Somehow starring John Huston, Shelley Winters, and Henry Fonda

Were Tentacles something other than a killer marine life movie, it would be incomprehensible. The ebbs and flows of these films – slow dread, a pokey journalist/cop, corrupt businessman – at least offer some threads to follow. All of the others die off in the body count.

John Huston stars. How or why is one of those cinema mysteries: A nine time Oscar nominee slithering through an Italian killer octopus movie, only to be rejected by the script in the final act. Not that Huston would be a likely hero figure in 1977 at age 71…

Tentacles is a stiff and frustrating regurgitation, competing amongst the slew of Jaws knock-offs which would slowly subside. The sci-fi race, post-Star Wars, wiped out the man-eating fish/water monster genre.

The feature is stalled from the start, and were it not for some jarringly incredible cinematography – completely out of Tentacles’ usual stale character – there would be no incentive to watch. No, not even the massive underwater creature, even as it eats people, including a baby. This critter may or may not be a result of Henry Fonda’s (yes, he’s here too) corporate tinkering, but Tentacles never takes sides. Huston’s scraggly newspaper man persona is not enough to wring out any answers. He’s not much of a journalist, or rather, the film never lets him be.

The actor’s dubbed over performances are nothing short of gaudy.

Scenes pop up. Characters drop in. Scenes drop out. Characters evaporate. That’s Tentacles’ schtick. Killer octopus scenes are liable to act as sleep aids, with a massive assault on a sail boat race done pathetically in stills without sound – and that happens to the be the highlight. Does the beast eat all of those people? Seems important, but Tentacles doesn’t know either.

By the closing act, Tentacles is no longer hiding itself. Heroes sit drunkenly in the cabin of their boat exchanging stories as orcas howl in the moonlight, prepping for the next day’s fight. The actor’s dubbed over performances are nothing short of gaudy, when they’re even trying. In comes the finale to mercifully chop this dud down, and the supposed stars only stand back. Killer whales, or puppets of killer whales rather, do the work in an unenthusiastic lark of a finish. It’s only a surprise due to how little any of this connects with what came before. So is the story of Tentacles. [xrr rating=1/5 label=Movie]

Attacking the boat @ 1:11:44

Tentacles comes paired with the Danish monster romp Reptilicus, the two films filling a BD-50. Reptilicus is given prime restoration treatment, and Tentacles not so much. What was once a stellar DVD presentation has aged, lacking in resolution (severely) and taking a hit from noise reduction techniques.

Grain is notably low, even invisible. The digital look is readily noticeable, but if not, signs of smearing will eventually make it known. Fidelity is softened, at least what little can be seen. This film appears completely artificial.

Tinkering has done little to stop the spread of print damage. A steady stream of gate weaves, scratches, and dirt will continue for the entire runtime, if varying in severity. Underwater scenes are amongst the cleanest. A few multi-pass effects scenes (super brief) raise the grain quotient before receding.

Other signs of dated mastering are here too. Color is everywhere, with near bleeding reds but an overall pale appearance. Such a print simply looks faded, except for those few bold primaries. Consistency fails. However, black levels are often striking, at once point reaching so far into darkness as to bite off chunks of the actors and swallow them into shadows.

To claim no improvement over the early DVD release from MGM would be naive. Evidence of gained detail can be seen in close, and with all of the static cinematography, smearing only impacts certain shots. Is this some grand edition of this dull Italian dud though? No. But, the pairing with Reptilicus is a nice choice. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Video]

Ignoring the dubbing which is more than obvious within this PCM presentation, Tentacles audio is, well, great. Surprise. Stereo effects are spectacular, so well spread, spaced, and consistent as to create a notable front soundstage. Even the awful music will play with the separation. The terrible piercing effect is almost tolerable by making itself disorienting to sell the action, swapping between speakers rapidly during action.

Water splashes and octopus attacks make equally strong use of this effect. A tentacle may breach the surface, making sounds on the left, with the strike beginning on the right. Stereo work is almost enough to make Tentacles seem high budget for its day. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Audio]

A trailer, photo gallery, and radio spot are the bonuses. [xrr rating=1/5 label=Extras]

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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