Richard Young

Lords of the Deep (1989, Mary Ann Fisher)

Lords of the Deep exists for reasons. Some of them seem interesting enough I’m disappointed the trivia section on IMDb doesn’t offer any explanations. But just going on what it’s like watching the film and what it’s good for? You hate top-billed Bradford Dillman and want to simultaneously be reminded why you don’t like him and watch him humiliate himself in scene after scene. He’s godawful, impossible to take seriously as authoritative—he’s the boss—partly because the script’s so bad, like how he uses “because I say so” for shutting down autopsies, but also because Dillman’s so absurd when acting opposite anyone else. He kind of struts. You want to know if he was nice to his coworkers on set. Like, it’s something to be curious about. And just like everything else to be curious about involving Lords, none of it has to do with the film’s story.

For example, co-writer and third-billed Daryl Haney. He’s terrible—as an actor, but clearly new at it; Dillman’s terrible but experienced at it. So why did they cast Haney; some of the other supporting parts are sort of okay (Eb Lottimer, Richard Young, and Stephen Davies are downright professionally respectable with their terribly written parts), so they could’ve gotten someone better for the part. Did Haney want the part? Was it a condition of the deal? If so, couldn’t producer Roger Corman have just gotten someone else to write it. It’s not like Lords of the Deep’s script has much distinct about its badness. Unless you count the telepathic communication—sadly uncredited—between space aliens living on the ocean floor (but it came out before The Abyss, months before The Abyss, actually) and sympathetic scientist Priscilla Barnes. Barnes is also dating Haney.

Why is she dating Haney? Who signed first. Is there some story about Barnes being Haney’s favorite “Three’s Company” blonde? It’d be so much more interesting than the movie. So much more interesting.

Barnes is terrible but not unlikable. Lords of the Deep is cheap. Cheap enough you feel bad for the actors. So even though she’s never good, Barnes isn’t unlikable. Not like Dillman. You get sick of seeing Dillman. Similarly second-in-command Gregory Sobeck. He’s a fine weasel. But you get sick of him. Barnes you don’t. And not just because it’s hilarious watching her to try act off Haney. Also when Barnes makes scientific discoveries she gets this “far out, man” expression on her face and it’s at least amusing to watch. Lords of the Deep would probably have been a lot better if everyone were dropping acid or at least incredibly stoned.

Mel Ryane is the only woman besides Barnes. Crap part, but Ryane’s okay considering. She’s not annoying. Even people who aren’t bad in Lords tend to get annoying sooner or later; the script’s against them scene after scene. Ryane not so much; she’s an actual asset.

Some of the special effects are all right. Lots aren’t, but every once in a while they’ll be solid. Director Fisher is enthusiastic but bad. She doesn’t seem to be directing the actors, which doesn’t do the film any favors. There’s also something weird about Nina M. Gilberti’s editing. It seems like it’s sometimes unintentionally effective. Like Gilberti’s cuts kind of save some of the bad composition, some of the time. Most of the time not though.

Jim Berenholtz’s music… isn’t bad. Not great, but consistently decent plus.

It’s a bad movie and there’s probably not any good reason to watch it. Unless, like I said, you really want to hate watch an awful Bradford Dillman performance.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Mary Ann Fisher; written by Howard R. Cohen and Daryl Haney; director of photography, Austin McKinney; edited by Nina M. Gilberti; music by Jim Berenholtz; production designer, Kathleen B. Cooper; produced by Roger Corman; released by Concorde Pictures.

Starring Bradford Dillman (Dobler), Priscilla Barnes (McDowell), Daryl Haney (O’Neill), Mel Ryane (Stottelmyre), Eb Lottimer (Seaver), Gregory Sobeck (Engel), Richard Young (Chadwick), and Stephen Davies (Fernandez).


Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985, Danny Steinmann)

Someone–whether it be the writers, director, producers, studio, composer, whoever–someone tried really hard to make Friday the 13th: A New Beginning a comedy. It fails miserably, but the attempt is interesting if not admirable.

Wait, it’s not because of the composer; Harry Manfredini plays it straight and ruins a lot of the scenes. Well, not exactly ruins them but he definitely works at cross purpose.

It’s hard to say if it’s director Steinmann working the absurd cliche angle; there are a handful of ambitious scenes in the film, where Steinmann is clearly trying to do something with the filmmaking (never the film). So are those moments the fluke or is the rest of it the fluke?

The actors suggest the former, just because the acting is so bad and there’s no way Steinmann wouldn’t prefer better acting in those parts. He’s got Shavar Ross, who’s annoying as all hell but he’s a capable actor and Ross is stuck in scenes without any professionals to work with. Leading lady Melanie Kinnaman is bad. She doesn’t have anything to do, but she’s still bad.

As the suspect in all the film’s ineptly cut murders, John Shepherd is terrible. Obviously Steinmann saw Texas Chainsaw Massacre for one sequence, but he also borrowed heavily from The Karate Kid for Shepherd’s scenes. It’s silly and awful and the film’s so unsuccessful, it’s actually pitiable.

Decent enough performance from Juliette Cummins in one of Steinmann’s acceptable tangents.

But it’s an awful movie. Just lame.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Danny Steinmann; screenplay by Martin Kitrosser, David Cohen and Steinmann, based on a story by Kitrosser and Cohen; director of photography, Stephen L. Posey; edited by Bruce Green; music by Harry Manfredini; production designer, Robert Howland; produced by Timothy Silver; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Melanie Kinnaman (Pam), John Shepherd (Tommy), Shavar Ross (Reggie), Vernon Washington (George), Richard Young (Matt), Caskey Swaim (Duke), Tiffany Helm (Violet), Juliette Cummins (Robin), Jerry Pavlon (Jake), Carol Locatell (Ethel), Ron Sloan (Junior), Miguel A. Núñez Jr. (Demon), Jere Fields (Anita), John Robert Dixon (Eddie), Deborah Voorhees (Tina), Dominick Brascia (Joey), Anthony Barrile (Vinnie), Mark Venturini (Vic Faden), Richard Lineback (Deputy Dodd) and Marco St. John (Sheriff Tucker); special appearance by Corey Feldman (Tommy at 12).


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