It came as a bit of a shock, seeing this one not long after I watched Roger Corman’s 1982 Mutant [Forbidden World]. The earlier film may be a cheap Alien ripoff, but it still had a few truly strange moments in it that lifted it from the rut of cheap ripoffs. Yes, it isn’t too hard to spot all the props, sets and footage he borrowed from his other Alien knockoffs of the same era, and from Battle Beyond the Stars, but no one had ever come up that particular icky — and creative — method of destroying a monster before.
That was — at least for his first thirty years of filmmaking — exactly what distinguished Corman’s schlocky, low budget films: he always found something totally unexpected, even creative, to liven things up.
Lords of the Deep was one of a flash flood of underwater SF movies which came out in 1989-1990, right around the time James Cameron’s The Abyss debuted. Everyone knew, despite the secrecy, that Cameron was working on some sort of underwater adventure film with an SF twist, so everyone rushed to get Abyss “copies” into the theater as soon as possible. Within a year of each other, you find such films as Deepstar Six, Leviathan and The Rift [Endless Descent]. However, they all seemed to think he would be making an underwater version of Aliens.
Everyone, that is, except Roger Corman. For some strange reason, his copy features an encounter with friendly aliens at the bottom of the sea. I have to wonder if Cameron let something slip when he was talking to his old boss.
But it is also one of the most threadbare of these copies. Even the subs never give the impression of being anything other than a routine landlocked set.
There’s a lot of running around, a sinister corporate plot (with Roger himself as an evil corporate type), some moderately unimpressive aliens, a few glimpses of underwater stuff so we won’t forget this is supposed to be deep under the sea (I can’t remember anyone in the film actually getting wet, though). There’s even the shocking discovery, when they open the suit of the crewman who died while doing repairs and find sort of a jellied mass of stuff instead of a body: it might have been a memorable weird moment, if the director had made even the slightest effort to make it interesting.
And that’s about it. There’s minimal gore, minimal suspense, and they didn’t even throw in any sex or nudity (I mean, seriously, what sort of exploitation film is this supposed to be???).
It’s about as nothing as an underwater alien encounter film can get.
I suppose it’s better than the SciFi (or SyFy) originals he’d start churning out in another decade or so.
However, that doesn’t stop us from wondering whatever happened to the real Roger Corman…
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