Like the debris from the boats that the killer octopus leaves scattered here and there between bouts of eating children, the hideous aspects of this film featuring Henry Fonda (apparently warming up for The Swarm) are strewn helter skelter throughout every facet of it.
Everything about this movie is a catastrophic failure. The story, the acting, the camera work, the science, the music, the pacing, the killer octopus, and even the pair of killer whales that team up to defeat the killer octopus!
What I was able to make out of the story involved a seaside community that finds itself being terrorized by a big octopus. Sure, that sounds rather ludicrous, but when you watch it, it’s really ludicrous.
But what was it that sunk this sure-fire concept? Was it the origin of the octopus? Perhaps, but is the “Henry Fonda’s company is building a tunnel and using illegal frequencies in its construction” explanation really that far fetched? Surely, the government has those regulations in effect to prevent outbreaks of octopus attacks.
And even though I had zero idea what sort of tunnel we were building or even why we were building it or for that matter where we were building it, that’s just the sort of noisy construction work that wakes gigantic creatures up all the time in these movies!
In the movie’s defense though, I don’t believe that they ever said that this is what provoked Tentacles. They just had John Houston as an old nosy reporter, Claude Akins in a pre-Lobo role as sheriff and Bo Hopkins as an expert octopus fighter theorizing that all the attacks had in common was the use of a radio somehow.
Teamed up with Henry Fonda’s two or three scenes where he chewed out one of his underlings for using illegal frequencies, we were apparently supposed to connect the two, despite the fact that Tentacles also attacked sometimes when radios weren’t involved.
And what exactly were these frequencies for and why didn’t it stir anything else up? And why would it make Tentacles climb up on shore and eat a baby? And why didn’t this movie actually show that instead merely alluding to it? At least then I could have recommended it since that’s something you don’t see everyday.
With multiple people getting story credits, it probably makes sense that it’s as if we’re watching several different movies at various points in time. There’s the movie where John Houston is going to expose Henry Fonda’s dirty dealings with his mysterious tunnel and the fact that the construction workers play their country music too loud, thus enraging the deep sea creatures that prefer classic rock.
There’s the movie where Shelly Winters is taking her kid and a neighbor kid out to a boat race. You’ve also got the movie where Bo Hopkins and his killer whales go out and rassle Tentacles.
Finally, there’s the movie where Claude Akins stands around looking forward to when he’ll be in more realistic projects like B.J. And The Bear where he’ll have to match wits with a trucker and a chimp instead of an crabby cephalopod.
The movie goes from benignly stupid to sublimely stomach churning once everything is handed off to Bo Hopkins and his killer whales, Summer and Winter. One was named Summer because that’s when Bo met his wife and the other named Winter because that’s when he married her. (It goes without saying that Tentacles slapped her upside her fool head with his deadly suckers)
Bo first explains about how Tentacles is like all octopuses and has foresight. This means Tentacles is really smart about things and will return to his lair because he’s tasted blood and he likes it! Trust me, it wouldn’t make any more sense if you watched it yourself.
The best was yet to come though. Bo then goes out and has a heart to heart talk with Summer and Winter. He tells them that he needs their help in defeating Tentacles and that he’s lost someone he loves and he understands if when he lets Summer and Winter loose to fight Tentacles that they might just swim away and it’s okay if they do, but it really would be super sweet if they could kick a little ass before they left, etc, etc. Other than training montages, pep talks to things that can’t possibly understand the pep talk are my favorite type of movie scene.
Tentacles is obviously a really bad Italian rip-off of Jaws that unfortunately was left in the hands of a Greek guy born in Egypt. The film still sports the fumbling fingerprints of the Italians all over it though as Tito Carpi, who helped write Italian trash classics such as Escape from the Bronx and Days of Hell, also helped write Tentacles.
And the mind-alteringly bad soundtrack was provided by Stelvio Cipriani who also conceived the symphonic beauty we experienced in Nightmare City, The Great Alligator, and oddly enough, the Sho Kosugi crappy cop movie, Rage of Honor. You can’t overstate the way the score managed to be annoying, inappropriate in tone, and unforgivably bland in differing parts of the film.
The camera work also reeks with its unsteady aerial shots, its long and unnecessary tracking and crane shots, and the fact that the big boat race was photographed so you couldn’t even tell that Tentacles was ruining everyone’s afternoon.
It’s as if all these people either fell asleep while watching the movie they were ripping off or they were busy congratulating one another on securing real actors (who either didn’t know better or had house payments to make) to actually do any work on the movie past the “Jaws, but with octopus” concept. The least they could have done was feed Tentacles one of the big name actors. Surely, Tentacles would have been quite drowsy and easy to defeat after lunching on a Shelly Winters rump steak.
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