Color, 1990, 94 mins. 23 secs.
Directed by Raf Donato (and Joe D'Amato)
Frank Baroni, Cort McCown, Keith Kelsch, James Camp, Tody Bernard, John K. Brune, Margareth Hanks
Severin Films (Blu-ray & DVD) (US RA/R1 HD/NTSC), CrocoFilms (DVD) (France R2 PAL), Ritka Video (DVD) (Czech Republic R0 PAL)
A belated entry in the Italian wave of sharksploitation films that poured out in the wake of Jaws, Deep Blood is the inevitable entry that had to come from Joe D'Amato's Filmirage, an outfit that had been around since the '80s but really made its name in the '90s heyday with a string of horror films and erotic potboilers that seemed to be everywhere for a while. Deep Blood didn't fare quite so well in English-speaking territories, perhaps due to lingering trauma over the legal battle involving Universal and the notorious Great White several years earlier; of course, that didn't stop Italy from trying with this one, Devilfish, Night of the Sharks, and the particularly outrageous Cruel Jaws, which remains the final word on the subject to date. In the finest Italian tradition of the era, this was shot primarily in Florida with a cast of regional acting talent who mostly vanished from the screen forever after their one moment of glory here.
After a beach-side lecture from a Native American(?) mystic about a supernatural shark, four young boys make a blood pact by cutting their hands and burying a totem quiver thingy in the sand. A decade later, the now-grown boys -- Alan (McCowan, the one with the busiest career of the bunch), Miki (Baroni), John (Brune), and Ben (Kelsch) -- return to the area for some summer fun, unaware that the nightmare shark from that childhood story is now prowling the waters and chomping down on various swimmers hanging out on rafts. While dealing with various levels of personal angst involving parental dysfunction and pro golf dreams, the friends are tested further when one of their own falls prey to the nasty shark. With law enforcement failing to do much of anything, they're forced to team up with local jerk Wayne (Camp) to hunt down the predator themselves thanks to a boat, some scuba equipment, and a lot of explosives.
By this point any seasoned viewer of late period Euro horror should have some idea of what to expect here: lots of shark stock footage, unconvincing attack scenes with actors flailing around in the water with red paint around them, and a script padded out with soap opera filler to get the whole thing up to 90 minutes. By this point D'Amato was known for giving young aspiring directors a shot behind the camera with often peculiar results (see also: Killing Birds), and in this case credited one-shot director Raffaele "Raf" Donato handed over the reins to D'Amato himself just after shooting started according to all reports. The actors are all extremely variable, with one father-son confrontation veering extremely close to riotous Troll 2 territory for a few minutes; however, as well all know, that's just part of the deal and a great source of charm in the right frame of mind.
A gray market staple back in the '90s thanks to its English-language VHS release in Japan, Deep Blood eventually turned up on a couple of European DVD releases in the mid-'00s with little fanfare. In 2021, Severin Films brought the film to Blu-ray and DVD because, of course, we couldn't all be satisfied with just having Cruel Jaws in our lives. (You can also snap it up as part of a Nature Revolts Picnic Basket Bundle or aUHD/Blu-ray pack). The fact that this didn't merit a UHD release is, of course, something that should launch a vigorous letter campaign to Severin headquarters immediately. The 1.33:1 framing appears to be accurate to how it was originally shot, i.e., intended for the home video market at the time with compositions that don't really work when matted down to 1.78:1or tighter. Image quality here looks quite nice and up at the higher end of the Filmirage scale in terms of detail without that annoying smudginess that plagued some earlier titles like Ghosthouse, Beyond Darkness, etc. The film was shot with live sound in English, and that's the default audio options (DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono) with optional English SDH subtitles; an Italian dub is also included if you're curious but is more of a curiosity here than anything else. The sole extra is a long (3m29s) trailer that gives away pretty much every action highlight in the whole movie.
Reviewed on May 6, 2021.