Imagine if the Asylum was good. Imagine their boss gave filmmaking opportunities to young and exciting filmmakers, basically told them that provided they ticked a few boxes and didn’t go over-budget, they could do pretty much whatever they wanted. (This hypothetical boss would also have a strong social conscience and be a great director himself, but that’s not really relevant to the current discussion). There’d be a few stinkers, for sure, but there’s also a lot of great films. Can you imagine an actor of Jack Nicholson’s stature crying with gratitude at the opportunities they were given by the Asylum?
That boss would, of course, be Roger Corman, and long into the twilight of his career he’s still making films, with one of his niches producing wacky-titled monster movies for the SyFy Channel. He also appears to have shares in a beach resort of some kind, as significant portions of both “Sharktopus”, “Piranhaconda” and now “Sharktopus v. Pteracuda” were filmed there.
In the midst of some flashbacks to “Sharktopus”, a scientist doing something or other finds a sharktopus egg sac, and inside…who’s a cute little baby sharktopus? You are! Yes you are! For some reason known only to the scriptwriter, rather than taking it to a University or the authorities and becoming mind-bogglingly famous, she takes it to her Uncle’s water park and puts it in a pool, then tries to train it like a dolphin or killer whale. I’m sure this’ll have no negative outcomes whatsoever!
The second side of the title comes from – yes, you’ve guessed it – a mad scientist, in this instance played by Robert Carradine (best known for Revenge of the Nerds). He worked for the Army but Pteracuda was rejected at the blueprint stage, so he went off-book and made it in secret. It’s a bit of pteranadon DNA, a bit of barracuda, and a computer brain to control it. Oh, and it’s pretty big too, although sadly the film is never sure exactly how big it is.
The main bit of the plot is brilliant, honestly. One of Carradine’s assistants is a bad ‘un, and hacks Pteracuda’s controls; so, Carradine and his head of security go to the water park and buy Sharktopus from the unscrupulous Uncle to go and fight Pteracuda. This does not go down well with the scientist who discovered and trained it – the beautiful Katie Savoy, character name Lorena Christmas (?) – but she’s effectively kidnapped by Carradine later, so her opinion doesn’t matter that much.
Everything turns to crap, really quickly, as you may have expected. Pteracuda kills indiscriminately, and it seems the guy doing the special effects has a spine fetish, as you see a lot of spine-tops after people get their heads ripped off. I only wish I was exaggerating. Rib Hillis, veteran of several recent Corman movies, is the head of security, and is brilliantly stoic throughout…Lorena’s boyfriend is a lifeguard, and dies after saving people and generally being an off-screen hero; which would, you’d think, close the door on any Rib / Lorena romance. Well, that and he helped kidnapped her. But no! What can only be a few hours after witnessing a giant hell-creature bite her boyfriend’s head off, she’s smiling and gently flirting. It’ll all work out okay in the end for everyone, anyway.
If you’ve heard about this film, it’s either from catching some of the “Sharknado 2” hype, or from its appearance by US late night talk show host Conan O’Brien. He plays himself and clearly has a great time doing so, ordering his poor assistant around before being eaten / decapitated (the scene where some people play volleyball with his head was presumably added in long after filming, as a very poor attempt at a joke by someone). But this film is not all about the celebrity cameos, sadly. It’s about awesome action and weird relationships and ineffectual bad guys.
Talking of things being added in, there’s a lot of post-sync dubbing in this. Perhaps a few accents were too thick, or not thick enough? Perhaps they filmed for a day with a broken mic and didn’t realise? Who knows, in the wonderful world of low-budget cinema! One line that’s not added in is going to be a classic (already mocked on “The Soup”), as Lorena, arguing with her Uncle, exclaims “I have an appointment with a dolphin”.
All in all, this film is great, and is packed with fun little bits and stuff that SyFy Channel movies tend not to bother with. I’ve not even mentioned investigative reporter Veronica Vegas or the unlucky vacationing couple or how Carradine meets his end. Or how most of the actors are great, but he ran out of money for the extras and they’re all like mindless zombies. Definitely worth watching, and I’ll see you in a few months for the release of the next film in this series, “Sharktopus vs. Mermantula”.
Rating: thumbs up