Move Over, Chucky

Wikipedia

OK, so I know I said that the planet Venus will always be an unknown quantity, but Venus has got nothing on the Bermuda Triangle because we can at least partially explain Venus. The Bermuda Triangle, not so much.

Not everyone believes the Bermuda Triangle is worse than any other part of the ocean; in fact, some scientists have dismissed its legendary mystery as exaggerated or just plain unexplainable. And as we all know, where there’s a mystery, there’s story fodder, and the 1978 film, The Bermuda Triangle tries. It really, really tries.

The movie opens with a frigate sailing the Bermuda Triangle during a storm. A little girl in a ruffly pink dress and bonnet wanders forlornly around the deck getting soaked, and then her eyes are attracted by bright lights.

Next it’s the present (well, the seventies, obviously), and a fancy yacht, the Black Whale III is speeding through the Caribbean on a diving expedition to a sunken city in the Azores with the Marvin family. Even though the Bermuda Triangle is uncomfortably close, the crew are nonchalant because they sail these waters all the time. It’s no big deal. Well, most of them are nonchalant, anyway. Gordon (Miguel Ángel Fuentes), the engineer, is nervous. Maybe nothing’s happened to them yet, but something will.

Gordon has a right to be nervous. Every art piece on board the yacht shows a sea monster of some kind taking out a hapless sailing vessel. It’s as if the filmmakers think we, the audience, need to be reminded that there’s going to be trouble. Or the filmmakers really, really like irony. Sigh…

The Marvin family are a pretty average, happy family, although John Huston is a bit improbably cast as dad Edward. He’s a professional diver presumably on the line of Jacques Cousteau and his kids are all curious about sailing and marine life. His oldest daughter, Michelle (Gloria Guida) is already a crack scuba diver herself and goes with her dad whenever she can.

Edward’s brother, Alan (Andrés Garcia) is like a refugee from a soap opera: He’s wracked with guilt because he thinks he deliberately killed one of his patients on the operating table. He spends the entire movie going at his wife, Sybil (Claudine Auger), who doesn’t hesitate to go right back at him, and is seldom seen without a drink in his hand. Yeah. The whole movie. No matter what, he’s got to be knocking one back. And then another. Strangely enough, Alan is never, ever tipsy.

Stuff starts happening, of course. The crew and passengers find a doll floating in the ocean, which is funny all on its own, but anyone who watched the first scene will no doubt note that this doll is wearing a pink ruffly dress and sunbonnet. Hmmmm. No one thinks much about it, though, and Edward promptly gives the doll to his youngest daughter, Diane (Gretha).

Yep. That doll is weird as all get-out. Diane brings her into the kitchen and asks the cook, Simon (Jorge Zamora) for a piece of raw meat. For the doll. Simon tries to give the doll a cookie, but nope. Raw meat only. Then at dinner random birds attack Diane. And the doll mysteriously moves from a stateroom to the hallway. And has blood on her mouth. That’s only the beginning.

The Black Whale III reaches the place where the sunken city supposedly is and the Marvin Family Scuba Divers take the plunge. Unfortunately there’s a submarine earthquake, which crushes Michelle’s legs, and there’s nothing to do but put her to bed and try to make land as soon as possible. Everyone pleads with Alan to do something, but there’s not much he can do without advanced equipment.

More weird stuff happens. There’s a storm, certain characters are washed overboard, other characters die viciously, including Simon, Gordon, Alan and Sybil, and other characters disappear when they try to take Michelle to land. Meanwhile Diane is hypnotized by the doll, who keeps becoming more and more lifelike, or at least she sees it that way.

And since this is the Bermuda Triangle we’re talking about, the movie shows flashes of previous disappearances like Flight 19 at various points in the movie without any delineation from the movie’s main plot. It’s possible the Black Whale III is not what it seems, either.

Obviously The Bermuda Triangle is a big ol’ mess. None of its horror elements are ever emphasized enough to make them truly scary, the movie borrows (steals) musical elements from Forbidden Planet, and the dubbing is bad. Like, really bad. Like Voyage To the Prehistoric Planet, only that movie didn’t have young children who sounded like forty-year old women.

Plus, again, the plot is eye-cagingly hacked-up. It’s hard to follow, it doesn’t know whether it wants to be a soap opera or a sea disaster, and it’s one of those movies in which none of the characters are drawn well at all so we don’t care much about them or even want to know their names. I had to watch the movie three times for various reasons, not counting the time I went in for screencaps, and felt my brain disconnect more strongly each time.

On the bright side, the Black Whale III’s Captain Mark Briggs (Hugo Steglietz) very strongly reminded me of Captain Seafield of Lake Michigan Monster fame. I hate to seem overly nitpicky, but it was one of the only things that made The Bermuda Triangle bearable, not to mention “Old Captain Seafield” got in my head and wouldn’t leave.

The other bright spot is that the underwater photography looked decent, even though none of resembles horror. They kill sharks, or rather, the sharks turn themselves belly-up while looking vaguely dead. Like the rest of the movie, it’s confusing. Amazingly enough, though, the movie was successful upon its release, bringing in $22M at the box office.

The late, great Gene Siskel summed up The Bermuda Triangle thusly: “These…pictures are just junk sold with high-pressure TV ads, and…we all ought to be wise to {their} game by now.”

Our last day of Sorta Adios To Summer is coming up tomorrow, and I’ll be reviewing the movie that inspired this week of posts. I think you all know what I’m talking about. Thanks for reading, all, and I hope to see you then…


The Bermuda Triangle is free to stream for Prime customers (regular audio and RiffTrax).

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