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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

New on Video: Maritime Monsters in Tentacles & Reptilicus

Posted By on Tue, Jun 9, 2015 at 4:00 PM


Whether or not Jaws and Star Wars changed the movie industry for the better or the worse is a matter of some debate — a debate I participated when I wrote the script for the movie section of the one-off experiment that was the 2014 SF Weekly Comics Issue  (it's tricky to link to 'cuz ease of navigation is never a priority around this joint, but here's Page 1 and Page 2) — but there's no question that both film spawned a metric asstonne of rip-offs. One of the more peculiar ones, Ovidio G. Assonitis's 1977 Tentacles, is being released on a Blu-ray double feature by Shout! Factory on June 16. Its accompanying feature is the deliciously horrible 1962 Danish kaiju flick Reptilicus, so you can't blame Spielberg or Lucas for that one.

The story of a giant octopus terrorizing a coastal town, there's no question that Tentacles was intended to cash in on the game-changing success of Jaws, and along with Orca, it's one of the two of that wave with a much better cast than it deserves, including Shelly Winters, John Huston, and Henry freakin' Fonda. Heaven knows I've done some things I'm not proud of in order to pay the rent, but wow.

Tentacles is an Italian production, and though it lacks the copious blood and gore of Italian horror films of that period, and of other Italian Jaws rip-offs like Devil Fish. But the most important thing Tentacles has going for it, and the most mid-1970s Italian, is its score by composer Stelvio Cipriani. It's essentially what we think of now as lounge music, with plenty of analog synthesizers and electric piano.

Unfortunately, the best cue of the film is missing from the official soundtrack, from a nighttime boating scene from about 50 minutes into the picture; it's quite reminiscent of the Italian group Goblin's heartbeat-and-synth main theme for George Romero's 1978 Dawn of the Dead, but of course Tentacles came out a year earlier. Cipriani also did the score for Pier Carpi's Un'Ombra Nell'Ombra , which was filmed in 1977 but not released until 1979, and it also has that very same heartbeat-and-synth sound. Dude was recording several scores a year, so I'm not criticizing him at all for this, and have you noticed that all our action scores these days have the same BWWWWWAM! sound, up to and including Mad Max: Fury Road? Yeah.

Anyway, as you read on, enjoy Track 6 from the official Tentacles soundtrack, "Happiness is Having Two Killer Whales as Friends." It begins at 5:30, couldn't sound more analog. It's a feast of 1977 electronic sounds, and can practically hear the miles and miles of tangled wires you know were filling Cipriani's studio.

And speaking of analog, Reptilicus. Oh lordy, Reptilicus.

A giant prehistoric monster from beneath the sea is attacking Tokyo Copenhagen! Yep, Miku Hatsune's country gets a break this time around, as this Danish co-production attempts to get some of those sweet, sweet Godzilla krones. The end result is a mess, and this American edit of the film is by all accounts much better than the even sloppier Danish version, which is saying a lot.


All you really need to know is that there are plenty of wonderfully sketchy miniature and rear-projection effects. Nothing, like, nothing in this film comes close to suspending the viewer's disbelief. And that's what makes it so fun.


This film never made it onto Mystery Science Theater 3000 (though it's a contender for a RiffTrax VOD), but it has what all low-budget monster movies must have from this era: one of these guys talking into one of those kinds of microphones with one of those kinds of speakers on the wall. Scenes like this always take me back.


You always know what kind of movie you're watching when you see a set like that, just like you know if you're the kind of person who'll enjoy Tentacles & Reptilicus.

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Sherilyn Connelly


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