Thursday, March 17, 2011


Way, way back - in the late 1970's - CBS aired a very strange Movie of the Week, indeed. Produced by Saturday morning TV veterans Rankin/Bass, The Bermuda Depths (1978) was a supernatural giant turtle movie starring an incredibly beautiful Connie Sellecca, budding occultist Leigh McCloskey, Carl "Apollo Creed" Weathers and Burl Ives, the Wilford Brimley of his generation.

There are a few strange things about this movie. First and foremost, a quick perusal of the message board at its IMDB page reveals that a great many people have been haunted by memories of this very eerie and bizarrely romantic flick for the better part of three decades. Some people vividly remember entire sequences from the film. Others dream about it. Still others have spent their lives trying to track it down, or even just to find out what the title is! They pester their friends and family about "the giant turtle" movie with the "green-eyed ghost girl" who swims like a mermaid. Most of the time, they would only get strange stares. The movie's cult status was probably only solidified by the fact that it never got a proper home video release. Outside of Europe, where it enjoyed moderate success at the box office and has always been available for home video, the only version readily available in North America was a chopped-to-hell Japanese VHS edit* missing many key scenes.

Yer old pal Jerky counts himself among one of the haunted, although I never forgot the movie's name. That's why he was so pleased to discover that Warner's latest DVD re-release is, indeed, the fully restored version of the long-lost classic that spawned so many nightmares and wet dreams back in the day!

Eight full minutes of scenes that were missing from the much-despised 80's release have been restored, including the full opening credits sequence - complete with the haunting theme song ("Jennie"), which plays over footage of Connie Sellecca swimming through an underwater wonderland - as well as a key scene (44:45 to 45:50 in this version) where Jennie and Magnus (McCloskey) engage in a romantic, sexy, minute-long underwater ballet in open water, through an undersea cavern and up into a secret grotto beneath Magnus's childhood home, where his father used perform bizarre experiments until being eaten alive - a dramatic revelation that gives Burl Ives the chance to over-act hilariously as he belows out the immortal line: "YES he was eaten!!!"

The transfer quality is amazing, with crisp and clear definition and rich, vibrant colors throughout. The sound quality is equally improved upon. The miniature boat effects are bathtub cheesy - and why a giant turtle should communicate via whalesong is never explained or even commented on - but these elements undoubtedly make up a large part of this movie's charm, and hardly detract from its strong points.

Yer old pal Jerky remembers the first time he saw this movie when it was playing on WVII out of Portland, Maine. I think it was the night of its network television premiere. Anyway, I remember my cousins were visiting from out of town at the time, so I couldn't pay this movie the kind of undivided attention it deserved - by which I mean I couldn't put my hands down my pants for the scenes where Connie Sellecca was swimming underwater, a sight which almost threw my juvenile underwater fetishist brain into seizures. So the next day, I dialed up information, got the number for WVII and made the long-distance call. I was promptly put through to the program director, and I asked if they would be so kind as to re-run this fine film as soon as was humanly possible. And do you know what? They did! They re-ran it just a couple months later, on a Sunday afternoon! So thank you, WVII, for facilitating a 10-year-old aquaphile's masturbation needs back in the days before there was anything like the Internets to slake my lust!

If anybody out there has any memories of The Bermuda Depths that they'd like to share, please do so in the comments section. I'd love to read about your memories about this unique, strange cult movie gem!

*Beyond the whole "giant monster" thing, I suspect the main reason why Japan exported a VHS version of this movie to the US when no other nation ever bothered might have something to do with the fact that elements of whaling feature prominently in the main plot. Carl Weathers does wield a mean harpoon, here!