t, because he makes bad choices leading to bad movies. He sinks DeepStar Six.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Sean S. Cunningham; screenplay by Lewis Abernathy and Geof Miller, story by Abernathy; director of photography, Mac Ahlberg; edited by David Handman; music by Harry Manfredini; production designer, John Krenz Reinhart Jr.; produced by Cunningham and Patrick Markey; released by Tri-Star Pictures.

Starring Nancy Everhard (Collins), Greg Evigan (McBride), Miguel Ferrer (Snyder), Nia Peeples (Scarpelli), Matt McCoy (Richardson), Cindy Pickett (Norris), Marius Weyers (Van Gelder), Elya Baskin (Burciaga), Thom Bray (Hodges), Ronn Carroll (Osborne), and Taurean Blacque (Captain Laidlaw).


RELATED

Advertisements

Judex (1916, Louis Feuillade), Episode 11: The Water Goddess

So while Yvonne Dario is still consoling Yvette Andréyor about deceiving her–again, it’s not clear how much of the blame Dario takes on herself, which should be a lot since she made René Cresté vow to kill Andréyor’s father–Cresté goes off to save Andréyor’s father. On the way, he meets up with his brother, Édouard Mathé, who managed to get out of the house without raising Andréyor’s suspicions. Mathé tries to give Cresté a pistol but Cresté doesn’t need one.

What he does need is to pay some attention. At the meeting spot, Musidora sneaks up on Cresté. She’s on a boat. He doesn’t see a boat. Nearby, Marcel Lévesque and his girlfriend, Lily Deligny, see the boat. Which is good, because Deligny has to go save Cresté after he gets taken prisoner because he’s not good at planning. At all.

Deligny is the titular Water Goddess and, along with René Poyen, one of Judex’s real heroes.

It’s a fairly action-packed chapter. Not particularly suspenseful, as director Feuillade draws more attention to the melodramatic possibilities–but still action-packed. It’s good Judex has established Cresté as unable to think about anything else when he’s got Andréyor on his mind, because he forgets about Deligny. He also forgets about the guy he gets killed. He’s preoccupied. He’s convinced Louis Leubas (as Andréyor’s father) there might be a happy ending for all.

Except the dead people.

Lévesque’s got some adorable physical comedy and Goddess is paced well. It just further reveals, presumably unintentionally, Cresté to be more a feckless blue blood than determined vigilante.

One episode to go. Then the epilogue.

CREDITS

Directed by Louis Feuillade; written by Arthur Bernède and Feuillade; directors of photography, André Glatti and Léon Klausse; production designer, Robert-Jules Garnier; released by Gaumont.

Starring René Cresté (Judex), Yvette Andréyor (Jacqueline Aubry), Musidora (Diana Monti), Louis Leubas (Favraux), Marcel Lévesque (Cocantin), Jean Devalde (Robert Moralés), Édouard Mathé (Roger de Tremeuse), Olinda Mano (Jean), René Poyen (The Licorice Kid), Gaston Michel (Pierre Kerjean), Lily Deligny (Miss Daisy Torp), Juliette Clarens (Gisèle), Georges Flateau (Vicomte de la Rochefontaine), and Yvonne Dario (Comtesse de Tremeuse).


RELATED

Judex (1916, Louis Feuillade), Episode 10: Jacqueline’s Heart

Jacqueline’s Heart is a very short episode. Nine minutes or so. And nothing much happens except René Cresté plays fast and loose with his multiple identities and Yvette Andréyor finds his make-up kit. Overhearing Andréyor wish his sweet old man persona would show up, Cresté obliges.

A note from Andréyor’s father–no longer imprisoned (at least not by Cresté)–arrives and beckons her to a mysterious meeting on the docks at night. Cresté, as old man, says he’ll go. But then he changes into his Judex gear in his room (next to Andréyor’s) before heading out.

And she sees him. Leading to her investigating his room. And finding his makeup kit. Then along comes Yvonne Dario to console the confused Andréyor.

The episode ends with Dario telling Andréyor everything. Sadly it cuts that scene, so it’s not clear yet if Dario is going to tell Andréyor she–Dario–is the one who wanted to kill her–Andréyor’s–father.

It’s an interesting turn of events; I assumed Andréyor wouldn’t find out the truth until much later. But Judex is getting close to the finish. Only three episodes to go. Or two and an epilogue.

CREDITS

Directed by Louis Feuillade; written by Arthur Bernède and Feuillade; directors of photography, André Glatti and Léon Klausse; production designer, Robert-Jules Garnier; released by Gaumont.

Starring René Cresté (Judex), Yvette Andréyor (Jacqueline Aubry), Musidora (Diana Monti), Louis Leubas (Favraux), Marcel Lévesque (Cocantin), Jean Devalde (Robert Moralés), Édouard Mathé (Roger de Tremeuse), Olinda Mano (Jean), René Poyen (The Licorice Kid), Gaston Michel (Pierre Kerjean), Lily Deligny (Miss Daisy Torp), Juliette Clarens (Gisèle), Georges Flateau (Vicomte de la Rochefontaine), and Yvonne Dario (Comtesse de Tremeuse).


RELATED

Judex (1916, Louis Feuillade), Episode 9: When the Child Appeared

This chapter begins with the principals removed from their problems and living it up on the Mediterranean. Édouard Mathé and mother Yvonne Dario have taken Yvette Andréyor, Olinda Mano, and (of course) René Poyen away from the troubles in Paris to a beautiful seaside estate. Somewhere they can all just relax, safe from Musidora’s evil machinations.

Except, of course, lovestruck René Cresté can’t help but rent the estate next door so he can woo Andréyor (in his own identity). He has to bring his prisoner along with, so he also needs the prisoner’s caretaker. Apparently it never occurs to Cresté someone might see supposed dead Louis Leubas and recognize him. Andréyor’s only his daughter, Mano’s only his grandson.

And Mano is the titular Child who appears. Mano’s encounter with Leubas, which returns Leubas to an active role in Judex for the first time since the prologue, isn’t even the most dramatic thing. No, Musidora is also in town. She’s followed private investigator Marcel Lévesque from Paris, bringing once again evil Jean Devalde along. Devalde has gray hair as a disguise, Musidora dresses as a man.

Still. Apparently no one was worried about Lévesque being an obvious target. And when Mano tells everyone about Leubas living next door, it’s clear Cresté doesn’t have a plan for revealing the truth to Andréyor. He’s just a dope in love.

The chapter ends with Lévesque getting a deus ex love interest in (an uncredited) Lily Deligny. She’s swimming the Mediterranean and just happens to be an ex-girlfriend. Lucky Lévesque.

The serial can get away with some of the contrivances just because of the pace–and Musidora’s scheming–but there’s a decided lack of drama this episode, even though it keeps promising it.

CREDITS

Directed by Louis Feuillade; written by Arthur Bernède and Feuillade; directors of photography, André Glatti and Léon Klausse; production designer, Robert-Jules Garnier; released by Gaumont.

Starring René Cresté (Judex), Yvette Andréyor (Jacqueline Aubry), Musidora (Diana Monti), Louis Leubas (Favraux), Marcel Lévesque (Cocantin), Jean Devalde (Robert Moralés), Édouard Mathé (Roger de Tremeuse), Olinda Mano (Jean), René Poyen (The Licorice Kid), Gaston Michel (Pierre Kerjean), Lily Deligny (Miss Daisy Torp), Juliette Clarens (Gisèle), Georges Flateau (Vicomte de la Rochefontaine), and Yvonne Dario (Comtesse de Tremeuse).


RELATED

superior film blogging