Ahh, now this is something I have been looking forward to. See, when I decided to buy the some of the Peter Benchley movies that I did not own, there were two old movies of his that I had never seen before so I decided to pick those up as well. Now I am at a bit of a disadvantage in this movie because I had not read the book before, mainly because it didn’t have a killer animal in it (yes, I have my favorite genres). So this is basically all new material for me which makes me a little excited to watch today’s movie, The Deep (1977).
The plot: Vacationing couple Gail Berke and David Sanders are scuba diving off the coast of Bermuda and while they are exploring some of the shipwrecks, Gail discovers an ampule of liquid medicine. As she continues looking around, she sees another ampule and tries using her divers pick to retrieve it but something grabs her pick and yanks her arm back towards the ship. Gail spits out her regulator so she can use the bubbles to signal David for help when whatever grabbed the pick bites through it and she is able to escape. After the two swim back to the boat, David chips away at a coral encrusted bottle he found and discovers a medallion inside some of the muck. When they return to shore, owner of the dive shop questions which wreck they had dived at, since they said they were diving a different one, and becomes interested in the ampule of liquid that the found. Later, they are at the library researching the medallion and David believes that since it has the date of 1714 stamped on it, it might be from a Spanish fleet that sank in 1715. At dinner, they are approached by Henri “Cloche” Bondurant, who talks to them about the ampule and attempts to buy it but the refuse to sell it to them. The next day, they go to see Romer Treece, the lighthouse keeper and a local treasure hunter. Romer finishes cleaning the muck from the medallion and is able to identify it but says that the fleet had sunk off the coast of Florida and had been well documented. When they show him the rest of what they collected, he recognizes it as being from the Goliath and asks them about the ampule but refuses to go with them for a second look. As they are making their way back to their hotel, a truck speeds up behind them and forces them off the road, where they are quickly grabbed and placed in the back of a cab. The two are blindfolded and taken to Cloche, who searches them for the ampule but when he doesn’t find it, figures that Romer kept it and lets them go. David and Gail head back to the lighthouse to speak with Romer and find out what’s going on. They head with him to his ship and speak to his friend Adam Coffin, who had been on the Goliath. Coffin says that the ampule is medical morphine, and admits that there is more down there. When Romer shows him Gail’s drawing of the ship and where she found the ampule, Coffin says that the ship must have shifted and rolled during the last storm, as it had never been that close to the reef and that the morphine was stored in the opposite side of the ship. As they head out on his boat, Romer says he plans to dive the wreck that night and convinces David, who is considering going to the government with what he found, to join him, though Gail begs him not to go. That night, Coffin brings some scuba tanks to Romer’s boat but Romer doesn’t let him come with them, as he plans on destroying the morphine if it is still there. As David and Romer prepare to dive, David is concerned when he sees Romer grabbing some explosives but Romer explains that he plans on using them to knock the Goliath off the reef and into the deeper parts of the ocean, where divers would not be able to reach it. As the two head down to the water, they place the explosives along the base of the Goliath before heading inside, where they discover more vials of morphine as well as some more Spanish artifacts. When David becomes entangled in some of the wreck after encountering a large moray eel, Romer saves him and they head back to Romer’s boat. On the boat, they find a dead cat crucified on the door and Romer says Cloche is using voodoo to try and scare them and David realizes that Gail is in danger. The race back to shore and David ends up fighting and killing one of Cloche’s men before he reaches his bungalow, where he finds Gail had been attacked and had a voodoo ceremony performed on her. Romer has David and Gail stay at his place, and informs David that he found something incredible and he wants to research it more to see what else is down there. The next day, Romer goes to see Cloche and tells him that he booby-trapped to Goliath but is willing to sell them to him so long as he leaves David and Gail alone, and Cloche agrees but gives Romer three days to get the morphine. Later, Romer, David, Gail, and Coffin head out to the Goliath and Romer, David, and Gail dive down while Coffin stays on the boat. Using a vacuum to suck up and expel the sand into a different chamber, they collect dozens of vials of morphine from the wreck while searching for more artifacts. Gail sends up some of the bags of morphine, then heads back to the chamber, not noticing a shark circling overhead. When the vacuum sucks up a rock and spits it out, it accidentally sets off one of Romer’s explosives, causing the wreck to shift and opening a hole in the floor of the Goliath, which David falls through. He finds himself in another wreck that is underneath the , and finds some more artifacts including a gold necklace. Returning back to Romer’s place, Romer places the morphine up in the light room, then booby-traps it in case Cloche’s men try to grab it. Romer then tries to look up information about the ship from his records. Meanwhile, Coffin is at the bar speaking with Cloche and telling him that Romer is up to something but doesn’t know what. Back at Romer’s house, they figure out that the ship contains the treasure that was intended for Elizabeth Farnese, who was being courted by King Phillip of Spain. Romer says that if they can find one of the items that is on the manifest they found, then it would establish a provenance that they need to claim the treasure. The next day, they head back down and discover a jewel encrusted cross with E.F. engraved in it. Meanwhile, Coffin is going through all of their gear and discovers Gail’s drawing and realizes what they are really doing. He then sees a ship full of Cloche’s men approach and watches as they begin dumping chunks of bloody meat into the water to attract a school of sharks. The sharks begin eating the meat and end up getting tangled up in the air lines of David and Romer. Romer ends up being dragged out of the ship and David and Gail go rescue him, then swim up to the boat, narrowly avoiding being attacked by the sharks. When they reach the surface, Romer yells at Coffin for not warning them but Coffin says that he had fallen asleep. Back at Romer’s place, Romer gets suspicious of Coffin when Gail’s sketch is missing and decides to go check on his friend Kevin, only to find that he has been killed by Cloche’s men. Meanwhile, David figures out that he had found a jeweled dragon that Elizabeth had worn, which would establish their provenance. When Romer returns, he says that he is going to go and blow up the but David says that he plans on going to get the dragon. As they head for Romer’s boat, Coffin heads up to the light room to get the morphine but triggers the booby-trap, causing the top of the light house to explode. David and Romer dive down on their respective missions while Gail stays on the boat, unaware that Cloche and his men are diving down as well. One of Cloche’s men boards Romer’s ship and tries to kill Gail but she manages to stab him with a spear and kill him. The man that killed Kevin attacks David just as he finds the dragon but he manages to evade the attack, then swims out of the ship and heads back in on the other side in order to attack the man, eventually managing to rip his regulator out and drown him. Cloche sees Romer setting dynamite and tries to stop him, shooting him in the leg with a spear gun, but Romer manages to ignite the fuse. As the two men struggle, Romer maneuvers Cloche in front of the opening that the moray eel lives in, and the large eel bites down on Cloches head and kills him. David had come back to grab the dragon but sees Romer in trouble and goes to help him but Romer cuts David’s regulator, forcing him to swim back to the surface while Romer swims down into the second ship. The charges go off and the Goliath sinks down into the ravine but as David and Gail mourn Romer’s death, Romer suddenly surfaces and throws David the gold dragon.
The Deep (1977) met with mostly negative reviews from the critics, holding a 36% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, most of the critics felt like it was simply an uninspired movie that was hoping to bank on the popularity of Jaws. The movie wound up being nominated for both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe, as well as having a comic book adaptation done by Marvel Comics. Despite the negative reviews, it still wound up being a box office hit, earning $47.3 million off of a $9 million budget.
Not entirely what I was expecting but this is not a bad movie. The acting was pretty good, with Robert Shaw (Romer) and Nick Nolte (David) both doing great jobs in their roles. Jacqueline Bisset (Gail) was also good, as was Louis Gossett Jr. (Cloche), though it was a little weird seeing him as the bad guy. The story was pretty good and made for a good thriller, but the scene pacing in the movie felt a little disjointed at times. The underwater scenes were very well shot, though some of the scenes with the shark didn’t fit well with the rest of the scenes. A fun movie to watch but if you are expecting a bunch of people killed by a giant marine animal, you will be disappointed.
Rating: 3 out of 5