Wednesday, April 28, 2021

DEEP BLOOD (1990) (Severin Films Blu-ray Review)


Label: Severin Films
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 91 Minutes 
Video: 1080p HD Full Frame (1.33:1)
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono, Italian DTS-HD MA Mono with optional English Subtitles
Director: Joe D'Amato
Cast: Frank Baroni. Allen Cort, Keith Kelsch, James Camp, Tody Bernard, 
Margareth Hanks

Italian schlock-maker Joe D'Amato's (Sex and Black Magic) bottom-of-the-chum-bucket teen drama/shark flick begins with four young boys roasting weenies on a stretch of isolated Florida beach, where they're approached by a native American shaman (Van Jensens), who spins them the tale of the malevolent water-spirit known as "Wakan", that can take the form of a sea creature. In the past his tribe's warriors were tasked with battling the mythical beast, and apparently looking to shirk that supernatural responsibility the shabby-shaman gives the kids a carved wooden talisman, an ornate arrow box, and tells them that someday they must wage battle against the Wakan. To that end the boys make a blood pact, literally slicing open their wrists with pocket knives and intermingling their bloodlines, and afterward bury the talisman in a hole on the beach along with personal totems, their trusty pocket knives, vowing to reunite to defeat the evil of the Wakan one future day. The opening gives this shark flick a bit of twist, starting off as a weird coming-of-age story that seems a bit out of place, but its an interesting opening at least, and smacks a bit of Stephen King's It

Ten years later the kids, Miki (Frank Baroni), John (John K. Brune), Ben (Keith Kelsch) and Alan (Court McCowan, Can't Buy Me Love), are now twenty-something "teenagers" who have reunited in their beach community for some much needed summer fun, sun and relaxation. Each seems to be struggling with personal issues, and some service is paid to their drama. We learn how one yearns tore- connect with his father who has been distant since his younger brother's ambiguous death some years earlier, and then we have the son of the town's Mayor who has enlisted in an officer training school and is unhappy about it, or the one who wants to be a pro-golfer against his father's wishes... that last one might be the same one who craves his father's attention, but I'll be damned if I am gonna re-watch this today to clarify it. Its all fairly rote pseudo-dramatic stuff that to be honest does not matter in the long-run, its pure dramatic padding in a film that is heavy with padding. 

The four friend's reunion turns tragic when the  prophecy as foretold by the shabby-shaman seems to comes to fruition with one of them being eaten by a black-finned shark while spearfishing. The shark then begins to terrorize the beach community, with the surviving trio digging up the totem and pledging to avenge their shark-bait pal. They team-up with Ben's father, the shabby Quint of the story, who owns an fishing boat, plus a former teen adversary turned friend named Jason (James Camp), who joins the inept quest to destroy the black-finned shark, who may of may not be a native American embodiment of evil. Armed with teen abandon and a disregard for bodily harm thy teens set sail with a shitload of dynamite out for the shark's blood. 

As with most Jaws rip-offs worth their blood-stained brine the flick borrows scenes and plot elements from Spielberg's mega-blockbuster, but much, much shittier. We get the standard-issue tropes like community leaders turning a blind eye to the immanent threat, with Chief Cody (see what they did there?and the town's Mayor, refusing to publicly acknowledge the the shark until a woman is eaten by a shark as her toddler son and poodle watch from the shore. This particular kill was a goofy,  poorly shot, reversal of the Kintner boy's death in Jaws. 

The cheesy shark flick is stuffed with weird, awkward dialogue and plenty of sunny beach community scenery, but sadly very little in the way of actual shark carnage.
Apparently the kindred Italian schlockster Bruno Mattei  stole a few scene from this for his only marginally superior late-era sharksploitation entry Cruel Jaws, and God help me I don't remember which scene he stole, so I'm might have to re-watch that, but not today! The shark attacks themselves are painfully shoddy, easily the worst I've seen in any sharksploitation dud, there's no gaping wounds or shredded flesh, nothing. What we do get are sloppily edited montages of poor quality, mismatched stock footage of actual sharks mixed with a cornball scenes of the victims flailing about in the pink-stained water, as well as some bathtub miniature work that speaks to the film's total lack of even trying. The haphazardly edited footage spastically toggles back and forth between the clear blue Florida ocean, murky brown Mississippi River water, and shots that were clearly filmed at an aquarium and a swimming pool, complete with visible pool tile! Its a real shit-show as far as the shark action goes, so lower those already low expectations before diving into this one. The film even steals scenes from director Enzo G. Castellari's notorious Jaws knock-off The Last Shark (1981). ON a side note I would love to see The Last shark a.k.a Great White get a Blu-ray - make it happen Severin, you're on a shitty shark movie spree, go for it! Also be on the lookout for the ‘60s comedy team of Charlie Brill & Mitzi McCall (War of the Satellites) as Ben's patents and an uncredited Laura Gemser (Violence in a Women's Prison) as a lab assistant only seen from the backside in a lab coat! 

Sure, it's a bad, poorly made Italian Jaws knock-off, but it is an almost-entertaining, trashy sharksploitation entry in that is so utterly shit it's sort of fascinating. It's made by Italians but largely shot in the U.S. with American amateur actors who fumble over the awkwardly written Italian to English dialogue, which gives it a bit of a Troll 2 vibe, but do not too excited, it's not on that level of so-bad-it's-good. If you're a fan of bad-acting there's no shortage of it, the best being teen Ben who begs his father to take him fishing, like they did when he was a kid, but watching the actor fumble with the rod and reel makes it quite clear he's never held a fishing pole his entire life up to that point. 

While I do think that there's some interesting coming-of-age and native American mysticism elements they're completely wasted in the hands of an uninspired D'Amato who overstuffs the goofy, near-sharkless genre mash-up with boring, mundane dramatic fluff, it's a real snoozer that doesn't even spice things up with a bit of nudity. 

Audio/Video: Deep Blood (1990) arrives on Blu-ray from Severin in 1080p HD framed in the original1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio, sourced from a new 2K scan the original camera. The source is in fantastic shape, there's some minor white speckling but precious few other blemishes aside from the mismatched stock footage crammed into itThere's some decent depth and clarity to the image, though it's a bit soft in spots, and its not the most stylishly lensed film either, but it looks solid in HD. I am not sure if this was made for TV or shot for direct-to-video market, but either might explain the non-widescreen framing. I'd say it's an open-matte presentation but the frame is already cramped and clearly not intended to be matted for widescreen. 

Audio comes by way on uncompressed English and Italian DTS-HD MA mono with optional English subtitles. Even though the cast are American the English dialogue has a dubbed quality to it because the Italian films tended to add dialogue in post. I preferred the English track over the dubbed-Italian, it definitely had more depth and punch to it. The score from Carlo Maria Cordio (Aenigma) sounds good, possibly recycling his synth score from his myriad of Italian horror films, though I could not put a finger on any one in particular. 

The sole extra is a 2-min trailer which is a bummer, I would have enjoyed a featurette or commentary for this one. The film has a bit of a storied history, with D'Amato hiring a English coach he used on several films to direct it, only for him to step-down after directing the opening scenes. D'Amato is also quite a stories director and I am sure there are plenty of film historians/authors who could have offered a robust commentary or featurette, The single-disc release arrives in a spiffy black keepcase with a single-sided sleeve of artwork that in true exploitation,, Italian knock-off fashion, advertises a much better film - that poster truly is the best thing about the film.

Special Features:
- Trailer (3 min) 

Deep Blood (1990) is a shit slice of sharksploitation, its got some weird mystical and coming-of-age elements, but all that goes right out the window and what we end up with is an uninspired slap-dash Jaws knock-off that I'd be hard-pressed to recommend to anyone unless they're a died-in-the-wool cinema-masochists' who loves a shit Italian knock-offs, or is a total Joe D'Amato completest, which is basically the same thing.  Poor opinion of the film aside that is no knock against Severin's release which looks as good as it possibly can on home video. I wish we had a few extras or a commentary to go along with it, but just having this turd on Blu-ray is pretty special all by it's self. I commend Severin for their continuing dedication preserving very fine crap movies in all their cruddy glory. 

Screenshots from the Blu-ray: