Long after Roger Corman directed B movies, Poe adaptations and other obscurities, he began producing films as well as distributing them through his own company New World Pictures. These titles were also filmed on the slimmest of budgets and most of them have achieved a cult following in one form or another. Some titles were released only on VHS while a handful of them were released on DVD nearly a decade ago. Last year, Shout! Factory purchased over 50 titles in Roger Corman’s film library, which gave genre fans a new sense of hope that movies that they felt passionately about would either get re-released on DVD (because they became out of print) or that some long-desired titles would actually get a first-time issue.
DEMON OF PARADISE and UP FROM THE DEPTHS, the movies featured on this double feature collection, are two such titles that have been given their first time release on Region 1 DVD courtesy of Shout! Factory and their acquiring the rights to Roger Corman’s New World/New Concorde library. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine these two titles would actually be released on DVD, as I thought I’d be stuck forever with my old VHS pre-record tapes. Neither movie has the reputation or popularity of say, GALAXY OF TERROR or HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP. However, they do have a bit of a cult following and they were definitely inspired by the superior monster movies of yesteryear.
DEMON OF PARADISE was directed by Cirio H. Santiago and is basically a “Black Lagoon” type of creature killing tourists in the Hawaiian Islands. Even though a reference guide says that the film was shot on the Hawaiian Islands (specifically Kihono, HI, which some maps show doesn’t even exist), my own opinion is that the locations actually resemble the Philippines, and given Santiago’s track record, this would be more likely. The monster is basically a man-sized amphibious creature with an odd shaped head. It is awakened by a series of dynamite blasts and goes on a killing spree. One thing to notice is that some of the deaths were caused by the would-be victims’ own carelessness. The film stars Kathryn Wytt (COCAINE WARS, LOOKER) as a Herpetologist, William Steis (WOMEN OF SAN QUENTIN, BEHIND ENEMY LINES) as the local sheriff, Leslie Scorborough (aka Leslie Huntly) playing the bodacious babe who shows off her charms and Frederick Bailey (DEMON’s writer!) in a comedy relief role as Ike Baskerville, who you’ll witness getting torn apart by the demon of the title.
The plot is fairly simple: to convince a local business owner/tour guide that there is a monster on the loose, and the need to track it down and kill it, which basically occurs during the last 45 minutes. There are some good scenes involving the monster attacks and some gore, but nothing over the top or overly graphic (the pace quickens when the last half of the movie concentrates on hunting the beast down). To me, DEMON is the vastly superior of the two films. I have viewed this offering several times and it has definitely become a guilty pleasure of mine.
UP FROM THE DEPTHS was directed by Charles Griffith, who wrote a number of early screenplays for Corman such as IT CONQUERED THE WORLD, ATLAS, ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS and THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS. This movie is basically another JAWS rip-off with a giant shark munching on Hawaiians. The movie stars Sam Bottoms (THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES, APOCALYPSE NOW) and Susanne Reed (she has appeared in some TV shows such as “Airwolf” and “Knight Rider”). The story is quite simple: it’s about a prehistoric shark tearing up tourists and ruining business for a hotel right by the water. Now while the film has some decent moments, overall it doesn’t take itself serious enough. It is very tongue in cheek with some corny dialogue which to me took away from what could have been a more serious effort about a shark-like mutant monster. Many have called it a remake of the humor-filled CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA but to me it's clearly JAWS-inspired.
Shout! Factory presents UP FROM THEM DEPTHS in what I would call a simply brilliant transfer! The colors are vivid, night scenes aren’t too dark. This beautiful 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is nothing short of a stunning. There are hardly any blemishes to be found. Yes, you can throw away your old VHS tapes that are full frame, too dark, murky and basically unwatchable. This may not be a great film but at the very least you can clearly see what’s happening here and enjoy the presentation.
DEMON OF PARADISE also gets the 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and it’s also a beauty to watch. Even the dark scenes which were pretty much unwatchable on VHS are now clear and very visible. The daylight scenes are just fantastic with hardly any blemishes to be found on the print source. Fans like me who happened to own the VHS tape that Warner Brothers released many years ago can sell it online or trade it in to a video store – you won’t need to ever pull it out again after viewing this DVD. The English mono sound on both titles is quite clear, with no noticeable problems.
Bonus features include a few "grindhouse" trailers for other films in Corman Collection and original theatrical trailers for both films. UP FROM THE DEPTHS also has both TV and Radio spots. The best extra though is a "making of" featurette for UP FROM THE DEPTHS which includes interviews with Roger Corman (who talks about wanting to repeat the enormous success of PIRANHA with the film) and special effects artists Chris Walas and Robert Short, who talk about creating the film's monster and various prosthetics, and the complications of shooting underwater.
Despite the near barebones release of both titles on this disc, it is a real pleasure to be able to watch them in their original aspect ratio and given the anamorphic treatment. While neither film in this aquatic creature double feature is going to go down as a classic, these are sure to please genre lovers, especially those who like their horror and sci-fi on an extreme camp level. Be on the lookout for a lot more Roger Corman and other B movie classics this year from Shout! Factory, including the original THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, THE VELVET VAMPIRE, STREETS, ANGEL IN RED, TIMEWALKER, DEATHSTALKER, BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS and even DAMNATION ALLEY! (David Steigman)
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