Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Beast (1996)

I remember watching this movie back when it first aired, on one of those network things people used to watch back in the nineties, and thinking it wasn't too bad. In those days, they used to film stories for one of the three major networks and usually air them in a couple installments usually starting on sunday night. So, instead of a tight 90 minute story about a giant squid on a rampage we got a bloated three hour epic.

Well, this being based on a Peter Benchley story we can pretty much assume it will be structured identical to Jaws. We got a small island community. Instead of Amity it's called Grave's Point. There's a like-able everyman type of person as the star. Instead of Roy Scheider we got William Petersen. There's a giant sea monster attacking and eating people. Instead of a giant shark we got a giant squid. There are a few subtle differences. Grave's Point is more of a fishing community than a tourist destination. Peterson is a fishing boat captain, not a chief of police. Also, this thing is three hours long, not two hours and ten minutes (I had to look it up).

The picture opens with a couple in a sinking schooner being eaten by archy-toothy (technical term for squid). Cops find the boat, national guard get involved, Petersen's character (named Whip) finds out, etc. They find a tooth or a claw or something in the debris, so Whip sends it to some marine biologists who show up soon after (not Richard Dreyfuss, but some guy named Dr. Talley and his assistant Chris, another subtle difference). Also, the guy that played Dr. Giggles and Durand and Lenny plays a rival fishing boat captain to Whip. He's a drunk, a baffoon, traps his fish (big no no), and likes his porn. In addition, Whip has a daughter who might be in danger, a dead wife (died offscreen, ten years earlier) and a love interest, national guardswoman.

Almost forgot, Whip has a first mate named Mike who he can't really pay since the fishing has dried up thanks to something eating them all or maybe it's the illegal trapping. Mike puts a smile on his face when he's with his wife but then wonders why the local grocery store won't extend his credit. Mike looks for work but no one's hiring. Nothing to do in town but fish and their ain't no fish. He may have to take some work he wouldn't normally take...maybe something dangerous.

Shit, there's also Charles Martin Smith who plays the mayor, Skyler Graves. He's like the mayor from Jaws only slightly less despicable. I kinda felt bad for the guy. He only wants what's best for the town and by extension himself. His goal is to kill the beast. Well, his goal is actually to pay someone else to kill the beast. Why would anyone get mad at him for that? I mean, look at the guy! He's Charles Martin Smith.

I don't know, when the first disc ended it felt sorta like an anti-climax. Dr. Giggles and his crew dropping depth charges on the beast and eventually it floats up to the surface dead and they laugh all the way to the bank. The end. Only, it's not the end. There's another disc to watch. Shit.

Turns out the beast was just a three month old baby. Whip and friends would hate to meet what gave birth to that thing. Before they know there's a bigger squid they send down a three man submersible to check things out. Christopher, Talley's assistant, signs on. He's kept himself busy these past few days by falling in love with Whip's daughter ("seems like we've known each other our whole lives"). I think he probably porked her at some point 'cause she seems pretty broken up when their submersible is squashed like an empty beer can against Archy-toothy's giant forehead.

Well, this is not a bad movie. There's a good cast in here somewhere. I like Petersen and Charles Martin Smith is good and funny and shit. Then you got the guy that played Dr. Talley as sorta an uppity British guy. Actually, I don't know if he was uppity that's just my universal description for British people. To be honest, not even sure if he was British. Dr. Giggles...ah..who am I kidding, I know his name is Larry Drake, I love the terrific as the rival captain. My favorite scene strangely was the quiet one of him at home pouring beer into his soupy beans and getting them all in his goatee. Also, the scene where he frantically fires his pistol at tentacles as they close around his captain's cabin (sorry, don't know the technical term for it).

The special effects are not bad for a made for network television type of movie. We got several creepy shots of the beast swimming or whatever it does under boats, lots of rubber tentacles, shots of one big eye, and teeth. Lots of decent model boats, good sound effects, etc. Unfortunately, the thing is three hours long. The first ninety minutes we deal with the baby squid and I guess character development. The second ninety minutes is all about revenge on the part of the giant squid and on the part of Whip since it's pretty clear the squid must have killed his wife all those years earlier. Anyway, for a three hour movie with an unoriginal premise this one's not bad. It's no Jaws I, II, III, or IV, it's no Orca, Deep Blue Sea, or Pirates of the Carribean part II which had a giant squid. I only saw Peter Benchley's Creature in parts, so I'm not sure which is better. I think that one had super shark soldiers which is indisputably a pretty cool premise. If the giant squid had body armor and a bazooka or something this would probably be the better movie and I'd be more forgiving of the run time.

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