Devil Fish (1984)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2011-08-02 20:38

Written by: Lamberto Bava, Gianfranco Clerici, Luigi Cozzi, Gergio Martino, Herve Piccini, and Dardano Sacchetti
Directed by: Lamberto Bava
Starring: Michael Sopkiw, Valentine Monnier, and Gianni Garko

Reviewed by: Brett G.

"You filthy rotten bloody shark, LET ME HEAR YOU!"

When Sharktopus was released earlier this year, the ďshark with tentaclesĒ concept seemed vaguely familiar; at some point, I was reminded that it had already been done before in Devil Fish, which I certainly would have seen when it was lampooned on Mystery Science Theater 3000 a decade ago. Interestingly enough, just as it took the twin powers of SyFy and Roger Corman to bring us Sharktopus, it took a tag team of epically shitty proportions to birth Devil Fish. Lamberto Bava wrote and directed, while Bruno Mattei handled some second unit work to form an unholy union of cinematic badness.

A giant man-eating tentacled shark is making local waters unsafe for tourists, so a group of scientists (headed by Michael Sopkiw and Valentine Monnier) investigate. Is it just an old creature thatís never been discovered, or is something more sinister afoot? Well, the fact that shady hitmen are assassinating people left and right seems to indicate that our protagonists have stumbled onto a vast conspiracy of mutants and mayhem.

Devil Fish is supremely terrible, chiefly because it was written, shot, and edited with no sense of coherence, logic, or cinematic rhythm. Itís like a coked-up version of the stereotypically bad Italian film, complete with vapid acting, nonsensical dialogue, ridiculous dubbing, and a dumpster-bin aesthetic. Because of this (and certainly not despite it), it also manages to be wildly entertaining for all the wrong reasons--itís easy to see how the MST3K boys had a field day with this one. At times, it literally feels like itís been cobbled together two different movies, probably due to the army of writers (which includes Sergio Martino!); one minute, itís a Z-grade crime movie, the next itís a pulpy creature feature. The moment where the twain finally meet is a knee-slapper, as a dimwitted cop figures out what the audience assumed long ago: that all of the assassinations are somehow connected with the monster shark. All sheriff Gianni Garko can do in response is shake his head in dismay (perhaps the former Sartana actor should have brought along his nifty bag of tricks from the old West).

Iím almost surprised that didnít happen because thereís a veritable feast of ridiculous shit in this one: death via hair-dryer, deep sea diving hitmen who swim in out of a James Bond flick, an awesome, Casio-driven score thatís comprised of cutting room floor material from every 80s cop drama, etc. Then thereís the monster itself, which isnít spared from the filmís low-budget; I refuse to even call it animatronic because, well, it's barely animated. It just sort of floats toward its victims, which somehow end up in its cardboard maw; when you can see it, itís a sort of neat-looking scaly shark, but itís often cropped by the poor lensing, which is unfortunate. Youíll know itís there though because itís often accompanied by a theme that resembles music from an 8-bit boss battle, which rules.

To its credit, the film gets around the usual explosive method of dispatching the creature; the one thatís settled on is truly great, ranking somewhere between ďRoy Scheider paddling an electric cableĒ and ďLorraine Gary ramming a boatĒ on the scale of awesome ways to rid yourself of aquatic terrors. Italy exported many a crappy movie in its day, and a handful of them were Jaws rip-offs. Great White is the most infamous, but, really Devil Fish is the trashy, wickedly terrible film that Castellariís flick wishes it was. About the only thing it misses out on is crazy gore, which will disappoint fans used to the splattery awesomeness usually associated with Bava and Mattei.

Like the other Italian shark features, Devil Fish still hasnít made it to Region 1 DVD, at least not in the traditional sense. You can check out the MST3K version, which was included in Shout Factoryís Volume XIX set, which also features riffs on Robot Monster, Bride of the Monster, and Devil Doll. Though itís probably more fun with Mike and the ĎBots, itís still an easy target even if you arenít particularly witty yourself. Youíll have to settle for a full-frame VHS version (or a rip of that transfer if youíve abandoned your VCR), which wonít do it any favors; oddly enough, the version I watched features not one, but two title screens, which I guess really hammered home that I was indeed watching Devil Fish. Of that, there was little doubt. Rent it!

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