Antonio Margheriti never got the sort of reputation Mario Bava and some of his fellow Italian directors of the Sixties and Seventies have acquired. Nor does it seem all that likely that anyone is going to “rediscover” him any time soon, either under his own name or his usual Anthony M. Dawson pseudonym.
You see, while he did make several quite interesting films. like Wild, Wild Planet, he just wasn’t that good. His films are workmanlike, but unremarkable and do tend towards a certain dullness, even when packed full of SF weirdness.
But this is one of his better films — perhaps even one of his best.
Even if it was meant to be nothing more than a ripoff of Alien and The Abyss.
Okay, it isn’t as obvious in the English title as it is in the Italian, although supposedly it did get marketed as “Alien from the Abyss” somewhere along the line. As I’ve noted before, everyone expected James Cameron’s underwater epic to be a huge success, and there was a sudden rush of films like Leviathan, Deepstar Six, and The Rift into the theaters before it tanked.
Of course, as this is a low budget Italian film, they obviously can’t afford to film it all underwater. But you can measure just how threadbare this one is by the fact that the underwater stuff is limited to a couple of divers checking to see what just fell into this huge…pond. I really don’t think you’d call it a “lake”.
It doesn’t even rush into being a science fiction film: it starts out as a Seventies-style environmental thriller, with a team of Greenpeace investigators sneaking onto an off-limits island where the usual big, bad corporation is up to no good — in this case, dumping nuclear waste into a volcano.
They then spend a lot of time chasing around through the jungle and being chased. We get snakes, caves and lots of gunfire…
And then halfway through the film, something strange happens.
A huge meteorite drops out of space, and something big and nasty crawls out of it.
No, it isn’t a mutant. Nor did the nuclear waste create it. It is an alien that can bore through the ground faster than you can drive to the drugstore. But, to be fair, we are told that the huge amount of energy created by that mass of nuclear waste in the volcano attracted the thing.
Charles Napier, the designated American actor meant to dress this up and make it look less Italian, plays the Colonel leading the project. He barks a lot of orders and gets to run around blasting the alien creature with an assortment of weapons. Luciano Pigozzi (hiding behind the more Anglo name, Alan Collins) plays his usual grizzled Spaghetti Western prospector character, who, in this case, is actually a big deal scientist.
With a wild, grizzled prospector beard.
However, the real star of the show, even if it takes a very long time for it to show up, is the alien. Instead of a guy in a suit, or a puppet, or even a stop motion monstrosity, we are talking a full sized, articulated, giant alien. For most of the film, we just see one big claw, but at the end, it finally emerges and stands upright. It is quite impressive, obviously real, and, just as obviously, can’t do an awful lot. But they do manage to make it mostly convincing, and even battle the thing with construction equipment.
This is not a great film. It isn’t one for the ages. But it is dumb fun.
And it never really tries to be more than that.
But what the heck, we can all use a dumb fun movie once in a while. Particularly if we have a big bowl of popcorn to go with it.
…And we’re not watching it with anyone who will complain if we yell at the screen once in a while.
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