Color, 1979, 75m.
Directed by Charles B. Griffith
Starring Sam Bottoms, Susanne Reed, Virgil Frye, Kedric Wolfe

Color, 1987, 87m.
Directed by Cirio H. Santiago
Starring Kathryn Witt, William Steis, Laura Banks, Leslie Scarborough
Shout Factory (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1)

As anyone old enough to remember disco can attest, the late '70s were a cinematic feeding frenzy of ridiculous Jaws copies ranging from the furry (Grizzly) to the, err, porny (Gums and Tintorera). However, they don't come much cheaper or dumber than Up from the Depths, a New World quickie shot in the Philippines (trying to pass for Hawaii) which appears to be random chunks of footage strewn together with only the vaguest semblance of a plot. The late Sam Bottoms, a good actor with Apocalypse Now opening the exact same year, somehow got roped into growing some weird sideburns and running around in an open Hawaiian shirt for over an hour as Greg Oliver, who helps a hotel's ship captain trick guests into low-rent water tours. Unfortunately the guests are getting chomped by some mysterious creature out in the water, which seems to have a special fondness for scuba divers. Turns out the culprit is some sort of giant prehistoric dolphin-y thing that's only seen in brief flashes and highly unconvincing overhead shots as an oversized set of fins, and it's up to the hotel guests and staff to dispatch it before more tourists wind up as fish food.

First of all, it's worth noting that the entire soundtrack for this film was apparently lost somewhere between the production wrap and editing, so it sounds like the same three or four people had to dub every single person in the film. Some of the talent involved were either not taking their assignment very seriously or got completely baked before the dialogue recording, as the film lets loose with a major howler every few minutes. Many of these belong to the eccentric hotel manager who's prone to saying things to crying staff like, "You look upset. Are you pregnant? Oh my God, you've been raped!" The director, veteran Roger Corman screenwriter Charles B. Griffith, apparently fell asleep at the wheel every time a scene was being shot; he did a substantially better job on Eat My Dust a couple of years earlier. Definitely a movie to watch very, very late at night when you won't quite be able to comprehend what you're seeing.

Incredibly, Up from the Depths at least did well enough on video (probably thanks to the killer poster art) to merit another stab at the same material from its producer, Cirio H. Santiago (the Filipino mastermind behind films like T.N.T. Jackson and Vampire Hookers), who took over directing for 1987's Demon of Paradise. Stock footage and recycled James HOrner music from Humanoids from the Deep give the game away immediately as another Corman quickie, with a bunch of yahoo fisherman carrying dynamite on their boat accidentally unleashing a scaly terror on a Hawaiian resort. This time the prehistoric menace can walk and wave its webbed hands around. The terrifying monster in a rubber suit goes on a rampage against the hotel guests and the hula-dancing locals, leaving a marine scientist (former model Witt) and local sheriff (Equalizer 2000's Steis) to put an end to the ferocious party crasher. Though it doesn't sport the same lunatic sensibility as the first feature, Demon of Paradise at least functions as a linear story and, if taken in the same spirit as a lesser '50s monster movie, can be a diverting piece of nonsense. Put together, the films are an often surreal demonstration of the fare that could find a theatrical release in days gone by; when you're expecting a big marine monster movie and instead get fat Japanese guys running around waving swords and screaming "Banzai!" and weird hotel employees in gorilla suits, you know you're wandered way, way off the beaten path.

Shout Factory's double feature DVD obviously improves considerably over the terrible VHS releases thanks to brand new anamorphic transfers. Both films are padded with their share of substandard visual material, but for actual presentation quality, you can't do much better than this given their histories. Demon of Paradise looks slightly fresher, but this is probably because it wasn't compiled together from what looks like leftover short ends. Extras include trailers for both films, two TV spots and a fun (and surprisingly candid) vintage making-of for Up from the Depths, radio spots, and a well-concealed Corman interview about the first film. A "grindhouse" viewing option plays both features with bonus Corman trailers like Caged Heat, Jackson County Jail, Humanoids from the Deep, and the amazing kung fu T&A flick Firecracker, whose US trailer here is great -- but the nudity-packed European one is even better if you can find it. Now that's going to be a major Corman release when it happens!