Traumatized, orphaned college dropout Magnus Dens returns to Bermuda to find the cause of his father's mysterious death years before. At the Bermuda Biological Station, he finds Eric and Dr. Paulis, friends and colleagues of his late father, and joins them on a quest for gigantic sea creatures. He also meets Jennie Haniver, a mysterious young woman who was once his only childhood friend. Paulis' housekeeper, an island local, warns Magnus that Jennie is dangerous. The beautiful but vain young woman had made a pact with the Devil centuries before and lives forever young deep in the waters of the Devil's Triangle (a.k.a. Bermuda Triangle). Nobody heeds the folklore and the researchers trap the giant sea turtle, setting the stage for a deadly confrontation with both minions of the Devil. Written by
[Magnus and Paulis are discussing the night Lionel died]
What happened to the body?
They said it was likely consumed by marine life.
You mean he was eaten.
[shaking with rage]
Yes, he was eaten!
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Those of us old enough to remember the ABC Movies of the Week in the '70s remember more than a few science fiction, horror and fantasy pickings. Among them were "The Stranger Within," "Satan's Triangle," "The Last Dinosaur" and Irwin Allen's "The Time Travelers." On a cold, dark winter night of January 27, 1978, Rankin and Bass -- best known for their cheerful Christmas stop-motion cartoons -- took us on a two-hour trip to tropical climes with "Bermuda Depths," featuring lush locations filmed in where else but Bermuda.
In recent years, I obtained first a poor-quality copy of the movie and later the DVD. The first time I played it was with some trepidation. Would it be better left in the past? After watching it, I'm still ambivalent. It was good to see it again, but some parts were definitely B-movie quality, something an older but not necessarily wiser me finds less easy to forgive than 22 years ago.
This movie was an uneasy blend of science fiction and mystical fantasy. It appears the writers couldn't decide on which kind of movie to do. Sometimes, it's a supernatural story with the devil's servant - a gigantic turtle with glowing eyes - and a forever young "imaginary friend" who only appears to men about to drown or to be lost at sea. Then it turns around and both can be wounded by nothing more than spear-guns and harpoons. If only the writers had chosen one or the other, it would have been a stronger story.
One can't help but note the similarities with 1984's "Splash." A young man returns to a place of happiness from his youth. He finds a mysterious young woman, also with ties to his past, who is far more than she appears. Determined to ferret out the truth is an obsessed researcher. The biggest difference is that this story has the kind of ending Hollywood would never allow today. Not a single character is left happy. Not even bittersweet. "Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer," this wasn't.
The main musical theme was a delicate, somewhat melancholy piece composed by one of the masters, Antonio Vivaldi. It's the Largo movement from the Concerto for Lute, 2 Violins and Basso Continuo in D Major. Vivaldi composed in the early 18th century, the time of Jennie Hanniver. The Concerto also made several appearances in Georges Delerue's Academy Award-winning score for 1979's "A Little Romance." The first three minutes, an extended flashback to Magnus' days as a boy on the island, were the highlight of the movie as the lyrical concerto wended its way through scenes of childhood innocence.
The special effects were dead ringers for ones from Japanese "kaiju" giant monster movies, complete with blatant miniatures in the water tank shots. The giant turtle even looked a lot like Gamera in some shots. This is understandable as the effects actually were done in Japan, as with the previous Rankin/Bass monster effort, "The Last Dinosaur."
The young leads did what they could, but were hampered by their inexperience and the material. This introduced a lissome Connie Selleca. Leigh McCloskey fared somewhat less well as his character's motivations were never really clear. Nor was it ever explained why Jennie appeared to Magnus twice - first as a little girl and later as an adult - when he was not about to drown or be lost at sea either time, as the legend demanded.
A single U.S. production run of the videocassette was done in the '80s. With no promotion from the company, most of the tapes went into video rental stores. It took decades, but at long last, Warner is offering a manufactured on demand DVD with some decent picture quality. It's not perfect, but certainly no worse than our TV reception back in 1978.
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