Sunday, December 31, 2006


This film was released in 1982, directed by Richard Jeffries. It stars James Earl Jones, Deborah Shelton and Jose Ferrer. I found it on a compilation disc called Tales From The Boneyard. I was all excited when I saw on the disc's box copy that the male lead, a scuba diver named Frye (played by Jones), has disturbed a virgin-eating sea monster left dormant for centuries.

Was I disappointed! The movie lavished every drop of attention on the dynamics between Madeline (Shelton), an unbalanced artist who's been fascinated all her life by this particular Greek island, and who never contacted home again after finally going to see it; her brother, a rich playboy type who treats the locals as ignorant savages; and Frye, who is actually (and accurately) accused by the other characters of overacting. There are a few other miscellaneous characters of no real import, except for the island's mayor, played by Ferrer, and a lovely young girl named Lethe who never speaks but who bears a striking resemblance to both Madeline and the terrified virgin we see being sacrificed in an ancient ceremony in the film's opening sequence.

See, it turns out that Madeline is a virgin herself still -- almost unheard of among attractive women in the wake of the "Me Decade" -- and has been having dreams that SHE is the sacrificed virgin. At one point she pours an entire bottle of perfume over herself and then steps into the ocean in an apparent trance. Perhaps significantly, she stays on neither of the American yachts, but prefers to live with the island's community of nuns -- in this movie they call that a "monastery."

Oh, the sea monster? Frye finds a bricked-up cave entrance in a section of the island thrust underwater in an ancient earthquake; convinced there will be all kinds of treasure inside, he gets out his plastic explosives and blows it open, releasing WE KNOW NOT WHAT. Obviously one of our operatives, because Madeline's research uncovers an old ikon of a scaly, horse-faced monster preparing to mate with a virgin sacrificed by the good townspeople. We even see the star for a fraction of a second, putting the munch on a terrified woman. But basically, that's it. He doesn't even marry her first.


The one thing that really recommends this movie to me is the subliminal mating call that draws Madeline all the way from Anytown, USA to an obscure Greek Island that hates visitors. There she finds herself perfectly welcome, actually living with the people there and allowed to rummage among and restore their art treasures. And she gradually realizes that the good townspeople are in league with the secret of the bricked-up cavern.

There was one expositionary subplot that really did me good: when a couple of women are munched by the escaped terror, the nuns are piously crossing themselves and saying their little modrun prayers over the coffins, but the menfolk are performing some much more ancient rituals with the bodies, over the protest of the nuns. Well, THE NUNS EVENTUALLY GET THEIRS, BELIEVE ME.

If only they hadn't taken so long to get to the good parts!


Blogger Ur-spo said...

never trust the locals; as their alliance is with the nearby beasties, not with the tourist trade.

7:18 AM  

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