Up From the Depths/Demon of Paradise (1979/1987)
By: Paul Ryan on July 1, 2011  | 
Shout Factory (USA) | Region 1, NTSC | 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 2.0 | 172 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Charles B. Griffith; Cirio H. Santiago
Starring: Sam Bottoms, Susanne Reed, Virgil Frye, Kathryn Witt, William Steis, Leslie Huntley
Screenplay: Alfred M. Sweeney, Anne Dyer, Frederick Bailey
Country: USA/Philippines
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With all the genuinely fun, entertaining and imaginative stuff to come out of the Roger Corman stable over the years, it's easy to forget that he also churned out his fair share of clunkers. For better or worse, Shout Factory has chosen to remind us of this fact with this pairing of watery monster movies, 1979's Up From the Depths and 1987's Demon of Paradise.

Directed – but tellingly, not written – by frequent Corman collaborator Charles B. Griffith (The Little Shop of Horrors, Death Race 2000), Up From the Depths was an attempt to follow-up the success of the previous year's Piranha, which was Corman's attempt to cash-in on the success of Jaws. The resulting cash-in on a cash-in sees a tacky Hawaiian resort bedevilled by a series of disappearances. Well, the kind of disappearances that are accompanied by gushes of red liquid into the sea, but try telling that to the resort's pig-headed, polyester clad manager, Forbes (Kedric Wolfe), who blames the proliferation of entrails and dead aquatic life on the beach on shifty tour boat operator Greg Oliver (Sam Bottoms, whose name is superimposed over the buttocks of two hula dancers in the credits, nyuk-nyuk). Amid much botched comic relief, Greg and his girlfriend Rachel (Suzanne Reed) accompanied by scammer buddy Earl (Virgil Frye), eventually take on the monster.

With unlikeable heroes, poor direction and an unconvincing monster (a fibreglass catfish/shark thing), Up From the Depths is an irritating, campy dud. The attack scenes are sloppily done and devoid of suspense, while the script is padded with gratingly unfunny, would-be comic supporting characters, poor dialogue ("Don't be asinine, Rachel!") and the odd racist stereotype for good measure. Griffith's own screenplays are often remembered for their black humour and beguilingly-odd touches, but with the script in other hands - credited on screen to Alfred M. Sweeney, though on the special features Corman says Anne Dyer wrote it – the humour is gauche and forced, and the horror elements almost feel like an afterthought.

As an aside, students of voice acting may wish to take note of the performance of Denise Hayes (as an obnoxious British model), who sports what may be the single worst pommy accent in all screen history. Seriously, even intentionally bad British accents on The Simpsons aren't anywhere near the awfulness of this...

Up From the Depths was produced by another regular Corman cohort, Filipino filmmaker Cirio H. Santiago (TNT Jackson, Eye of the Eagle), who eight years later, virtually remade the film as Demon of Paradise. Again, we're in Hawaii (which is again, doubled for by the Philippines), and again, chumps are getting picked off by a sea monster near a holiday resort. Again, a greedy resort boss (this time Laura Banks' Cahill) hampers attempts to catch the beast. Again, a spoiled fashion model provides some t'n'a. There are some differences though, our heroes this time are a dogged sheriff (William Steis' Keefer) and a comely herpetologist (Kathryn Witt's Annie) and a bumbling reporter (Ike, played by Frederick Bailey, who also scripted), while tourist boat scammers are replaced here by dynamite dealers and drug smugglers. Oh, and the beast is a two-legged creature considered by the natives to be a long-dormant demon.

Better made and directed than its predecessor, Demon of Paradise is, while entirely unmemorable, at least easier to sit through. The monster, this time a bipedal Creature From the Black Lagoon throwback, is again shot too brightly to conceal flaws in its design, and Hawaii has never looked more like south-east Asia – despite all those police airboats with American flags - but its still reasonably painless to watch. Note, that's not to say that it's especially good, but compared to the film its paired with, it is 24-carat cinematic gold.
Both films get a respectable presentation, though neither is without flaws. Up From the Depths has the more dated appearance of the two, with softer picture and some pronounced scratches in certain shots, though the print is mostly bright and colourful. Demon of Paradise, while generally clear, has its own instances of print damage, though nothing too major. These blemishes aside, these anamorphic presentations are certainly the best either has looked film on home video to date.
Up From the Depths has some inherent problems in its 2.0 audio, mostly down to poor ADR and dubbing of the Filipino cast. Demon of Paradise lacks these issues and provides a low-key, but serviceable audio track.
Extra Features
Compared to other titles in Shout's Corman range, the extras are pretty light, but given both the films, you probably get more than you'd expect. There are trailers for both films, plus TV and radio spots for Up From the Depths, while the only newly-produced extra is an eight-minute featurette on the making of the older film. Corman talks about how Up From the Depths came about, while Chris Walas tellingly refers to the film as a "salvage job", which needed spicing up in post-production. Effects designer Robert Short discusses his work on the film with a very critical eye - "Just this short of a disaster," he says – and Walas tells how he had to overcome his own fear of being underwater to get the shots done. So at least something good came out of the film.

Selecting The Grindhouse Experience from the main menu plays the two films back to back, punctuated with trailers for Firecracker, Humanoids From the Deep, Jackson County Jail and Caged Heat. It's a fun and inspired way to present the films, complete with vintage "coming soon" bumpers.
The Verdict
Two decidedly lesser Corman productions get a better DVD presentation than they probably deserve. As another entry in Shout Factory's Corman collection, this will be an automatic purchase for completists, but everyone else will be better off skipping it.
Movie Score
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