Filmes International. Director: Lamberto Bava.
Creature Feature Bleachers Award: World’s Worst Swimsuit.
Ever wonder what “Sharktopus” would look like if it had been made by Italians in the 1980s? Well, here’s your chance to find out! Yes, though there is not direct franchise connection, “Monster Shark” marks the film debut of everyone’s favorite half-shark, half-octopus creature. Unfortunately, “Monster Shark” puts me in the uncomfortable position of having to say that “Sharktopus” is actually an improvement on something. Unlike with “Sharktopus,” the filmmakers didn’t play “Monster Shark” up for the laughs; they just made a pretty lousy movie. But hey, every once in a while it’s nice to have a film that solidly falls within the boundaries of low-budget sharksploitation (but outside the boundaries of good taste; watch out for bad language and nudity).
Peter (Michael Sopkiw) is greatly looking forward to his vacation. Unfortunately, “sultry” Dr. Stella Dickens (Valentine Monnier) has noticed some unusual marine activity of late, and uses her feminine wiles to convince Peter to build some electronic equipment for her. Eventually Peter becomes dragged into the hunt for a bizarre octopus/prehistoric shark-hybrid creature. But there are killers outside of the water, too. Can Peter, the scientists, and the police neutralize all the threats before it’s too late?
Perhaps the single most memorable aspect of this film (in the sense that it will be eternally and irrevocably burned into my retinas) is Stella’s outfit. The common adage “leggings are not pants” certainly applies, although in this case it should be modified to state that this “swimsuit” is not an anything. With all the nudity I’ve seen in these films so far, you’d think that I’d be immune by now, but I can quite honestly report that that is not the case. Just because Peter finds Stella attractive, doesn’t mean I want to see all of her ribs.
This film comes from that lengthy period of time when people assumed that computers could solve anything, given the appropriate amount of input data. (I picture Adam West’s Batcomputer as the prime example of this). These days we are on the edge of making this sort of thing a reality with Google and Wikipedia, but I’ve always wondered how this was supposed to work when computers were slower and less connected. For example, in “Monster Shark” the scientists plug all of their information about the creature into the computer, but surprisingly, it can’t produce a result. Now, how exactly did they expect this to work? Are they just randomly typing information into the DOS command prompt? Do they have some sort of program that identifies ancient sea monsters? If so, who created the database for it? If these scientists are the experts, wouldn’t they recognize the creature themselves? COMPUTERS DON’T WORK THIS WAY.
The cops are my favorite characters in this movie. Officer Cortes serves as a walking definition of “musclebound,” but he’s not nearly as interesting as his boss, Sheriff Gordon (Gianni Garko). In the first half of the film, Gordon (no relation to the Commissioner) is a hard-boiled film noir cop who eats at diners and makes declarations like, “Lots of new things in this town recently… Waitresses, sharks, and a gal who calls a taxi and then takes a bath.” In the latter half of the film, a metamorphosis occurs as Gordon devolves into a stereotypical dumb cop who can’t understand egghead mumbo jumbo and says things like, “Thanks to your science, we’ve lost precious time!”
Though it will be difficult, I encourage you to watch “Monster Shark” all the way through to the end. The climax of the film is worth it. For one thing, the laws of time and space cease to operate in a rational manner. One moment it’s early afternoon as Peter leads the sharktopus into the Coast Guard’s trap. The next, it’s inexplicably nighttime as the trap is sprung. You might think that the sudden jump represents the time it took for the monster to enter the trap, but this seems unlikely, since the Guard knew exactly how close Peter was, and started lighting surface fires as part of the trap. The creature must have temporal displacement powers or something.
Plus at the end it’s super sweet ’cause there’s like 50 guys with flamethrowers!
The trailer (which uses yet another of the film’s aliases) has some decent shots of the monster:
“Monster Shark” a.k.a. “Devil Fish” is available on Amazon as a Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode (Not reviewed, but sure to be good).