• Up From The Depths/Demon Of Paradise (Roger Corman's Cult Classics)



    Up From The Depths/Demon Of Paradise
    Shout! Factory
    12/14/10
    Director: Charles B. Griffith/Cirio H. Santiago
    Cast: Sam Bottoms, Susanne Reed, Virgil Frye, Charles Howerton/Kathryn Witt, William Steis, Laura Banks, Frederick Bailey
    Year: 1979/1987

    The Movies:

    Continuing to mine the Roger Corman catalogue under their Roger Corman Cult Classics line, Shout! Factory brings together a pair of underwater shockers lensed in the Philippines with the help of frequent Corman collaborator, Cirio H. Santiago during the heyday of Corman’s monster movie rip offs.

    UP FROM THE DEPTHS:

    Directed by Charles B. Griffith in 1979 and produced by Santiago, this film is set in Hawaii (well, the Philippines doubling for Hawaii, at least) and revolves around a fancy tourist resort run by the ‘business first’ Mr. Forbes (Kedric Wolfe) who cares about very little outside of keeping the steady flow of booze guzzling tourists coming, because as a wise man once said, tourists are money. The thorn in Forbes’ side, however, is a rum crazy pirate type named Earl (Virgil Frye) who, with help from his sideburn loving nephew, Greg (Sam Bottoms), scams his guests out of their cash by taking them on treasure hunting excursions out off the coast line a ways. Much to Forbes’ dismay, his gorgeous young assistant, Rachel (Susanne Reed), has got the hots for Greg

    This tropical paradise quickly turns into a living hell, however, as a massive dorsal-finned fish is forced out of the ocean depths by changing currents and heads closer to the shore. He’s not only hungry but is bound and determined to eat as many tourists and foxy female scuba divers and aspiring nude models as possible. Forbes runs damage control as best by offering a reward to anyone who can kill the beast, but a scientist named Dr. Whiting (Charles Howerton) is intent on bringing the beast in alive.

    While the cover art and opening scene would have you believe that Up From The Depths is to be taken with deadly seriousness, once you’re about ten minutes into the picture you find out that the joke’s on you. Obviously played for laughs, the film doesn’t just deal in stereotypes, it relishes them. Not only do we get the typical middle aged couple who can’t do anything but argue with one another but we get a brainy scientist fighting against corporate interests, a drunken sea captain, and even a Japanese guy who yells ‘Bonzai’ and who wields a samurai sword. The film takes these stereotypes and flaunts them, making no qualms whatsoever about trying to play to the politically correct crowd.

    Oddly enough, as frequent as the humor is, the kill scenes, of which there are quite a few, are played pretty straight, complete with blood saturated water and dismembered body parts. It’s hardly and out and out gore-fest but this, coupled with the copious topless female nudity definitely earns the film it’s R-rating. The film moves at a good pace and while the horrible dubbing makes it pretty groan inducing at times, it’s a fun take on the killer fish film and one worth a look for those with an affinity for low budget drive-in pictures.

    DEMON OF PARADISE:

    The second film on the disc put Santiago behind the camera as director this time. Shot in 1987, Demon Of Paradise once again finds the Philippines doubling for Hawaii, and is also set around a resort hotel. Things are going just fine until a bunch of fishermen decide to use some dynamite to help them bring in the big catch. The ensuing explosions free a previously dormant man-fish (a low budget Creature From The Black Lagoon type) who heads up to the surface and literally rocks their boat.

    Of course, with the so called Paradise Resort nearby, run by a nasty woman named Ms. Cahill (Laura Banks), it only stands to reason that our fish-man is going to head that way and wreak havoc, which is exactly what he does. The locals figure that they can do a ceremonial dance around a fire in order to appease the monster, superstitious types that they are, but it’s to no avail and before you know it, it’s up to a scientist named Annie Essex (Kathryn Witt) and the new sheriff in town, Keefer (William Steis), to put a stop to the monster before he kills off what’s left of the local tourist population. Of course, as the two work together they discover their differences, but also their mutual attraction for one another and a hokey romantic subplot kinda-sorta evolves, but it doesn’t really affect much. A few other supporting characters pop up – a reporter named Ike (Frederick Bailey), a model with a drug problem named Gobby (Lesley Huntly) and a snooty British photographer named Ted (Paul Holmes) – but most of the plot revolves around the two do-gooders as they try to set things right.

    This film is pretty much a ‘straight’ version of the first one with a fish-man substituted for a giant fish. Aside from that, the plots are very similar, even if this one throws in some nasty criminal types towards the last half in an attempt to make things more interesting. It doesn’t work. Again we have a film that deals in character stereotypes, no one here shows any real character development or range at all. The performances are fine considering what’s called for and the female cast members are attractive enough that we can overlook a few awkward moments that occur at their expense.

    This leaves the monster and the carnage he causes to pick up the slack, and in this department, Demon Of Paradise more or less phones it in. As mentioned, the creature here resembles the Creature From the Black Lagoon quite a bit, though someone has glued some seaweed to his shoulders and back in some sort of attempt to differentiate him. It sort of works, in that the monster somehow manages to make lots of things blow up and seems intent on attacking anytime, anywhere, and under any condition (in spite of a scientists proclamation that he’s nocturnal our creature seems to have no problem taking on all comers in broad daylight). Like the first feature on the disc, it’s not exactly a good movie but it is a fun one that’ll scratch that B-movie itch so long as you’re predisposed to appreciate such things in the first place.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Up From the Depths looks pretty good in this 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, considerably better than the previous fullframe offerings ever did. Colors are quite bright and bold without looking oversaturated and skin tones look decent as well. There’s a bit of print damage here and there and the occasional vertical scratch appears on the picture, but all in all, the movie is in pretty good shape and fans should be pleased. Demon Of Paradise is pretty comparable, in that it took looks quite good despite a healthy coat of grain and some mild but noticeable print damage scattered throughout. For whatever reason, some interlacing is evident in the second feature.

    Each film gets the Dolby Digital Mono treatment, there are no subtitles or alternate language tracks of any kind provided but thankfully both films sound clean and clear enough that there aren’t any issues there. A bit of hiss pops up now and again if you really listen for it but generally the levels are nicely balanced and the dialogue perfectly audible.

    This disc isn’t quite as stacked with extras as previous Shout! Factory Corman discs have been in the past, but there are trailers for both features, a few radio spots, and trailers for other upcoming and previously released Corman films (including Caged Heat), animated menus and chapter selection. You also have the option to watch both films as a grindhouse double feature complete with trailers before and between the features. Inside the disc is an insert containing DVD credits and a list of other Corman DVDs already available.

    The Final Word:

    These aren’t the cream of the Corman crop but both pictures are a lot of good, trashy fun. Plenty of monsters, a barrage of bare breasts and a fair bit of gore make up for the fact (or, more likely, enhance in!) that both films are goofy and derivative and made on the fast and cheap. Shout!’s presentation is a good one and if there aren’t tons of extras here, the trailers are a blast.

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