One of the more gorier movies to play at drives-ins in 1980 as well as get an early home video release, HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP not only scared movie goers, but those who watched this film got to witness some very over-the-top gore and something that hadn’t been seen in a film before, but merely implied: monsters raping female victims. It was considered by some as a modern day CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON. And it was in some ways, but the difference is the things suggested in the “Black Lagoon” series were shown in full detail! I first saw this on VHS in the early 1980s as a rental and I remember not being able to finish my dinner after that initial viewing. My other fond memory of this film was witnessing all the attractive naked women on display throughout the film.
In the 1960s, Herschel Gordon Lewis had made many graphically gory films, beginning the era where buckets of blood and fully exposed guts became a staple in horror movies. In 1968, George Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD also set new standards as far as how graphic certain horror films were starting to be. By the 1970s and early 1980s, horror and science fiction films started doing things a bit more risqué in terms of showing the naked body as well as more detailed graphic views of mutilated bodies. Horror films that emphasized the gore content were becoming more in demand. Films such as THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN, DAWN OF THE DEAD, ZOMBIE, as well as HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP fit into this category perfectly.
HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP, also known as MONSTER in some parts of the world, is about a mutated species of Salmon created by scientists. Another genetics experiment gone wrong, these man-sized creatures have sharp claws, green skin, elongated arms and giant exposed brains. Apparently, these monsters were highly intelligent as well as very aggressive. Man was its enemy and wanted to eliminate them so the monsters would be the dominant species, while the women were used for breeding. The late great Doug McClure stars as Jim Hill, basically a regular Joe with a wife and child. McClure was no stranger to fighting monsters as he was in THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT, THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT, AT THE EARTHS CORE and WARLORDS OF ATLANTIS. Vic Morrow (as Hank Slattery) plays a very nasty corporate villain. There is a tremendously good subplot about Slattery wanting to open a cannery while both people and animals (mainly dogs and fish) are getting killed. The main rival for Vic Morrow is Anthony Pena (as Johnny Eagle) who is against the cannery being built due to all the murders happening. There is a great bar room brawl with Pena fighting off Morrow and his cronies over the death of his dog. Morrow is this film’s version of J.R. Ewing, doing all sorts of underhanded things to get Pena out of the way and build the cannery. But the real stars of this film are the awesome looking but highly grotesque humanoids.
We find out later in that these giant salmon monsters were created by Dr. Susan Drake (Ann Turkel) with DNA. The big climatic scene has the monsters attacking various victims at a carnival. There are ripped off heads, exposed ribs, spurting blood from the neck and tons of mayhem. It was here where Pena decides to save the life of Morrow who is sliding down into the water where the Humanoids are, after which they have a stare down. There is plenty of gore throughout, in addition to gratuitous nudity. And the surprise “twist” ending that was ripped right out of ALIEN was the birth of a baby humanoid coming out of the stomach of Peggy (Lynn Theel, playing one of the rape victims).
I absolutely love this movie. This is easily one of my favorite entries from Roger Corman’s New World pictures, because of so many unforgettable scenes. For starters, there’s the very sexy Lynn Theel and Meegan King (as Peggy and Jerry, the couple that makes out a lot) seen groping in a lake when suddenly Jerry is attacked by the monster. She thinks he is playing a joke on her which he did earlier. With his back to her, Peggy turns Jerry around to see his face ripped apart on one side in one very scary, nasty bit, and this is followed by her getting raped by our aggresive fish creatures. Another really amusing scene is where a couple are inside a tent on the beach – the young lady takes off her clothes, revealing some very large, shapely breasts to a man who is a ventriloquist. While holding the dummy the man states, “Want to see my wood pecker?” Hilarious! Then all that frivolity quickly vanishes when one of the Humanoids attacks and the girl runs around naked on the beach only to run into another Humanoid who is quick to attack her.
The monster raping was one of the film’s biggest criticisms upon release, as many believed these scenes went way too far. Gore was one thing, watching monsters rape was another. But this was a Roger Corman production and his vision was not to just make a movie, but to do groundbreaking things that no one else would dream of doing, even if it was in another B effort made on a miniscule budget. Before this, there was IT CONQUERED THE WORLD with a close up of “It’s” eye getting burned and bloody. We had NIGHT OF THE BLOOD BEAST with a pregnant man. There was the Edgar Allan Poe series which if you have read Poe, realize that these films have to do with such topics as being buried alive and necrophilia. There was ROCK N ROLL HIGH SCHOOL where the kids spit on authority and blow up their school.
Some interesting tidbits about this film – it was ironically directed by a woman, Barbara Peeters (BURY ME AN ANGEL, SUMMER SCHOOL TEACHERS) who claims she had nothing to do with the nude or raping scenes in this film. She had a falling out with Corman and from what I have read, she was actually fired over it. Corman wanted these scenes included for obvious reasons of exploitation. Another person I want to mention is Hoke Howell (as Deke Jensen) who was also in THE SIDEHACKERS aka FIVE THE HARD WAY. THE SIDEHACKERS is known to many fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Howell had some small roles in a number of low budget movies, including GRAND THEFT AUTO, KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS, EVIL SPIRITS and ALIENATOR. He appears at the beginning of the film in a brief scene where his boat blows up due to someone dropping a lighter on it where gasoline had been spilt.
HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP and Corman’s GALAXY OF TERROR (another title which contained a monster raping a woman) were two of the most sought after cult titles on the DVD market. Up until this year, HUMANOIDS had been released before in a full frame transfer (in Japan there was an uncut letterboxed version) while GALAXY had never been released before (at least in the U.S.). Back in January of this year, Shout! Factory acquired the home video rights to most of the Roger Corman New World library and it has been a fan’s dream come true. Shout! Factory has done a monstrously wonderful job releasing these genre classics to DVD, and HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP is no exception.
Previously released in the U.S. from New Concorde Video, the previous transfer was decent, but i was full frame and non-anamorphic. In Japan, there was an uncut widescreen DVD of it containing a scene where a Humanoid rips a man’s head off at a carnival during the climatic attack scene (needless to say, this became an expensive collector’s item for fans who wanted the film widescreen and uncut). Shout! Factory now delivers this gem with a fantastic Hi-definition transfer, presenting it as the “Uncut International Version” under the MONSTER title. It is a gorgeous anamorphic (1.78:1) widescreen transfer to say the least. This is very pristine save for just some minor grain here and there in a few scenes. The colors are vivid, the blacks aren’t too dark and daytime scenes look just fantastic. This is almost uncut with the aforementioned head ripping scene included. However, it is still missing a known bit which is supposed to occur after the head is ripped off with the monster holding it and smiling in front of the camera. The mono English sound quality on this is fine, in Dolby 2.0. Shout! is also maling the film available on blu-ray disc.
This DVD does not contain a lot of bonus material (compared to some of the other “Roger Corman’s Cult Classics”) but what it does contain is really fantastic – which includes several deleted scenes – an amazing discovery and personally I feel these scenes should have remained in the released version of the film. I will mention that some of the deleted scenes have no sound such as the bar scene. Some extra nude scenes were deleted as well. Ported over from the previous DVD release is the Leonard Maltin interview with Roger Corman discussing the film. Corman talks about how people screamed in the theaters, how he saved the monster scenes toward the end and how Barbara Peeters was the perfect woman director for this movie.
Another great new supplement is a 22-minute featurette entitled “The Making of HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP”. Chris Walas (SPFX man) Mark Goldblatt (film editor), James Sbardellati (second unit director), Cynthia Weintraub (who played Carol Hill, Jim’s wife in the picture), Ken Myers (SPFX man), Linda Shayne (Miss Salmon during the climatic dockside battle scene), James Horner (the composer of the fine score) and Roger Corman (the man that makes it all happen) are interviewed. Some really interesting facts are brought up, such as how this movie was originally shot as “Beneath the Darkness” and was initially a less violent picture. The rape, nude and gore scenes were shot under the title “Humanoids from the Deep” and were spliced into the “Beneath the Darkness” movie, completely unbeknownst to the cast. This is where Barbara Peeters was also mentioned. Corman talks about how she didn’t want to shoot the scenes and the second unit director had to film them. Cynthia Weintraub mentions she had no idea these scenes were spliced in and that the naked lady (who is supposed to be her character) in the shower towards the end of the film is not her body at all. Goldblatt mentions the film wasn’t scary enough so the violence and rape was added to shock the audience. Corman mentions how he likes his women to be independent and capable of taking care of problems themselves, not being frail or weak. Also revealed here is that only three Humanoid suits were made. One had longer arms, and two were standard suits. This entire “making of” is really outstanding and is worth the price of the DVD alone in my opinion.
There are also well written linear notes by Michael Felsher, President of Red Shirt Pictures, talking about this film and including some cool background information. Other bonus features include Radio and TV spots and a section of New World trailers, one of which is UP FROM THE DEPTHS, which Shout! Factory will release as a double bill with DEMON OF PARADISE in early 2011. There are also some HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP trailers from the U.S. and Germany, as well as a photo gallery with some very cool Japanese, German and U.S. posters, along with stills and lobby cards from the film which this reviewer would love to own! The DVD itself has a reversible cover, with the alternate cover being the sleeve art for the Japanese DVD, carrying the MONSTER title.
There are still plenty more “Roger Corman’s Cult Classics” titles on their way, and Shout! Factory continues to impress not just with the selection of releases, but with the quality and care they put into them. (David Steigman)
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