Fish-Flavored Baseball Bat

It's a John Cleese reference.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

VHS Vednesday: Blood Beach

BLOOD BEACH (1981). Directed by Jeffrey Bloom. Starring David Huffman, Marianna Hill, Burt Young, and John Saxon.

As you can tell from the tagline in the above poster (which is also repeated in the actual dialogue), Blood Beach makes no secret of its debt to Jaws. However, it owes an equally large debt to the monster movies of the '50s and '60s (Attack of the Giant Leeches comes to mind, for obvious reasons).
In the opening scene, harbor patrol officer Harry Caulder (David Huffman) is going out for his traditional morning swim when he meets and old friend and neighbor, Ruth Hutton (the ever-familiar character actress Harriet White Medin, whose credits range from Fellini's La Dolce Vita to numerous Italian horrors of the '60s to Paul Bartel's Death Race 2000) walking her dog. As Harry swims, Ruth strolls along the beach...and is suddenly sucked beneath the sand. In this way, the movie drops you headfirst into its premise and says "Just go with us on this, okay?" And I, for one, went with it.
As the police investigate Ruth's disappearance, her daughter Catherine (Marianna Hill) comes home to find out what happened. The already-tense situation is complicated by the past relationship between Harry and Catherine, and the presence of his current girlfriend Marie (Lena Pousette). Marie is considerate enough to become the creature's second victim, opening the door for a reconciliation for Harry and Catherine.
Meanwhile, the police, in the form of slovenly, crass Sgt. Royko (Burt Young), sarcastic Captain Peason (John Saxon), and straight-laced Lt. Piantadosi (Otis Young), do their best to figure out what's going on and to maintain order at the beach. Not an easy task when the chaos is being caused by something previously unknown to science, as you might imagine.
Fortunately, the wormlike creature's lair is eventually found and the creature destroyed with explosives. Unfortunately, the gung-ho Royko had disregarded the warning of coroner Dr. Dimitrios (Stefan Gierasch) that a wormlike creature might also have a worm's regenerative properties as well. The movie ends with a crowd of happy, reassured beachgoers enjoying themselves...oblivious to the small sinkholes forming around them.
Contrary to the title, Blood Beach is surprisingly mild in terms of gore...only three people (and a dog) are killed during the course of the picture (though several more bodies are reported to be found in the monster's lair, and there are a few serious maimings as well). The monster attacks are effectively filmed, with the quicksand-like disappearances making for a memorable visual. Unfortunately, once the creature is actually revealed, it falls flat. The design is decent enough, but it's stiff and immobile--a big disappointment after the build-up we'd been given through the entire movie.
Who's Leaving This Off Their Resume?
As cheesy as the movie itself is, I can't fault the performances of any of the individual actors...however, as a whole, they just don't mesh together. Some of the cast seem to be trying to play it straight despite the absurdity of the situation (Huffman, Hill, Otis Young), while others appear to just cut loose and have fun with the bizarre premise (Burt Young, John Saxon). And then there's Stefan Gierasch, who delivers his theories and conclusions with such intense gravitas that I'm still not sure whether he's playing it seriously or going over-the-top.



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