1989, 91 mins. 42 secs.
Directed by Antonio Margheriti
Starring Daniel Bosch, Julia McKay, Robert Marius, Charles Napier, Alan Collins
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), White Pearl Classics (Blu-ray & DVD) (Germany RB/R2 HD/PAL), One 7 Movies (DVD) (US R0 NTSC)
By the time he was closing out the 1980s, director Antonio Margheriti had long left behind the horror genre after wallowing in one of his goriest (and most entertaining) films, 1980's Cannibal Apocalypse. The bulk of his time since then was dedicated to popcorn adventure movies, largely comprised of bullet-spraying jungle adventures (Code Name: Wild Geese, The Commander, Tiger Joe) along with a couple of Raiders knock-offs (The Ark of the Sun God, The Hunters of the Golden Cobra) and mind melters like Yor, the Hunter from the Future. Most of his films were going more or less straight to video by 1989 when he delivered one of his most widely distributed VHS titles, Indio, and the more obscure Italian-Filipino co-production, Alien degli abissi (Alien from the Deep, or as it's known now on Blu-ray, Alien from the Abyss). The title might lead you to believe this was one of numerous films designed to beat James Cameron's presumed blockbuster The Abyss to the punch around that time a la Leviathan, Lords of the Deep, and Deep Star Six, but there's actually no underwater action to be found here. Instead it leans more heavily on the Alien part of the title, specifically Ridley Scott's classic and the James Cameron sequel. If there were any doubt, look no further than the climactic reveal of the monster itself, a rejiggering of H.R. Giger's design with what looks like random parts from the nearest auto garage.
At least for the first hour, this is essentially a riff on Margheriti's intrepid adventurer formula including the crazy vivid red lighting from Ark of the Sun God. Here we start off on the high seas where Greenpeace activists Lee (Marius) and Jane (McKay, a.k.a. Marina Giulia Cavalli, dubbed by the busy and unmistakable Carolyn De Fonseca) have rented a boat to take them to an off-limits island. The two-man crew of the boat they've charted get spooking when an armed helicopter squad shows up to scare them away, so Lee and Jane have to cough up their last $1,000 to take a lifeboat to shore. There they whip out a video camera to capture the destructive shenanigans of Houston-based company E-Chem, whose evil Col. Kovacks (Napier) is dumping very dangerous levels of toxic waste into the local volcano. When Lee gets captured, Jane seeks help from nearby "snake farmer" Bob (Bosch) along with disillusioned company scientist Dr. Geoffrey (Margheriti mascot Alan Collins, a.k.a. Luciano Pigozzi) for a rescue mission that goes awry thanks to something gigantic and clawed punching its way around in the lower regions of the building.
A fast-moving, junky treat, Alien from the Abyss really takes off once the tone shifts and that gigantic monster claw keeps lunging out at various cast members. As mentioned above, you do eventually see the full creature from head to toe but it's the claw that steals the show from all the actors except the reliably gruff Charles Napier. The violence level here is moderate at best (the strongest thing here is really the profanity), but the goofy, gung-ho attitude will be more than enough to satisfy fans of '80s Italian cheapies like this. Supposedly this did play a tiny handful of theaters in Italy, France, and Germany, but most folks caught it on video including its VHS releases everywhere from Japan to Mexico. In 2011, an unauthorized DVD appeared in the U.S. from One 7 Movies from an okay 1.33:1 source featuring the English and Italian soundtracks (with no subs). The film was completely shot in English with most of the actors looped later, so you might as well watch it that way. Extras on that disc include fuzzy VHS-sourced Italian credits and a gallery.
In 2023, Severin Films gave the film its first official U.S. release with a shockingly gorgeous HD presentation on Blu-ray retaining the 1.33:1 open aperture framing seen pretty much everywhere else. The film seems to have been composed with home video primarily in mind as zooming it in to 16:9 makes it look cramped throughout. Slightly beating that disc on the market was a German Blu-ray and DVD mediabook with no substantial extras, but it does have 1.33:1 or 1.78:1 options. The Severin disc has the English and Italian tracks (DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono) with optional English SDH subtitles, a trailer (as Alien from the Deep), and three big video extras involving the director's son, Edoardo Margheriti. In "From The Center Of The Earth" (12m52s), Edoardo talks about shooting in the Philippines for his own film (Black Cobra 2) around the same time as this one, his memories of seeing the monster and sets, the origins of the project with his father, and the less than spectacular nature of the monster created by Filipino technicians. Previously seen on the U.K. Blu-ray of The Last Hunter, The Outsider ( 61m32s) is a feature-length tribute from Eduardo to his father's work from '60s sci-fi to stylish Gothics to pulp actioners. Finally in "Son of the Outsider' (13m31s), Edoardo offers a more general remembrance of his father, the reasoning behind making his documentary and a (now defunct) website, and his thoughts on his dad's personality and output.
Reviewed on May 24, 2023