Saturday, March 24, 2007


Now this is a movie unlike any I’ve ever seen. YOU AND I KNOW that nearly all of the movies and books I review are written BY humans, FOR humans. NOT THIS ONE. Having seen it at last, I can only conclude that this one was intended SOLELY FOR US. For that reason alone you need to rush out and buy it – after all these years of searching and watching, I have found a movie that only a fish can truly enjoy.

Not that this is enjoyable in the sense of being brilliantly made, perfectly filmed or even that well acted. BUT YOU HAVE TO LIKE IT ANYWAY.

OK, as far as the basics go, this movie was released in 1961, directed by Curtis Harrington, starring an incredibly young Dennis Hopper (as the recruit). He plays opposite Linda Lawson (as the operative) and Luana Anders (as the security leak).

Yes, this is another Mermaid picture. I put off finding it for at least a year because the person who told me about it – 100% human – told me that the Mermaid only appears for a few seconds. THAT couldn’t have been more wrong. She’s in practically every scene. (More support for my life’s motto: NEVER TRUST A NAKED APE.)

The problem with reviewing the film is this: if I tell you why it’s so great, it’ll ruin the story for you. But I will tell you that despite the film’s total dependence on the element of surprise to deliver a blockbuster ending, I feel it’s going to stand up to many, many repeat viewings. Me, I’m watching it again tonight.


>> This one has the look of a film rescued from some incredibly deep and obscure treasure chest buried on the shoreline of the Secret Island Of Lost Movies. It hearkens back to an era when directors knew all the subtleties of black & white photography. In fact, it hearkens all the way back to silent movies, when the visuals consisted mostly of actors standing there looking terribly dramatic in their pale make-up, against some sort of fabulous backdrop, glaring at each other without saying much.

>> The fabulous backdrop here is Venice, California, where a new Navy recruit (chuckle) from Denver, Colorado is looking for some fun for the weekend. The visuals are very nice – they range from that claustrophobic-little-crummy-hotel room feel I associate with b/w movies of that era, to lovely shots of the beach and the ocean. In those days you could sweep a camera from here to there along the shore without ever risking a glimpse of David Hasselhoff.

>> Here we get an extraordinary glimpse of Dennis Hopper from the long-past years when he had not yet been typecast as a drug-addled control freak; from before the time he matured into a confident, fluent actor; in fact, it almost dates back to before he started shaving. In this sense he plays the perfect recruiting material, not only for the Navy but for US. He’s still young enough to allow the DNA transfer to take well. His personality can still adjust easily to the idea of joining us in the sea forever. And because he’s at his physical peak, he stands to infect fertilize about a gazillion eager females before his tenure as a Naked Ape ends. But the character he’s playing in this movie is a little too, um, wooden for him to get as many dates as he’s like. I KNOW: that’s just what I was thinking, too. You need to see this movie, just so you can see Dennis Hopper being "wooden"!

>> Linda Lawson did a creditable, if not spectacular, job of playing the operative. This is especially true when you remember that nobody now living up on dry land has ever seen a live Mermaid. Actually, the flaws I see in her performance are probably caused by dubious film editing. The cinematographer (if they had one) really fails to take advantage of her great bone structure and arresting eyes. Sheesh, those are exactly the features she shares with the real thing!

>> I find this film very moving because Poor Mora the Mermaid is in such agony about whether to belong to the Naked Apes or the Sea People. Normally, this is what new recruits go through as they grieve their monkey existences and move – sometimes terrified – towards their new lives underwater. It’s quite wrenching to see a Mermaid go through it. Likewise the scene with Mora, Johnny and Mora’s pet seashell. I defy you to watch that scene without choking up.

>> I find this film especially bracing because everyone in the story, even the ones who claim not to believe in Mermaids, acknowledge that such creatures are TERRIBLY DANGEROUS. Of course they only think that because they believe monkeydom is everything there is to life. If they understood the gifts we truly offer, they would flock into the sea like Lemmings.

>> Luana Anders was perfect, perfect, perfect as the security leak. I want you all to STUDY HER CLOSELY. This is exactly the perky, helpful sort that does leak our secrets over coffee, and who needs to be KILLED and EATEN.



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