Humanoids from the Deep (1980)
By: Mr Intolerance on August 25, 2010  | 
Shout Factory | Region 1, NTSC | 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 2.0 | 82 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Barbara Peeters
Starring: Doug McClure, Ann Turkel, Vic Morrow, Cindy Weintraub, Anthony Penya, Denise Galik, Lynn Theel
Screenplay: Frederick James
Country: USA
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The small North Western US fishing town of Noyo is not having a good time of it, of late. Firstly, the supply of salmon that the town relies on for it's not-so-stable economy is drying up, threatening to take most of the townsfolks' jobs with it. Secondly, racial tensions between the white townies and the native Americans at the local reservation are building, and then thirdly, there's something strange in the waters around Noyo, something large, vicious and predatory…

Humanoids From The Deep is a film that proudly asserts its 1950s creature feature heritage, at the same time as it drags that noble genre through the cess-pool quagmire of sleazy goodness that was 1970s exploitation cinema. Think of it this way: 50s styles – men in rubber suits playing monsters, square-jawed Average Joe hero, nature's revenge plot; 70s styles – gratuitous gore, boobs and sexual activity, nature's revenge plot. Seriously, there's little difference between Humanoids From The Deep and Them! – in both instances we create the monsters through our own hubris: speeding up nature via genetics in the former case, nuclear testing in the latter – horror films have always played upon society's fears, and Humanoids from the Deep is no exception. The main change is that one's in colour, the other's black and white. There's also the sexual element, but we'll *ahem* come to that later…

Enter our hero: Jim Hill. Jim (Doug The Land That Time Forgot McClure, who Dave Lister in Red Dwarf has an inexplicable hatred of) is a nice guy. He's very much our average Joe – he supports the introduction of CanCo's brand new cannery to help revitalise the town's flagging economy, but at the same time, he's also supportive of the local Native American community, being a buddy of it's leader Johnny Eagle (Anthony Penya). Not quite so admirable is Hank Slattery (Vic Combat Morrow), Noyo's local and influential racist – an odd thing, given his rather confronting afro, but there you go. Me, I'm a big Vic Morrow fan – if God had a voice, it'd sound like Vic Morrow's – yeah, he's that cool.

Something has been scaring away the salmon from Noyo, or making them less plentiful, and that something has been killing the dogs in the town, and then when people go missing… Slattery and his cronies initially illogically pin the deaths of the dogs on Johnny, and after a fistfight at a local festival, these racist tendencies become even stronger, and Slattery becomes convinced that the Native Americans are somehow responsible for whatever's wrong with the town, and when Johnny makes reference to the fact that he's going to hire a lawyer to stop CanCo developing their new cannery under native title laws, Slattery takes things even more personally.

At the same festival, we're introduced to some of CanCo's best and brightest, including Dr Susan Drake (Ann Turkel), whose boss refers to her as a "great little scientist" – nope, that's not patronising at all… It would appear that Dr Drake has been doing all kinds of genetic experiments on salmon to make them "bigger, faster and twice as plentiful" – but we've all seen enough sci-fi and horror flicks to know that this ain't gonna end up well – fuck with Mother Nature, and she will fuck with you – remember Prophecy? Bad juju, folks.

And that bad juju mainly comes in the form of the inserts filmed later by second unit director James Sbardellati – lots of young women flashing their T&A for the camera, God love 'em, while their boyfriends get clawed to death by Humanoids in increasingly bloody and gruesome ways, culminating at the end of the film with…well, we'll get there eventually. But I'll tell you right now it's fully uncut. And the women? The Humanoids rape them, to put it bluntly. It's pointed out to us in the middle act of the film that this is what the Humanoids do, perceiving humans as their closest rival. They rape our women in order to become the dominant species on the planet – edging human males out and replacing us with their own kind.

When you consider it, it's actually a pretty evil and quite chilling concept, and one that is made the most of here in a way that HP Lovecraft kind of alluded to in The Shadow Over Innsmouth (creepy fish-monsters interbreed with humans with horrific results), but is dealt with here in a much more lurid and garish, graphic fashion. Instead of being the sea-spawn of the alien and interplanetary Old Ones, we're here seeing the Humanoids as products of our own genetic research and development plans on Earth, with the Humanoids being the product of reproductive research into genetically altered salmon having adapted with pre-historic coelacanth. The outcome: lethal. And in one instance, predating V: The Final Battle by three years.

Paul, Susan and Johnny head off to find out if the Humanoids really exist, the majority of the fisherfolk not believing in them. However, on a not too distant coastline, caves are found, and our intrepid explorers find not only some Humanoids, but also some of their handiwork… And then Susan lets the boys in on a CanCo secret with a very dark core to it. And the film becomes even nastier and more grim than it was before – it's the funny thing about B-films; sometimes they're just hilarious nonsensical romps like The Thing With Two Heads or The Ghost Of Dragstrip Hollow, at others, they actually try to tackle some serious ideas, like this or other eco-horror flicks like Piranha or Day Of The Animals. And in doing so, paint themself into a very black corner indeed.

Not that that's a bad thing.

And so the final act begins, and this is where the summary ends, apart from to say that the carnage is far from over, and that there is much evil violence to be watched by the keen viewer of exploitation of science-fiction/horror/exploitation. It's a beautiful thing – and it's fully uncut, for fans of the film – there most certainly is a decapitation awaiting you. And more boobs, too.

Humanoids From The Deep originally came into being as a much more tame beast than the lurid gore-drenched and flesh-flashing masterpiece that you're currently reading about. Originally titled Beneath The Darkness, a kind of updated version of Creature From The Black Lagoon, director Barbara Peeters envisioning of the story, apparently more of a psychological-horror flick, didn't have some of the "production value" elements that B-movie King and producer/God among mortal men Roger Corman wanted (i.e.: sex and violence), and so the second unit director, James Sbardellati, was called in to do some re-shoots of a more explicit nature, shall we say, and so it was that it was as Humanoids From The Deep that this film shambled its slimy way into the hearts of all B-movie/trash cinema aficionados.

Apparently the changes to the film dismayed many of the cast and crew, including (unsurprisingly, and quite reasonably, one might suggest) director Barbara Peeters, who despite having worked with Corman before on films such as Summer School Teachers, wouldn't work with him again after Humanoids From The Deep. According to the interviews in the special features on the disc, actor Ann Turkel went on the talk-show circuit to complain about the treatment of the film in as vocal a way as possible – my only beef with this is the fact that if you're making a film about human/fish-monster hybrids that mate with human women to produce more hybrids, you can't really cry "surprise" when the film depicts this – especially when you're actually in one of the most excessive scenes. Also, if you're working for Roger Corman, surely you would expect that things might get a little exploitative here and there – it's not like his reputation doesn't proceed his work, even here in 1980 at the beginning of the fourth decade of his career.

Interestingly, Corman claims that he briefed director Peeters thusly: "Here is the situation – remember this: the Humanoids kill the men and rape the women," (and that she understood this) and had no issue with the bloody excesses Peeters went to, to kill off the male cast, but was unimpressed with the treatment of the Humanoids' female victims – which after all is the main point of the film (the Humanoids rape human women to continue their own species and replace ours – humanity being their closest rival), not to mention the source of a great deal of its horror. Rape is horrible enough – but rape by something that isn't even human, and is as utterly grotesque as the Humanoids themselves are is even more repulsive, particularly when something equally grotesque and inhuman is eventually going to come out of your body, having gestated inside of you – body horror indeed.

Personally, I'm glad the film turned out like this, with as much gruesome Rob Bottin FX work as you can wave a stick at, loads of boobs (anyone, regardless of gender or sexual inclination, who can look me in the eye and tell me that boobs aren't great, is a liar), the rather heavy-handed "don't fuck with nature" eco-horror message, the rapid-pacing, the gleeful insanity of the whole thing (ventriloquist dummy, anyone?) – and with Linda Shayne from Screwballs! How can you possibly go wrong? If you'd like to find out, have a look at the awful 1996 remake, which excises much of the above, takes a great idea and makes it as bland as can be.

It's been a couple of years since I last reviewed Humanoids From The Deep – the previous, cut US version – and I have to say, the film has grown on me in all kinds of ways. Taste changes and it certainly has with me – I used to seek out films based on their extremity of violence or grimness, but lately I've realised that a film like Humanoids From The Deep is always going to offer much more in terms of re-watch value than something like any of the Guinea Pig series, or the All Night Long franchise, or the August Underground films. Trashy B-movie fun is what I've been seeking out of late, and I've been bloody loving it, and to me, Humanoids From The Deep is the absolute epitome of trashy B-movie fun – it takes all of the elements of the traditional horror flick (particularly the creature-feature) and the exploitation film, and reduces them to their lowest common denominator – and it does so sublimely. If this film doesn't entertain the hell out of you, you're either already dead, there's something deeply wrong with you, or you like watching films where somebody called Cecily stares wistfully out of the drawing-room window, wondering about whether or not Winston really meant what he said when they snatched those few stolen moments in Aunt Jemima's summer-house that fateful Spring day before the war. In any case, man up, grow a pair and revel in the glory that is Humanoids From The Deep.
The picture's about as good as it could be – it's a little soft in places (on the wharf at the beginning, most notably), and there is some grain throughout, but in the liner notes the restoration team have stated that this had been left in, as attempts to remove it may have softened the picture even further, and diminished the colour. In any event, it's a high definition transfer from an uncut international print (which is why you shouldn't get upset when almost immediately you start the film, the title Monster appears on the screen – that was the international release title) – and it certainly looks better than the previous R1 release, or the previous uncut Japanese international print.
Again, this is about as good as it could be. A solid stereo track with much shrieking and many explosions. And, if you're a fan of film scores, here's an early one by Academy Award-winner James Horner, who's scored a couple of films you may have heard of – Avatar, Titanic and Braveheart among others – that's one of the things I love about Corman films; you get some of Hollywood's best and brightest upcoming stars in their formative (and sometimes much more satisfactory) years.
Extra Features
There's a lot to like about Shout Factory as a distributor. With each of their recent Roger Corman releases, they've put as many special features as possible on each disc. So in this instance, you get the following:

Deleted scenes, seen for the first time right here – some have sound, some do not. Some appear to be extended versions of shorter takes from the film, some are entirely "new".

A brief archival interview with Roger Corman, conducted by Leonard Maltin. Say what you will about Maltin, he appears to have a great and quite genuine fondness for Corman's work, is extremely knowledgeable about it, and the two have an excellent rapport – interesting viewing.

The main prize here is the next featurette, a quite substantial piece called The Making Of Humanoids From The Deep, which features all new interviews with cast and crew members. Very good stuff, and quite interesting when detailing the history of the film's production.

  • And of course, the inevitable trailers – two for Humanoids (one in English, the other German), and then a few other Corman titles coming soon from Shout Factory: Galaxy Of Terror, Forbidden World and Up From The Depths.

  • Perhaps even more inevitably, there's a poster and still gallery.

    There's also an eight page booklet with some notes on the film that are certainly worth reading.

    And – and this I liked – you've also got a reversible cover for your DVD. You can either have the boring US original art as Humanoids From The Deep, or you can switch it over to the much more lurid and fun international artwork under the rather bland title Monster. Me, I went for the much more exploitative artwork of a busty bikini-babe being menaced by a sea-monster.

    It's a reasonably complete package, given the unfortunately early deaths of some of the stars (Morrow's death, along with that of two Asian child actors, on the shoot of The Twilight Zone: The Movie was an appalling tragedy that could have easily been avoided, had safety regulations been followed) and (presumably) the unwillingness of the director to be involved in the proceedings.
    The Verdict
    Movie Score
    Disc Score
    Overall Score
    Humanoids From The Deep should be in your collection. It's really as simple as that. A wildly entertaining B-film with enough blood, boobs and men in rubber suits to slake anyone's thirst for monster-movie madness, Humanoids From The Deep is an essential piece of drive-in movie awesomeness - go and buy it now.

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