Devilfish | Varied Celluloid

Devilfish

Posted by Josh Samford On August - 9 - 2010
The Plot: A man is found completely mauled near a local beach community, which causes the sheriff (Gianni Garko) to go on the hunt for the shark that is believed to have done this job. Knowing very little about these aquatic monsters, he turns to a group of young oceanographic researchers. This group, lead by Dr. Stella Dickens (Valentine Monnier) and accompanied by Peter (Michael Sopkiw), go out looking for the same beast with a host of technological advancements. Unknown to either group, the shark that they are searching for is no regular great white or tiger shark. This beast is something completely new to mankind. A prehistoric monster who is part shark and part octopus, this monster can crawl on top of boats as well as destroy them from its blunt carnage. How could such a monster have survived after all of these years? And if it is man made, who could have possibly unleashed it upon the world and for what reason?




The Review
Before viewing Devilfish, I was blissfully unaware of the cast for this particular title. My sole knowledge came from seeing it listed amongst Lamberto Bava’s filmography and knowing that it was a Jaws ripoff of sorts. Coming off of my reviews for Blastfighter and Massacre in Dinosaur Valley, it must seem as if I am stalking Michael Sopkiw! I guess my tastes must align with what his were during the eighties, whether that is a good or bad thing is entirely on you I suppose. My main reason for searching out Devilfish however is the fact that it has that name for being a Jaws ripoff. My love for Jawsploitation can only be rivaled by my love of Brucesploitation (the genre of films that feature Bruce Lee imitators pretending to be the legendary actor in new adventures), but Devilfish is a very different piece of Jawsploitation. Despite the stalking fish actually being a legitimate monster this time around, there’s still enough glaringly obvious references to Spielberg’s opus about his Great White. We have the small seaside community placed in a panic over the vengeful beast, we have the sheriff who is put on the case and we even have some of the political back and forth that made Jaws so different from your average horror movie. In fact, the film plays a waiting game similar to the one that Jaws originally did by placing the actual “reveal” of the monster at the back end of the movie. So, knowing just what this is the only question then becomes: is it a worthy ripoff?

Lamberto Bava is a filmmaker that generally splits audiences like the front desk at Samurai Deli. You either love him or hate him, and I am not just regurgitating a cliche line when I say that. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who felt tepid about Lamberto’s career. People are generally very passionate about his work and I’ll be honest, the most passionate ones tend to be those who fall on the side of hating his films. His career is as spotty as they come, with major classics such as A Blade in the Dark right alongside films like Blastfighter. There’s no doubt that his artistic credibility comes into doubt when you look at the amount of garbage he has produced, but the few films of his that I thoroughly enjoy have more than made up for the bad ones. Also, in terms of Eurotrash, Bruno Mattei would be a far less director in my opinion although that filmmaker has no short supply of fans. Regardless, apologizing for Bava is pretty pointless at this juncture as I won’t be following up this paragraph with very many kind words in regards to Devilfish.

As dated as any film possibly could be, Devilfish tends to entertain primarily in its grocery store size allotment of cheese. A pure work of exploitation within the Italian film industry, Bava hits every possible note that he can in order to make his title as lurid and profitable as could possibly be made. We have ample nudity, gore, cheesy FX work and a Eurocult cast that borders on greatness. Valentine Monnier shows up as the leading scientist and she makes the most of it. If you have ever seen 2019: After the Fall of New York, then she will instantly be familiar to you. Although I wouldn’t consider her a classically beautiful woman, she has very intense features that make her stand out and give her a regal beauty that few seem to have. Gianni Garko, who is best known from his Spaghetti Western roles, puts in a amicable performance as the token Sheriff out to stop this rampaging shark. Whether it was the material or director, Garko seems to coast on his charisma throughout the movie. He does it well however and Garko could play a tough law figure in his sleep, and still make it believable! The Varied Celluloid poster boy Michael Sopkiw shows off some legs as he runs around in short-shorts throughout the majority of the film. I like this Sopkiw more than in Blastfighter and he once again gets to show off some attitude making it one of his better roles. Even if the film itself is generally stale.

Devilfish suffers from a slow build up that ultimately goes nowhere. Where Jaws had a riveting second half full of suspense and reveals, Devilfish presents us with an awkward and implausible monster and then proceeds to whimper out as it loses what little steam was developed throughout. My main problem is that the movie has a slightly lazy feel to it. A good example comes from the editing early on, as we watch Bava and his editor try to mix and mash several pieces of stock footage together in order to place a real shark in one of the scenes. The problem is that it is blatantly obvious that the sharks do not match up in size nor in appearance. We go from a fully grown shark of about fourteen foot in length, to a baby shark less than half that size. An audacious piece of editing that should elicit a giggle, but the movie is full of random pieces of strange behavior. The Sharktopus Monster goes from being around five feet in stature during one sequence, to being the gigantic dinosaur that it is claimed to be in just a span of minutes. There is a love affair that Michael Sopkiw’s character takes on with his assistant, and we watch as the movie completely abandons this concept halfway through for no apparent reason. You can just feel the laziness creeping out of the movie as it moves along.


The Trivia
  • Although both actors had limited careers, this turned out to be the second pairing of Michael Sopkiw and Valentine Monnier. The two had both appeared together earlier in Sergio Martino’s 2019: After the Fall of New York.

  • Famed Italian directors Sergio Martino and Luigi Cozzi co-wrote the script under the pseudonyms ‘Martin Dolman’ and ‘Lewis Coates’, respectively.


  • The Conclusion
    Poorly made and executed, Devilfish features quite a few laughable moments throughout. The unintentional comedy and charisma of the cast tend to keep the movie afloat. Although certainly not the best piece of Italian trash that I have in my collection, it is far from the worst. At the end of the day I suppose it does the job as far as a piece of entertainment goes, so who am I to judge? I give it a three out of five. You could do better without a doubt, but you could certainly do a lot worse.



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