Lords of the Deep (1989)

Sometimes I lay awake at night on my stained mattress and ponder what the future holds for planet Earth. What wonders will we see come to pass? Flying cars? Cures for all diseases? An end to hunger and other cruddy stuff? But then the morning arrives along with cruel reality! And I hit my research library of Roger Corman sci-fi movies! And the terrible future that awaits us becomes clear!

The year is 2020! Man has gone and pooped all over the planet! There is only one hope left! An evil corporation named Martel will use an underwater lab to save all of us! By harassing some aliens that have taken up residence nearby!

As I was watching LOTD, I kept hoping it wasn’t going to turn into an Abyss rip-off since that meant a lot of sissy talk about goody goody aliens and how we have to listen to these ugly looking things if we want to save our ass. Real earthlings don’t listen to nobody about nothing!

But you know what made me double not listen to these slimy creatures? They ruined their own frigging planet before the came to Earth! Get your own act together E.T. before you start preaching at me!

I wouldn’t have minded this movie so much if it was only the aliens who were a bunch of tree-hugging deep thinkers set on ruining capitalism, but the humans down in the lab are even bigger nitwits! The whole movie was built around who could give the most off-putting performance, Bradford Dillman as the commander of the vessel or Priscilla Barnes as the scientist the aliens are in communication with.

Bradford is the most extravagantly bad what with the pointlessly callous attitude toward his crew, complimented with a nice array of scowls, sneers, and general crabbiness you might just chalk up to an actor realizing he deserved better in his career than this.

Priscilla’s memorably hideous performance is much more nuanced than Bradford’s. Brad is the villain after all, so much of his boorish behavior is dictated by the shallow, cartoonish bad guy characterization of the script.

Priscilla’s character should be a bit more complex since she’s the egghead confronted with the wondrousness of a pushy, arrogant alien entity intent on foisting its leftist political views on her. The only thing complex about her character though is how she managed to keep her mouth open during all those scenes without drooling.

I don’t believe I have ever seen a movie where a character stood around with their mouth agape so much. She was either surprised, shocked, in awe, dumbstruck, or befuddled and it was all accomplished with some variation of her jaw going slack. And somehow, against all the odds, she made it look completely unnatural! She wasn’t much better in sequences where she had to actually move her mouth and speak, but it’s the goofy facial expressions that will be one of the only things you remember from the movie.

You’ll probably also remember the aliens as well. Since they look like a grade school’s large scale model of a manta ray with a really bad paint job.

I can’t say that I was ever sure how an alien form that looked like a big aquatic beast ever developed the technology to not only ruin their own planet, but somehow find ours and fly here, but then again, these are aliens that apparently just hung around the bottom of the ocean waiting for some mush-headed humans to wander by so they could impart all their wisdom on them.

So, did these space manta rays speak English, or what? Ha! That shows how much you know about all-knowing and wisely benevolent aliens! They speak in montages of kaleidoscopic colors and outer space scenes! Haven’t you seen 2001: A Space Odyssey? Everyone knows that all great cosmic truths are revealed via a big ass head trip!

LOTD is the sort of movie though that goes that extra mile to suck. Not content with the faux-arty extraterrestrial communications, the manta rays give us a big speech at the end about how we need to find balance and other intergalactic mumbo jumbo.

It’s almost as if producer Roger Corman was looking at the footage as it came in and was shouting “too subtle! Is there a way to make the aliens cry? Like that Indian with the big tear in that one commercial!”

There were lots of unanswered questions surrounding the events that took place at Operation Neptune. Like, why was Martel against the aliens? Or was it only their constipated commander?

And why were the aliens only capable of communicating with one person? You were smart enough to wreck your planet and travel here and can predict earthquakes, but you could only figure out how to talk to Priscilla way down at the bottom of the ocean?

And was it just coincidence that the lab was parked right next to the aliens? Couldn’t they have picked a spot that wasn’t so remote? And wasn’t their message pretty lame? Thanks for the heads up about the planet going down the toilet. I hadn’t heard about that in the last five minutes.

What action the film rationed out consisted of Brad watching screens and shouting commands to the computer to shut off oxygen in an effort to suffocate crew members he didn’t like. He also hit someone on the head and got into a scuffle.

The aliens didn’t do much, though they used their magic powers to save Priscilla from being suffocated by allowing her to suck some oxygen off of them. The aliens also managed to switch places with crew members in some fashion that was never explained.

A similarly dopey undersea movie like Endless Descent succeeds due to the presence of all kinds of violence, gore, and mega doses of Jack Scalia, but LOTD doesn’t have any of those. Instead we’re treated to a showdown between Brad and Priscilla where she refuses to sign his non-disclosure agreement! “Please, Priscilla! Don’t tell anyone I was in this movie!”

© 2014 MonsterHunter

2 thoughts on “Lords of the Deep (1989)

  1. Truth be known, I worked as the PA on the 2nd Unit of this movie – my name is literally the last name to roll by on the credits, if you . . . wait until the very end.
    It was fun to work on and fulfilled all my expectations about the great Roger Corman.
    The most interesting aspect for me is that the “special effects” crew of which I was a member, included the Skotak brothers, who had won Academy Awards for Aliens and later for Terminator 2. Corman had given James Cameron and friends their start, as he did for many famous filmmakers and actors.
    I doubt they were proud of their work here, but to me it had a cheap, 1960’s sci-fi look, and so it fit fine.

    The DP of the 2nd Unit was the great Janusz Kaminski, and according to him, this was his first studio film in the US. You can spot his shots, because they are so much better than anything else: moody and spooky. But he was fired after a few days for getting into an argument of some kind and is not in the credits.
    Kaminski showed us all a few things and was a huge personality even then, a true artist.

    At one point, I slept on the set overnight, because I was exhausted, and next morning, the crew felt sorry for me and let me sleep while hey worked around me until I was in the way.

    I met Bradford Dillman, who told funny stories about making other equally bad movies and but also working with Orson Welles.

    1. Awesome experience! Nice to know that Corman was a great guy. He made a lot of terrible movies, but he gave many filmmakers their first chance in the business and never pretended to be more than he actually was.

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