Humanoids From the Deep

Year: 1980
Production Co: New World Pictures
Director: Barbara Peeters
Producer: Roger Corman
Writer: Frank Arnold/Martin B Cohen/William Martin
Cast: Doug McClure, Ann Turkel, Vic Morrow

It's worth remembering that despite actors being the public face of a movie and getting all the money, accolades and fame, they have the least control over the process. What happens to their performances and images is up to the director and editor long after they've gone home, but producers and even distributors can overrule the director and change the project into something completely different all over again.

Acclaimed actors John Gielgud and Helen Mirren thought they were making a serious dramatic epic about ancient Rome with Caligula before producer Bob Guccione turned it into soft porn. The original distributor gutted Director Richard Kelly's classic Donnie Darko, the film only making sense later when they let him recut it the way he intended.

Humanoids From The Deep is another cautionary tale. Stars Doug McClure and Ann Turkel thought they'd signed on to a serious thriller about institutional corruption at a scientific laboratory that creates bizarre hybrids, not a delirious, hilarious B movie slasher with dodgy rubber suits.

It's set in a small fishing town on the cusp of its annual salmon festival, a description that will forewarn you about what a rip-off of Jaws it is. With its big tourist event coming up, the town can ill afford a monster attack, and if it's not the brutally butchered dogs showing up everywhere, it's the local Native American activist at odds with the politically powerful redneck (Vic Morrow, who died just a couple of years later in the helicopter accident on the set of The Twilight Zone).

Square-jawed hero Jim (McClure) is stuck in the middle of it all when he just wants to enjoy a quiet life with his wife and infant son, but when people as well as dogs start turning up dead or go missing, he has to team up with scientist Susan (Turkel) to get to the bottom of the mystery.

It turns out to be half man, half fish creatures produced by the experiments going on at the lab hidden in the woods. Even grosser, they don't want to just kill people, they want to mate with human women.

Such a plot device gives the film the first opportunity to reveal its shlocky drive-in creature feature credentials, when the monsters set upon the horny young couple cavorting in the surf, killing the boyfriend and tearing the girl's swimsuit leerily off to drag her away screaming.

It was the start of a new direction for the movie after producer Roger Corman – determined to make it more gratuitous – tried to have director Barbara Peeters include more sex and blood. When she refused he promptly fired her.

When the hybrid shit hits the fan, hordes of the monsters descend upon the festival (the suits worn by additional actors as the stunt guys found them so stupid-looking they refused to wear them), loping along the boardwalks and knocking down jetties to send victims plunging into the water while Jim and Susan have to swoop in and save the day.

Serious actress Turkel was so appalled with the final result she reportedly asked the Screen Actor's Guild to stop the release, but you'll have a blast. Among the other serious artists who probably thought they were working on a real thriller was future Oscar-winning composer James Horner.

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