Thursday, February 8, 2018
How I have lived sixty years and never seen Tentacles is a mystery to me. I've been pretty much aware of it since it first swam up on shore in 1977. But even though I went to the movies pretty regularly back then I never saw this and have never seen in it in the many decades since. I was a fan of the original Jaws and rather liked its progeny such as Orka and Piranha, but somehow this one fell through my net. Now thanks to TCM I've seen it and it's a really mixed bag of both 70's era goodness and badness. This review assumes everyone but me has seen this movie so if you haven't tread carefully.
The movie starts out pretty credibly with a camera which seems to give us only extremely limited views of the doings as the story gets underway. We start out in a cab and listen to the chatter as the credits roll and that's pretty interesting, then we switch to a mother and her child and we realize the ankle-level camera work is to give us a tentacle-view of the world. When the kid gets snatched by the mysterious intruder you know this movie will not only savage those of compromised moral standing. The innocent are on the line and the ramps up the tension pretty effectively.
Then the impressive cast shows up with wonderful voice of John Huston rumbling along as a nosy reporter and the durable Claude Akins in yet another role as a harried sheriff. Henry Fonda has a few cameos, but they are of no real consequence to the actual plot. Shelley Winters is along for the ride, her plump low-class charm making the best of a story which gives her precious little to do. And that's a main problem with this one, most folks in it don't do much. Even eventual hero Bo Hopkins doesn't get revved up for action until his comely wife falls victim to the beast. His wife is Delia Boccardo and she seems in many ways the most tragic off all the characters and gets some of the best monster scenes. Her sister played by Sherry Buchanan gets a great sequence too, but their stories feel oddly isolated from the rest of the narrative.
And what is the monster really...an octopus of apparent large size thought scale is something which is almost impossible to measure as the creature shows up here and there seemingly attracted by radio waves. A tunnel project which used high-frequencies to pursue its ends apparently roused this monster, but there is no sense that the company will pay much if any price for their misdeeds. Even the one guy who admits wrongdoing doesn't actually get sacked.
There seems to be a breakdown in the movie between the name actors and everyone else most of the time. I imagine somewhere there might be a version of this movie in which none of the name actors we recognize in the U.S. are actually in the movie. When mayhem is actually unleashed all of them are distant from it. That said, the director does manage against all odds to develop a mote of suspense in the early stages though that falls by the wayside in the finale which becomes an absolute disaster of pacing. The ending reeks of Disney's most melodramatic efforts despite a film which had a nifty hard turn to it for most of its run.
I cannot recommend that anyone actually see this movie unless like me you are somewhat a student of the time and want to see this movie as an artifact. In that regard it succeeds on many levels. There is above-average acting in places and below-average acting in lots of others. The camera work is often clever but fails to deliver in the end what it promises in the early stages. I like cheap knock off movies and I want to like this one, but it just doesn't deliver enough for me to say that.