Sunday, November 8, 2009

Blood Beach (1980)

An elderly woman is eaten by the Los Angeles beach she is walking her dog on. Since there are no eyewitnesses for this somewhat strange occurrence, the police think she must have just gone away somewhere. That is what people of a certain age always do, right?

Her daughter Catherine (Marianna Hill) sees things quite differently and returns to her native LA to find out what happened to her mum. Catherine has help in the form of Harry Caulder (David Huffman), her ex-boyfriend from long way off. The harbor patrol man can't help but find the disappearance of a woman whom he'd talked to just minutes before she vanished into thin air very strange indeed. And if spending some time with Catherine while looking for her mother can help him and Catherine get back together, then that's all the better for him. It doesn't seem to matter much to him (or the film itself) that he is already in a relationship. What a stroke of luck that his girlfriend is soon eaten and very fast forgotten anyway.

Yes, the monster living under the so innocent looking beach continues to strike. A decapitated dog, a mutilated woman and a de-phallused rapist later, even police captain Pearson (John Saxon) can't help but go with the monster theory. There's also a police scientist played by Stefan Gierasch who sprouts some pseudo-science, but he speaks so frigging slowly that I have never been able to puzzle out what he is trying to tell us. Something about mutations, and the thing just having crawled from the sea and probably going to learn to walk in the future, I think.

Now it is only a question of time until the authorities find the creature's dwelling place and everything will be alright again.

For a film about a beach that eats people Blood Beach is surprisingly anaemic. I suppose all the blood went into the title, until the most colourful thing you get to see on screen is Burt Young doing a groan-worthy Harvey Bullock shtick as a certain Sergeant Royko and Saxon getting a single good scene in which he chews out some politicians.

Jeffrey Bloom, the film's writer and director, mostly worked in TV, and if not for a little nakedness, the dog head-munch and the most sedate penis loss in the history of humanity, he could have fooled me into believing this was a TV production too, with all the worst things people usually say about the quality of TV movies this once coming absolutely true.

The thing that truly kills the film is its glacial pacing, with scenes often going on much longer than necessary or good and other scenes, like the supposedly comical one in which the wife of one of the monster's victims describes in excruciating detail how her man was dressed, that should have been cut completely, especially in light of the fact that nothing at all seems to be happening for most of the time. Even worse, when something theoretically exciting is happening, Bloom's direction is so bland and lacking in imagination that even attempted rape and scenes of the beach monster dragging people under and nibbling on them come over as dry and boring as watching someone do her bookkeeping.

It doesn't exactly help that our supposed lead characters a) aren't doing anything interesting b) are about as charismatic as umbrellas and (in the case of Harry) c) are morally deeply unpleasant, but I won't blame the actors for more than trying to keep their performances on the same neutral level as anything else in the film.

It's a shame the movie doesn't even seem to be trying, for Blood Beach could (and should) have been a whole lot of low-brow fun (The Beach That Eats People!) if it had just tried to emulate the classic monster movie formula that people like Roger Corman used in the 50s. That way, we would have seen much more of the ridiculous looking monster - whatever it is supposed to be, and wouldn't have to get through quite this much filler and utter slowness for no climax to speak of.



Todd said...

I saw this when it came out, at the Alhambra Theater in San Francisco, which happened to be across the street from the apartment I was living in at the time. Though I don't remember everything about it, I have a clear memory of John Saxon uttering the line, "That information is as useful to me as whiskers on a sausage". Please tell me that I didn't hallucinate that.

houseinrlyeh said...

Oh yes, he does say that. In his grand "chewing out the politicians" scene.