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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.



    Devilfish Review!

    Posted by Josh Samford On August - 9 - 2010
    Just in time for the kids to start heading back to school and the summer to start coming to an end, I decide to take on a classic piece of Jawsploitation! I am a big fan of the genre and if you like bizarre cinema, chances are you are one as well. Directed by Lamberto Bava and starring Varied Celluloid’s apparent mascot Michael Sopkiw, Devilfish may not be the

    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?





    CONTINUE READING THE REVIEW HERE

    Berdella

    Posted by Josh Samford On August - 5 - 2010
    The Plot: Bob Berdella, a real life serial killer and the subject of this feature film, was a hidden menace within the Kansas City community. A homosexual man with homicidal tendencies, he took the lives of six men who he raped and tortured for weeks on end. Berdella is this story fleshed out, focusing primarily on the period that saw Bob Berdella at his most violent. We follow this odd character during the day where he looks after his own occult book/item store and we follow him at night where we see him try to socialize within the gay community where he hopes to find a new victim.



    The Review
    I found myself contacted a few short weeks ago by independent filmmaker Bill Taft who asked me to take a look at his indie feature: Berdella. Although I do not review as much independent film for Varied Celluloid as I do for RogueCinema, I have never been opposed to giving any film a fair shake. Berdella had a couple of key advantages going for it that immediately perked up my ears like a dog looking for a bone. First of all, it deals with a fairly obscure serial killer. I think the majority of horror fans are ultimately interested in the “serial killer” phenomenon. If one is interested in the macabre, then it is suffice to say that they are interested in those who live macabre lives. The second aspect that drew me towards the film was the interesting marketing. The artwork and posters for the film give it the appearance of being a grizzly shocker or at the very least a violent character study. I don’t want anyone to get their hopes up at this point however, a disgustingly violent gore film this is not. However, if one has the patience and the inclination to sit through a truly independent film – they might find something of interest here.

    The real Bob Bordella was as interesting as most serial killers tend to be. The DVD for this film actually comes with a biography about the man as well as a time-line that describes his crimes and life. This very mundane man was, as they often seem to be, an exemplary citizen with a rough past who for the most part would not turn any heads on a day to day basis. Like most serial killers, his killings came about due to his intense sexual desires. A homosexual with a control disorder, his sadistic killings were the definition of cruel. The feature film Berdella looks to examine this character and delve into his psychotic mind, but they do it in an interesting way. Although it at times is not the most obvious point about the film, there appears to be a certain tongue-in-cheek quality that carries the film along. The comedy doesn’t come right up and bite you on the lip, but there are moments (mostly instigated by the character of Bob Berdella) where these tiny seeds of humor and entertainment seem to frolic and keep the film afloat. The filmmakers manage to keep this film as dark and bleak as the material certainly calls for it to be, but this character of Bob Berdella simply will not be contained in the mold of your average sociopath.

    Played by Seth Correa, Bob Berdella comes across as a rather quirky and pathetic little creature who ultimately takes advantage of those around him who slip up and fall into his little games. The performance, while certainly not earth shattering, is interesting and different enough that I felt that he was able to carry the weight of the project. Giving his voice a slightly feminine quality, Correa plays the role without going over the top and making the character a stereotypical “queen”. The character walks the line between feminine and masculine, and could seem either orientation in a public setting. However, there is something slightly off about the way Correa brings Berdella to life, and I loved it. Donning a false-mustache that is as obvious as eye liner on Marilyn Manson, the character comes across as being utterly bizarre and out of his element at all times. In the same way that the beards were obviously fake in Cannibal: The Musical, I found it easy to forgive the cheap looking prosthetic due to how much it added to the quirky qualities of this character. While it may not be perfect, a lot of the enjoyment you will derive from the feature may very well come from these strange aesthetic choices.

    The violence is likely to be a key issue for many who read this. The artwork for the film, which seems to scream out “torture” and “violence”, obviously declares some depraved content will be on display. However, that ultimately doesn’t prove to be the case. Although Berdella is most assuredly a violent film, it doesn’t load the audience down with gore. From their not being able to afford the FX or simply a conscious choice to avoid the exploitation in such an obviously sexual case, much of the violence is shown offscreen. There are still several choice moments where we see Berdella taking part in extremely brutal activities. Including the disposing of a body and a sequence involving a drill, some draino and a miniature axe!

    Knowing the independent film world as I do I already knew what to expect in terms of acting and production, where some of you reading this may not. Although it does its best to hide its budgetary restraints, there is no slipping it past the audience that this is indeed a piece of independent film. The filmmakers did do a nice job in adding color, varied lighting and canted-angle photography, but the budget is obvious from the outset. Most of the actors are stilted in their delivery, due likely to inexperience, but there are a few actors who actually craft something out of their roles. It is a sad fact, but no-budget cinema does not offer the comforts of decorated cast members or high quality camera work. So, if you are a film-goer who criticizes the acting in big budget Hollywood features – this level of acting may come as a shock to you. However, if you have suffered through a few independent films then you likely already know what to expect.

    The Conclusion
    Although it has its issues, I did ultimately like Berdella. The filmmakers took what they had and they actually managed to deliver a dramatized version of this obscure murderer and they made it work. There are some facts that they shied away from, mostly in terms of the sexual mutilation and torture that Berdella put his victims through, but that is understandable as it would be difficult to find five male actors willing to strip nude and be demeaned for either no money at all or very little. This remains a seedy little number and a interesting watch if you run across it. You can read more about Berdella as well as order it from the official website at: BobBerdella.com



    Massacre in Dinosaur Valley Review

    Posted by Josh Samford On July - 16 - 2010
    Well, I told you I would get it done and sure enough here we are! Michael Sopkiw is back in action with this piece of pure Italian exploitation! Is it great or is it just about what you would expect from an Italian cannibal film? Read on to find out!

    The Plot: Kevin Hall (Michael Sopkiw) is a archeologist on the hunt for the great land known as Dinosaur Valley. A nearly prehistoric land within the Amazon where it is rumored that many great archeological wonders are just waiting to be uncovered. Hall manages to hitch a ride into Dinosaur Valley with a well known professor who just so happens to be going there for the same reasons. Along for the ride is a Vietnam veteran with power issues, two models who can hardly keep their clothes on and the professor’s beautiful daughter. As they approach Dinosaur Valley their plane has issues and they crash land into the jungle. Some are killed, many are wounded and now this rag-tag group are forced to band together in order to take on the local head hunters who have made it apparent that they do not appreciate these Westerners. How can this group possibly survive?





    CONTINUE READING THE REVIEW HERE

    Massacre in Dinosaur Valley

    Posted by Josh Samford On July - 16 - 2010
    [imdb]0089562[/imdb]


    Purchase The DVD
    The Plot: Kevin Hall (Michael Sopkiw) is a archeologist on the hunt for the great land known as Dinosaur Valley. A nearly prehistoric land within the Amazon where it is rumored that many great archeological wonders are just waiting to be uncovered. Hall manages to hitch a ride into Dinosaur Valley with a well known professor who just so happens to be going there for the same reasons. Along for the ride is a Vietnam veteran with power issues, two models who can hardly keep their clothes on and the professor’s beautiful daughter. As they approach Dinosaur Valley their plane has issues and they crash land into the jungle. Some are killed, many are wounded and now this rag-tag group are forced to band together in order to take on the local head hunters who have made it apparent that they do not appreciate these Westerners. How can this group possibly survive?


    The Review
    It is no secret to those who know my cinematic tastes, or generally keep an eye on Varied Celluloid, I am a die hard fan of the Italian cannibal genre. It is a fan club meant only for a select few and the only requirement is an extreme leniency towards really bad movies. From all of the various sub genres that made it big within the world of Italian genre film, the Cannibal film movement may be one of the most absolutely base, dumb, poorly executed and poorly conceived cultural passions to ever be seen within the world of cinema. So, why exactly do I love them so much?

    To be perfectly honest, and this might solely be my own opinion, there is a certain quaintness to these pictures that could have only been established during the prime years of the Italian film industry. When you pop in Massacre in Dinosaur Valley, Cannibal Terror or Cannibal Ferox for that matter, you know precisely what you are going to get. This is a movie made entirely for the exploitation of one facet of a cultural obsession. Starting with the craze of Mondo Movies created by Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi (Mondo Cane, Goodbye Uncle Tom, Africa Addio), the obsession that Italy had with native inhabitants and their bizarre rituals seemed to last throughout the 1960s all the way up until the early half of the 1980′s. Within these two genres, the Mondo documentary and the Cannibal exploitation world, this fascination lasted for roughly twenty years. So, with so much attention to this genre, you begin to know what to expect. That familiarity is part of what keeps me coming back as a viewer. Despite the nature of these movies to be threatening to the audience, in delivering shocks that they normally wouldn’t see outside of these particular movies, there comes a certain sense of expectation within them that a select few audience members come to find solace in. Sound crazy? Well, we probably are.

    With any given piece of Italian cannibal sleaze, we know to expect a select number of reoccurring items. We have natives, we have nudity, we have a very poor English dub, we have gore and we have very simple plots with no need for any actual interesting narrative devices. However, when we see one of these films actually delve outside of their safety net, interesting things can happen. While Massacre in Dinosaur Valley has universally been panned (and rightfully so) as one of the weaker entries in the Cannibal subgenre, I have to congratulate it for a few very different exceptions to the genre stereotypes. The very first thing that stands out as being different and/or interesting about the movie is the sense of humor that it carries. Not that Massacre in Dinosaur Valley could ever be construed to be a comedy, nor even a darker version of one, it does have a healthy sense of comedic timing that borders between chuckle-worthy and blatant cheese. The mix of comedy and legitimate human horror however is mangled throughout and the first half of the movies comes far lighter than the second half which takes on the premise of a generic jungle survival movie.

    Michael Sopkiw surprisingly did not have a massive career in the number of projects he was associated with. However, he was very lucky to have been a part of several movies that would later turn up as Cult Classics within the realm of Eurocult cinema. He last graced the pages of Varied Celluloid in my review for Lamberto Bava’s less than classic Rambo knockoff Blastfighter and he returns here in an equally obscure title only this time he plays the role of a Indiana Jones knockoff. A archeologist tough guy, who wears a brown jacket and gets into an adventure while searching out priceless treasures and uses comedy in order to fend off danger? This seems familiar! However, much like the humorous element that dissipates slightly in the second half of the movie, the allusions to the Harrison Ford character become invisible the longer the movie goes along and Sopkiw manages to deliver an interesting performance if nothing else. Also, he traded in Indiana’s whip for a shotgun, so who is to say who would win if the two characters did battle!

    Sopkiw and his charisma, which I didn’t see much of in Blastfighter, actually carry the movie for the most part. His antics are the main reason that this movie is actually getting the score that it is. Whether it be his overwhelming sense of self worth or his tendencies to play the part of the playboy, I was sucked in by his ridiculous charm. The rest of the cast are generally serviceable and serve as fodder for random death scenes that pop up throughout. The body count is relatively high, but the actual level of violence that the movie provides is relatively tame. I dare say it may be the least blood Italian cannibal movie I have seen up until this point – and I believe I am only a few titles away from having seen them all. If you’re looking for exploitation however, there is still plenty of nudity to be had. Including a Cinemax-worth sequence where Sopkiw is “thanked” by one of the models mentioned in the plot synopsis. Apparently one night stands are a customary form of gratitude in Italy. That works for me!


    The Conclusion
    Overall, if you have seen the best and you’re looking to delve into the rest, there are hardly worse places to look than with Massacre in Dinosaur Valley. It has an interesting premise, some standout moments but it is generally a forgettable but fun time waster. I give it a three out of five as it stands just at the border of mediocrity and a film of interest. Check it out if you’re wanting a piece of Italian cannibal sleaze that isn’t Cannibal Terror.



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    Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.

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