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The Deep (1977)
Cinematic Guilty Pleasure
In spite of its many shortcomings (lazy direction, over-the-top acting, gratuitous violence, to name a few), you really HAVE to love this movie! Two years removed from the sensational release of JAWS, THE DEEP in many ways had some very big shoes to fill. For me, THE DEEP is JAWS-lite -- a kind of melodramatic, soap-opery version of JAWS. For all its flaws, allow me to wax poetic about the many virtues of this sublime cinematic guilty pleasure:
1) That amazing opening aerial montage of Bermuda - maybe the greatest opening establishing shot in the history of cinema. All the Bermuda based location work in this movie is top notch, adding a rich and handsome texture to the otherwise middling narrative.
2) Robert Shaw. While his performance is slightly overbaked (while also channeling and lazily riffing on Quint), his performance still manages to be larger than life - the delightful glue that keeps this movie together. What an amazing run he had over the last five years of his life, highlighted by THE STING in '73, THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1-2-3 in '74, JAWS in '75, BLACK Sunday in '76 and THE DEEP in '77. Amazing.
3) A 32 year old Jacqueline Bisset. As a 13 year old boy, I can assure you that she made a pretty indelible impression on me.
4) The great supporting turns from Eli Wallach and Lou Gossett, Jr.
I could go on but suffice it to say that watching this movie from time to time is sorta like taking a warm bath in the dead of winter. It's one of those movies that somehow never gets stale and always manages to entertain despite its shortcomings.
what a mess!
I consider myself a genuine fan of bad cinema as much as the next guy but this film was truly awful, in an often hilariously inept kind of way. I understand that this was an exercise in exploitation but it just seemed to lack any real sense of cohesion whatsoever. Whatever sense of suspense and/or horror the movie strives for is invariably trumped by a total sense of ineptitude and absurdity. To add insult to injury, the relentless use of actual real-life footage depicting the merciless slaughter of marine life of every kind only made an already tough movie going experience almost unbearable.
Sitting through this movie is like rubbernecking one's way past a bad pile-up on the freeway involving a caravan of clowns or circus performers.