Sunday, 26 May 2013

Evil in the Deep (1975)

Evil in the Deep (The Treasure of Jamaica Reef) is a 1974 underwater adventure movie involving the search for sunken treasure. Which sounds promising enough, but this movie fails abysmally to live up to this promise.

Hugo Graham (Stephen Boyd) is an LA cop who discovers a treasure map apparently dating to 1787 in the course of a homicide investigation. You might think that a hardboiled city cop would be the last person in the world to fall for the old treasure map routine, but Hugo falls for it hook, line and sinker.

Hugo’s hobby is scuba diving so he has the qualifications to go hunting for sunken treasure. With some diving buddies and the obligatory glamorous blonde, in this case a blonde rejoicing in the name of Zappy (played by Cheryl Ladd), he sets off for Jamaica to find the treasure.

Of course there are bad guys hunting the treasure as well.

There’s not really a whole lot more to the plot than that. We don’t find out anything very interesting about the history of the map or of the treasure itself.

This is clearly a fairly low-budget movie despite some fairly impressive underwater photography. It’s a pity that a bit more money wasn’t spent on hiring a better writer and a better director, and better actors. The movie looks even cheaper that it undoubtedly was.

The movie certainly has some typically 1970s features. There’s some gore, which is unnecessary in a movie that should be relying on excitement and suspense rather than gore. There’s also that rather nasty edge that was unfortunately a feature of so many 1970s movies, of all genres.

Stephen Boyd’s performance is pretty bad but he’s streets ahead of the rest of the cast. Cheryl Ladd was at this time still named Cheryl Stoppelmoor. She married David Ladd during the filming of the movie. She looks good, and she was quite fun in the Charlie’s Angels TV series a few years later, but her acting in this movie fails to excite.

This movie is notable for being one of the comparatively small number of 1970s movies to be directed by a woman, in this case Virginia Stone. Stone’s career amounted to very little, and after seeing this movie I’m not surprised. Her directing is less than inspired.

The only plus for this movie is that the underwater sequences are reasonably good. In fact they’re very good. When they’re underwater the movie almost becomes exciting. Sadly, as soon as we’re out of the water the excitement level drops calamitously. The script is stodgy and unimaginative.

This movie has been described as a precursor to Jaws, which probably overstates its importance quite a bit. The 1970s did give birth to several underwater adventure movies, with Jaws being followed by the less than rivetting The Deep.

I came across this movie in the Hollywood Beauties boxed set from St Clair Vision. The transfer is truly horrible, with severe print damage all the way through and rather washed out colours. It’s letterboxed so at least it’s in the correct aspect ratio but aside from that this is a seriously lousy DVD. It also appears to be a print that has been cut. I was going to say that no movie, no matter how bad, deserved treatment as shoddy as this. But after further consideration of the matter I’ve decided that this movie really does deserve such shoddy treatment.

Evil in the Deep is a seriously dull movie with very little at all to recommend. I’d steer clear of this one.

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