Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Alien From The Deep (1989)

An evil Texan corporation (of Evil) known as E-Chem has built a shiny new recycling facility for radioactive waste right next to a mildly active volcano on a tropical island. What do you know! It is not really a recycling facility! In truth the corps' minions dump the radioactive materials into the volcano, blessedly ingorant of any problems this might cause.

The projects' chief scientist (Luciano "Alan Collins" Pigozzi) doesn't think this is a very bright idea (now, don't ask me why he helped build it, then), but his Texan bosses ignore him and have put the homicidal hard-ass Colonel Kovacks (Charles Napier) in charge, a man who does what he's told, unless that interferes with shooting people or screaming at subordinates.

But don't fret, people who think dumping things in volcanos is a bad idea, Greenpeace has sent its top operative Jane (Marina Giulia Cavalli) and her cameraman Lee (Robert Marius) to infiltrate the facility. The inital break-in part works out nicely, and the two heroic eco warriors get some nice shots of waste being deposited contrary to regulations. Too bad that then the alarms start to sound and a bunch of angry, armed people is out to shoot them. Lee just manages to hide the video tape before he gets caught, while Jane escapes into the jungle, hunted by the rather rude security personnel who are just itching to kill her with their nice automatic weapons.

Jane survives her pursuers' attention only thanks to the help of the American snake farmer Bob (Daniel Bosch) and his tobacco into snake face spitting brand of masculinity, upon whom she literally stumbles while running through the jungle. Bob takes Jane home, and finds himself a wet T-shirt moment later roped into helping Jane rescue Lee from his (very American, that is, torture-loving) captors.

At the same time, a hungry alien has landed in the ocean next to the E-Chem base to do who knows what with the radioactive waste. In any case, it starts to lay waste to the place just when Bob and Jane arrive to rescue Jane's friend. What fun!

Alien From The Deep is one of the last films directed by Italian low budget crap hero Antonio Margheriti and is for some reason often called his worst film. I don't really see that. Sure, the film's stupid as they come, it has plot holes you could maneuver a death star through and everyone in front of the camera except for Pigozzi and Napier tries to win a price for "Worst Acting Performance In A Movie", but that is par for the course when it comes to the Italian action film of the late 80s. The true measure for this type of film isn't how intelligent it is, but how entertaining, and when it comes to entertainment, Alien From The Deep is a winner.

It really has quite a bit to recommend it. For a start, there's some of Margheriti's patented incredibly fake but beautiful looking model work, made with obvious love for detail, and an even greater love for miniature explosions). Then there's the immortal dialogue including lots of discussions of people's "balls" and some of the most deadly sexual inuendo you will ever hear.

And of course there is the alien, for the most part represented by a, well, a giant black lobster claw which is unfortunately not related to the Giant Claw, but looks pretty nifty in its giant clawlike way. The rest of it is rather less exciting. It seems to be a very very very large behelmeted, black, spiky biker without a motorcycle (but with the wonderful claw) or a beard, and it just don't look right, Ma, no, not right at all. Fortunately, Margheriti was far too experienced a director to show us this abomination for too long, so we can only enjoy it for a few short moments in the grand, Aliens-inspired finale.

What I find absolutely brilliant about the film is its (technically of course absolutely dubious) decision to make about an hour of an Italian jungle action film that then culminates in thirty minutes of Alien(s)-impressions. This does not only help reserve the effects budget for some mighty fine explosions, but also keeps the film away from needing to include too much filler by the sensational new method of making two Italian genre movies at once. It's brilliant in its simplicity, Dub-Dub.

This brilliant plan of resource conservation could of course have backfired badly if not for Margheriti's knack for making something watchable even when only in control of the tiniest of budgets. Late period Margheriti possessed a certain liteness of touch quite contrary to the nastiness and misanthropy of Italian exploitation colleagues like Lenzi (or the total incompetence of Bruno Mattei, for that matter), a liteness that made for surprisingly charming movies in genres where charme was usually absent. Even when people are mutilated by aliens or bitten by cobras, it all very obviously happens in good fun.

It's the magic of cinema, I suppose, and absolutely keeping in spirit with the classic American movie serials Margheriti must have loved.


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