Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sandy Claws!

Blood Beach  (Compass International Pictures, 1980)

Before the Camera:

David Huffman  (Look What's Happened to Rosemary's Baby)
Marianna Hill (High Plains Drifter)
Burt Young  (Rocky)
Otis Young  (The Last Detail)
Lena Pousette  (Xanadu)
Stefan Gierasch  (High Plains Drifter)
John Saxon  (A Nightmare on Elm Street)
Captain Pearson

Behind the Camera:

Directed by Jeffrey Bloom

Produced by Sidney Beckerman, Neil Canton, Steven Nalevansky, and Run Run Shaw

Written by Jeffrey Bloom

Story by Jeffrey Bloom and Steven Nalevansky

Southern California, 1982. The beautiful Santa Monica beach. But something has come to the beach. Specifically, it's under the beach. And anyone on the sand above it is in danger. Whatever is under the beach is dragging people down to their deaths. Police officer Harry Caulder (Huffman) lives on the beach - and he's noticed people are missing. None of his fellow officers - Royko (Burt Young) or Piantadosi (Otis Young) - seem all that concerned - and that goes double for Captain Pearson (Saxon). Caulder starts his own investigation - along with his new girlfriend Catherine (Hill) - daughter of the first victim. Their detective work takes them all over the beach, and eventually - even under it. Just when you thought it was safe to go into the water - you can't get there!

It was a weird thing - a horror boom was kicked off by John Carpenter's Halloween in 1978 - although horror is a diehard genre that never completely goes dormant - and the boom continued into the early 80's, dominated by slasher films. By 1980, however, filmmakers were finally getting creature features greenlit - this, The Boogens, The Strangeness. But here's what is strange about this - these films were for some reason much harder to see than ones made the previous two years. So even a dyed-in-the-wool horror fan like me didn't get to see these movies as a kid or teen. I'm finally catching up with them now.

Blood Beach played at my old hangout Toler Cinema back in 1980 - but I didn't get to go see it - and it  is still hard to find - it's not been fully released on DVD - and the VHS was hard to find back in the day. (It is on Amazon Streaming- touted as a "Retro VHS Presentation" meaning a full frame VHS rip - and they were also dubbing that same presentation on DVD-R's - but those are out of print and the used copies go for $100 or more (!)) I finally got a gray market DVD-R - and after more than thirty years finally got to check the movie out.

I don't think I'm going to surprise you when I say - after all that time - it was a letdown. The movie has a fun premise - but it is slowly paced, and the kills are few and far between. Add in only a little gore, and a creature that stays out of sight until the very end of the movie - and even then is not clearly seen - it doesn't add up to much. Huffman and Hill are okay as the leads - but the other character actor cops are kinda phoning it in, so even their scenes don't bring a lot to the movie - though it's always good to see Saxon.

It's also annoying that since the creature "just kind of showed up one day." That's not dialogue quoted from the movie but instead a line used by Roger Corman hosting a showing of Bert I. Gordon's The Spider on AMC Monstervision some years ago. Corman said that is the explanation for all good monsters. It's a funny line - and obviously stuck with me - but in the reality of watching a movie - it's usually better for me to get an explanation for what the thing is and where it came from. But just like The Boogens - another movie I saw decades later with no explanation for the monsters - this movie falls down in that regard as well. Because there is no human agent behind the creature's creation - and the creature isn't in a multiple form or swarm of monsters (allowing one or more to be killed and studied) the script tries to shoehorn in an explantion - the police scientist (Gierasch) is given the job in the form of crazy evolutionary theories about sea creatures adapting to land and learning to move about on - or under - the ground. This is a neat trick considering he's never seen such a creature - but since there are no other explanations possible the way this is structured - you have to accept that this guy is right - which is just kind of silly - especially as he continues to expound on his theory in ever greater detail as the movie goes on.

Because it is a movie made in that golden period of 1977-1981 - and does give the viewer a good look at Santa Monica at the time - this rates a minor recommendation for those so inclined or creature feature completists. Others can go right on not seeing this one.

Let's Get Out of Here ?

At around 46:40 John Saxon informs everyone the briefing is over.

Eye Candy ?

Marianna Hill is certainly cute - but she is not showcased well here, so no. Sorry Marianna.

Buddha Man Sez:
"Blood Beach sinks under the weight of too little monster."

Until next post - just 24 hours or so from now - you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!


  1. Excellent stuff Craig, I’m racking my brains trying to recall if I actually saw this one – I know there was a UK VHS which of course was in videoshops in Ireland but I’m thinking this one turned up on TV here – I seem to remember seeing this in close succession with Son of the Blob, but that would have been 25 years ago and memory being a great trickster, I could be well be imagining this… but if I did see the film, your review seems entirely accurate, and the film seems right out of the Here’s the poster, now make the damn film! school of low-budget exploitation film making. I love the tagline: The five people believed to have drowned here never made it past the sand... Craig you make an excellent discussion point about that peculiar climate of early 80's Horror where the weirdest stuff was emerging, The Boogens and The Strangeness being two fine examples... or three other spaced oddities, Night Beast, Without Warning and Deadly Spawn

    1. Thanks, Wes - I can understand your memory being muddled - the movie is a little inert - and has little that would make it lodge in one's memory for years and years. I agree too that more talent was expended on the poster than the movie. Thanks for mentioning more of those early 80's creature features - I love Without Warning - just added the Blu-Ray to the video vault after springing for a gray market DVD-R last year - thinking it was never going to get a "real" release. I need to see Deadly Spawn again - that Blu-Ray is on my wish list but needs to go on sale. I've not seen Night Beast but I have a fondness for Don Dohler's other movies, so I'm sure I'd like this one too.

  2. I've never seen this one Craig, despite me being very aware of it - mostly for the same reasons you outlined above. It's a pity the film didn't live up to what you hoped, or what that excellent poster promised.

    Funnily enough, the ones Wes mentioned above are ones I have seen plenty of times - Deadly Spawn is one of my favorites- and I think you will LOVE Night Beast, for me it's Dohler's best work.

    1. I really look forward to getting my hands on Deadly Spawn for a second viewing. And you have me ready to go on a Night Beast quest so I can check it out finally!

  3. Great premise, but awful execution. Too dull, too slow, and definitely not enough creature.

    1. Man! You just said in nine words what it took me a thousand words to say.