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July 31, 2011

Movie Review: Up From the Depths/Demon of Paradise

Here is another Shout Factory double feature DVD of Roger Corman produced features. This set highlights two exploitation films from the 70s and 80s; when Roger ran Concorde and New Horizon Pictures.

Besides the requisite action and kung fu titles, Corman produced a plethora of blockbuster ripoffs. Probably the two movies that inspired more titles for Corman than any others were ALIEN and JAWS. Roger produced a lot of titles ripping off those two seminal thrillers, with varying degrees of success. Earlier I reviewed a couple of the less inspired ALIEN clones (THE TERROR WITHIN and DEEP SPACE). Today, we cover JAWS knock offs.

Buy Up From The Depths / Demon Of Paradise on DVD!

The best Corman Jaws knock off was Joe Dante's PIRANHA, which combined humor and vicious monster action to transcend its derivative roots; becoming a standout production on its own. So much so that Corman ripped off his own rip-off, and kept trying to recreate that success.

One of the least succesful films to follow in its wake was 1979's UP FROM THE DEPTHS, whose unispired plot apes JAWS far too closely to generate its own momentum. It's most iconic line (which pretty much sums up the whole movie) is "Ahhh! Ahhh! It's a monster fish!" Stars Sam Bottoms and Susanne Reed seem to be walking through their coookie cutter roles, motivated solely by a paycheck. Director Charles Griffith, who wrote so many of the iconic early Corman films (IT CONQUERED THE WORLD, NOT OF THIS EARTH, ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS), seems likewise to be walking through the job. The giant fish monster itself has been criticized in other reveiws as looking silly, but I found it pretty effective. It consists of a puppet jaw for closeups, and a full size back with fins that was probably towed by a boat.

A year later Corman would produce one of the best B films of the era, HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP, which combined the basic premise of JAWS with humanoid sea creatures, ala CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON. Again, it rose above its stolen roots and became an entity which itself spawned many copies. DEMON OF PARADISE is a so-so one of those, and is at least more entertaining than UP FROM THE DEPTHS.

DEMON OF PARADISE was shot in the Philipinnes, affording it many exotic locations, which director Cirio Santiago took excellent advantage of. Also, because of less strict restraints in the Philipinnes, and lower production costs, there is quite a bit of pyrotechnics going on here. At least four boats and one helicopter are exploded during the production, which they never could have afforded had it been shot in the States. And I am talking BIG explosions. For me, the pyrotechnic guy, and the creature suit designer are the real stars here. It sure wasn't on-camera stars Kathryn Witt and William Steis, who do adequate work and no more.

The monster itself is a guy in a rubber suit. But one with a unique design. It has a dragon-like tail, and its head is crowned with twisty, gorgon-like projections. That and the snout, reminiscent of CURSE OF THE DEMON, make for an unusual and cohesive creature that worked just fine for this lover of rubber monster suits.

So I enjoyed these movies as time-wasters, but I really can't recommend them except to lovers of B sleaze with fairly low expectations. They did, however, make me want to watch PIRHANA and HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP again.

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