Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Alien degli abissi (1989)

...aka: Alien: Creature from the Abyss
...aka: Alien: La creature des abysses
...aka: Alien from the Deep

Directed by:
Antonio Margheriti

Science professor/reporter Jane ("Julia McKay"/ Marina Guilia Cavalli) and her cameraman Lee (Robert Marius), both of whom work for Greenpeace, travel to a remote, barely-populated island to investigate claims of illegal toxic waste dumping. They sneak into E Chem; a large, heavily-guarded geothermal plant, catch them throwing barrels of waste into an active volcano and take video evidence. As they're leaving, security camera catch them snooping around. Gruff Colonel Kovacs (Charles Napier, doing that hard-ass, jaw-clenching bad guy routine we love him for), the guy who runs E Chem, sends out some guards to capture them. Lee is smart enough to hide the tape before being apprehended. Jane, on the other hand, stows away on a helicopter, manages to leap out into a lake and is then pursued by the guards through the jungle. Jane is lucky enough to bump into brainy-looking, tobacco-chewing "snake hunter" Bob (Daniel Bosch), who's there on the island to acquire snake venom to see to a pharmaceutical company. With his help, Jane manages to get to safety, at least temporarily. She still plans on sneaking back over to E Chem to rescue Lee and locate the hidden video. We are now over 50 minutes into this movie and only one question remains: "Where in the hell is that alien?"

Rest assured, it does finally show up. At first we get mere glimpses of the beast's giant claw as it reaches out and kills people. The monster burrows through the ground and also seems to have either acidic blood or toxic blood that's been effected by the dumped waste. In other words, getting the green blood-gunk on you is bad news as it melts away your flesh. Several characters refer to it as an alien here. What I don't get is why they even bothered having it be an alien in the first place. They've already spent so much time with the chemical dumping plot, so why not just make it a mutant creature spawned from toxic waste? Oh well, I guess "Mutant Metal Crustacion from the Deep" just doesn't have that special ring to it. Well actually, I like the ring of that better, but it probably wouldn't have the same ability to rope in fans of ALIEN (1979) and ALIENS (1986). Speaking of ALIENS, the finale here is almost an exact carbon copy of its finale. The James Cameron film featured a tank top clad Sigourney Weaver using one of those yellow loading dock contraptions to push the alien out of a time lock into space, while this one features a tank top clad heroine using a yellow bulldozer to push the alien into a volcano. So much for originality.

You will need some patience to make it through this one. It's slow moving, the dialogue is pretty cheesy ("Don't come on to me, you snake squeezer!") and many of actors are poorly dubbed, but patience is rewarded with one of the most bizarre-looking monsters ever created. The best way to describe it by calling it an upright scrap metal crab. It's black, oily, skinny and very tall... and its claws are bigger than its body! The fact that someone actually designed this huge thing full scale is also pretty great and makes me resent CG effects more than I already do. There's a decent amount of violence (including a face being ripped off) and jungle action (including a scene where three guys are killed by leaping cobras in a cave), quite a few explosions and some decent miniature model work of the plant being destroyed. Technically, it's a well-made, well-budgeted movie, but as a whole it's still a bit too predictable, derivative and routine to have much staying power. Prolific Euro horror regular "Alan Collins" / Luciano Pigozzi has a good-sized role as nuclear physicist Dr. Geoffrey.

There's no R1 DVD release. I don't think it was ever released here in the U.S. on video either. It was one of the last films from Margheriti (billed here under his usual "Anthony M. Dawson" alias), who worked steadily in Italian films from the late 50s until the early 90s (and passed away in 2002). His other genre work (as director) includes HORROR CASTLE (1963), CASTLE OF BLOOD (1964), THE LONG HAIR OF DEATH (1964), WILD WILD PLANET (1966), SNOW DEMONS (1967), SCHOOL GIRL KILLER (1968), SCREAMS IN THE NIGHT (1968), WEB OF THE SPIDER (1970), SEVEN DEATHS IN THE CAT'S EYE (1972), KILLER FISH (1978) and CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE (1980).


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