Color, 1980, 80 mins. / Directed by Barbara Peeters /

Starring Doug McClure, Ann Turkel, Vic Morrow / Written by Frederick James / Produced by Martin B. Cohen / Music by James Horner / New Horizons (US R1 NTSC) (MSRP $24.95)

Roger Corman's New World Pictures spawned a lot of drive-in hits during the late '70s and early '80s, and for many impressionable teens, Humanoids from the Deep was a raunchy, gory thrill ride where slimy beasts and gratuitous T&A filled the screen from start to finish. Of course, much of the shock value has since worn off in the ensuing twenty years (though the nasty sting in the tale finale still packs a punch), and anyone unfamiliar with this film's history will probably wonder what all the fuss was about.

In Noyo, a fishing village poised directly below an acquatic research center, a series of strange and violent events are beginning to upset the sleepy townspeople. Most of the town dogs are mysteriously slain, a small fishing boat mysteriously explodes, and a few bikini-clad women have disappeared without a trace. Local scientist Ann Turkel's pleas for help after the release of a genetic experiment on salmon gone awry fall on deaf ears, and sure enough, it seems mutated beasties are responsible for the mayhem. Corrupt local developer Vic Morrow tries to prevent an investigation and blames the crimes on the local Indian population, but Turkel and hero Doug McClure know better. However, can they stop the monsters before the town holds its local fishing festival?

Basically a remake of New World's Piranha with monster suits and rape scenes, Humanoids certainly has sleazy fun value but also demonstrates just how much difference a talent like Joe Dante can make behind the camera. Director Peeters claimed that Roger Corman added some of the more explicit shots of slimy nudity at the last minute to give the film some extra kick, but frankly, the movie needed it. Though competently handled, the lack of visual style, occasionally slow pacing, and peculiar lack of (intentional) humor hinder this from becoming an all-out trash masterpiece, at least for the first hour. Thankfully the slam-bang climax really delivers, with apparently the entire town being trashed by marauding fishfolk. The austere musical score by James Horner (back in the days when he was doing good work for stuff like The Hand and Deadly Blessing) manages to keep things marginally serious, and kudos for avoiding a predictable romantic subplot between Turkel and McClure. While it's hard to discern any particular gender basis in the filmmaker's viewpoint, the climactic scene with McClure's wife handling herself while under siege is a welcome relief from the usual hero to the rescue scenario.

New Horizons' presentation of Humanoids far outclasses the muddy print released by Warner Home Video ages ago. The fullscreen transfer removes the 1.85:1 matte from the theatrical version, though the film isn't framed with much artistry either way. Picture quality is generally excellent and colorful, though the sound has obviously deteriorated and sounds a little hissy when amplified through a sound system. Check out the end credits for a few unexpected names like future Terminator producer Gale Ann Hurd (a production assistant here), and director Rowdy Herrington (serving as electrician). Also includes the original red-card U.S. trailer and a brief interview with Corman by Leonard Maltin.


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