Thursday, June 9, 2011

DVD Review: Alien from the Deep (1989)

Alien from the Deep (1989)
Label: One 7 Movies
Region: Region 0 NTSC
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 92 mins
Video: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Audio: English Dolby Digital Stereo, Italian Dolby Digital Stereo 
Director: Antonio Margheriti
Cast: Daniel Bosch, Marina Guulia Cavalli, Robert Marius, Luciano Pigozzi, Charles Napier

Alien from the Deep (1989) is a late-period film from the prolific Italian exploitation director Antonio Margheriti whom I'm familiar with in name only unfortunately. Obviously a director near n' dear to Quentin Tarantino who named a character after him in the film Inglourious Basterds (2009) but that's about the extent of my Magheriti knowledge until now so thanks go out to One 7 Movies for pushing this one across my desk. A quick glance at the artwork will tell you that this is yet another in a long line of 80's Italian Alien knock-offs (and it is) but it's been thrown into the Magheriti genre blender with a few scoops of action, some jungle adventure and some intentional and not-so intentional comedy.

Enviormental activists Jane (Marina Guilia Cavalli) and cameraman Lee (Robert Marius) book passage on a freighter to a remote island to document and expose the environmentally unfriendly E-Chem Corporation who are dumping toxic waste into an active volcano. The E-Chem facility is overseen by the overly angry Colonel Kovacks (Charles Napier, Ernest Goes to Jail) and an army of mercenaries whom patrol. A scientist at the facility Dr. Geoffrey (Luciano Pigozzi) warns Kovacks that the mixture of molten rock and toxic waste is sending a plume of pure energy into outer space. At about the same time they're tracking a fireball that falls from the sky into the ocean. Whatever could it be? Perhaps an enormous alien-creature-robot with a giant black lobster claw, maybe.

The enviormentalists get the incriminating footage they seek but find themselves on the run from the seething Kovacks and his bumbling mercs. Lee is taken prisoner inside the facility and Jane escapes by hiding in a helicopter and in a rather awesome scene she jumps from the helicopter in slow-motion and into the river below. She continues through the jungle pursued by armed mercs who of course can't shot for shit.  Along the way she encounters a gun wielding snake hunter named Bob (Daniel Bosch) who definitely adds a fun Romancing the Stone (1984) flavor to the proceeding. They take cover in a cave where in true Stanley (1972) style venomous snakes aide their escape by taking out the mercs. The two travel to his shack and hatch a scheme to rescue Lee from the E-Chem facility which is made more difficult by the arrival of the gigantic alien-creature-robot with a huge freaking black lobster claw. The creature erupts from the ground Tremors-style and snatches victims, crushing them with it's giant claw but more often than not only disfiguring them with some nasty green secretion that infects them ...or something. It seems that perhaps the victims are mutating but it's not quite clear and the film didn't really carry through with that idea.

The film is a cheapie and the effects are low-rent but the creature design is pretty awesome in it's badness, looking to have been constructed using leftover lengths of plastic tubing according to  poorly xeroxed H.R. Giger instructions. That enormous claw in not unlike the giant ape hand in King Kong Lives (1986) in it's utterly schlocky awesomeness. It sucks that the creature doesn't make an appearance for nearly an hour into the film but there's enough gun play, explosions and jungle chases to keep the momentum moving forward. While the consensus seems to be that this late-period Margheriti film is not one of his better ventures I must say this is a mighty entertaining film. The acting is pure b-movie badness but cheesily entertaining and Daniel Bosch as the gun toting snake-squeezer is a fun character, a total scene stealer. A lot of the film doesn't make sense but that's also why I love it. Example, our heroine Jane is randomly exposed to the creatures mutating secretion only so we can put her into a decontamination chamber aka The Wet T-Shirt-inator 2000. You just cannot NOT enjoy this kind of silliness.

DVD: Not sure if this full frame transfer is the original aspect ratio but it's a clean looking source print and while the image is soft from time to time and the black levels aren't as dark as blackest night there is a good amount of detail and the colors are pleasing. Audio options include English and Italian Dolby Digital stereo with no subtitle options which made watching the film in Italian prohibitive. Special features include the Italian Credits which look sourced from VHS and a Photo and Poster Gallery containing 35 images of behind publicity stills, theatricals posters and some VHS covers. Not the most comprehensive features but above average for One 7 Movies who aren't known comprehensive extras except for the Sex and Black Magic (1982) release which had a few nifty supplements.

Special Features:
- Italian Credits
- Photo and Poster Gallery

Verdict: Great cinema it ain't but this was entertaining b-movie fromage. Margheriti amps up the entertainment value with awesomely terrible dialogue and some fun set pieces with plenty of action and there's no shortage of exploding miniatures. It's definitely cheese but it's the kind of cheese that goes great with a few cold beers and nachos so grab some brewskies and settle in for some awesome schlock cinema.  2.5 outta 5