Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, June 30, 2011


TENTACLES aka Tenticoli (1977). Director: Oliver Hellman [Ovidio G. Assonitis].

"This isn't candy -- it's passion." -- Tillie, referring to her weight.

This Italian film inspired by the success of Jaws takes place in an American coastal town where there have been a series of strange disappearances. Eventually bodies turn up that have been stripped not only of flesh but of marrow. Sheriff Robards (Claude Akins) is perplexed as to what could be responsible but reporter Ned Turner (John Huston) wonders if it has something to do with an underwater tunnel being built by a firm owned by Mr. Whitehead (Henry Fonda) of Trojan construction. He also pays a call on an oceanologist named Will Gleason (Bo Hopkins) for answers. Nearly forty minutes into the movie we finally see the octopus -- surprise! -- that's responsible for the carnage, and although it's referred to as a "giant" it never seems that big. The shame about Tentacles is that it has eerie opening scenes [a tragic, well-presented vignette involving a baby snatched off shore in the space of a few seconds stays in the memory] and a certain degree of suspense, but the movie lacks the real panache and knock-out scenes that would give the audience a big pay off. The acting is fine, with top honors going to a still kind of sexy Shelley Winters as Turner's sister, Tillie; whether she's affectionately nagging her brother or worrying what happened to her little boy who is in a sailing regatta [this leads to another sad sequence] she's excellent throughout the movie.

Verdict: Paging It Came from Beneath the Sea. **.


Neil A Russell said...

Another epic from the Era of Assonitis!
He'd managed to make a big name for himself with the surprise hit "Beyond the Door", which I believe was a knockoff of Friedkin's "Exorcist".

After that he was considered bankable enough to get budgets and that's where "Tentacles" was given life.

As you said, it's not that bad and thanks to a big name cast, albeit a couple decades past their prime, it's watchable in that sort of Bert Gordon-Irwin Allen kind of way from the same period.

I know he produced and directed a lot of other films, but this one stands out for me along with another Assonitis blockbuster; 1978's "The Visitor", which was a take on "Close Encounters", "Exorcist", "The Bad Seed", and a host of others.

The problem with "The Visitor", being born of so many other film plots, the damn thing doesn't know what it wants to be.
Sadly it isn't any good at being any of them.

It was shot in Atlanta when I was living there as a teenager, and it was the talk of the town at the time.
A big name producer (that no one had actually heard of), a big budget production, a huge cast of stars, and a lot of extras from all over town.
It was a big deal for us.

Then unfortunately, came the premiere.


It played about 2 days and was quietly withrawn from most of the theaters.
There's a talk show host from Atlanta in it, and he banged on about it every day during the production, telling all who would listen all about it, and just how scary some scenes were and how exciting the whole thing was.

After the release if someone even started to ask a question about it on the air he'd cut them off.

I've never seen such an incoherent movie in my life.

Some movies are bad but in an endearing way like anything by Ed Wood, or even "Manos: The Hands of Fate", or almost anything by Al Adamson or Herschel Gordon Lewis.
You can tell people you watched those movies with a smile.

But "The Visitor"? Usually anyone trying to explain it would just do it with bewildered handwaving that usually culminated with "I don't have any idea what that was about"

And for 3 decades I've watched it over and over trying to make sense out of it. Crazy huh?

Recently I heard that all these years I'd been seeing the badly butchered "American" version of the movie and that an uncut version was floating around downtown Europe, probably in Assonitis' garage, but it would hold all the answers that plagued me for so long.

You'd think I just don't get out much.

It was released on DVD last year and I secured a copy of it and it's just as stupid and incomprehensible as ever.

There's a couple of "oh, so that's what they were getting at" moments, but frankly it doesn't help.

The upshot of this drawn out tome is that "The Visitor" marked just about the last time Mr Assonitis got a serious budget for a movie and so with that the Era of Assonitis drew to a close.

I've only been on real tear about the Visitor because I'm gearing up to release a long video review of it that with any luck will be more entertaining than this Dostoevsky-like ramble.

But thanks for getting me wound up

William said...

You're welcome -- and now you've gotten me all wound up about "The Visitor!" I MUST see it, do you hear? [LOL]. Seriously, I did see "Beyond the Door" years ago and remember it as being pretty awful. I've heard of The Visitor but I don't think I ever caught it -- now I'll have to! Thanks for the fascinating History of Assonitis [great name, eh?]