Man, it honestly feels weird to be writing “2017” as the year. Granted, I go through this every year for the first week or so. Still, for as bizarre of a year as 2016 was, it really did seem to go by pretty fast. But I am rambling again and should focus on the job at hand. Ever since I first saw Jaws, I loved reading Peter Benchley’s books and bought or read almost all of them. I remember reading this book in high school and a few years later, watched the made for TV movie. For some reason, today’s movie, as well as some of the other Benchley movies, had been popping up on my Amazon recommended list so I gave in and decided to go ahead and buy them. So let’s get right into today’s movie, The Beast.
The plot: A couple, Howard and Elizabeth, are taking their small yacht for a romantic cruise but during the night, the boat starts taking on water and sinking. Howard starts to radio and S.O.S. but the power goes out and they are forced to get into the small life raft they were towing behind them. After the yacht sinks underwater, the two are laying in the raft waiting for help when something bumps against the bottom of the raft and smell ammonia nearby. The two look for what hit them but as Howard looks one way, he hears a splash and turns to find Elizabeth has disappeared. Howard dives into the water but doesn’t see any sign of her and as he is climbing back into the raft, he hears a noise and sees something just before he is dragged out of the raft. The next day at Grave’s Point, Whip Dalton and his first mate Mike Newcombe are fishing when they receive a radio call from their friend Ensign Raines of the Coast Guard, who asks them to pick up the life raft and bring it back to the dock. Meeting back on the dock after doing so, Whip and Mike are introduced to Lt. Kathryn Marcus, a new transfer to the local Coast Guard, and as they are examining the raft, Kathryn notices a strange puddle of liquid that smells like ammonia in the boat. Whip asks her about what will happen to the life raft just before they notice a boat heading towards them and see Jameson, the chief aide for local harbormaster Schuyler Graves, who says that Graves is ordering the raft turned over to him. When Jameson slyly mentions that he has no idea what condition the raft was in when Whip found it, Whip gets a smile on his face and proceeds to damage the raft before they hand it over but as he is cleaning the boat later, he finds a strange claw on the deck that had fallen off of the boat. Taking the claw to the local bar, he asks some of the other fishermen if they ever saw something like it but they didn’t and the barkeeper tells Whip to send it to his cousin, who works for the Portland Zoo. The next day, Whip and Mike see Lucas Coven, another local fisherman who uses illegal traps to fish, and chase him away from the buoy he was hauling up. When Whip and Mike haul up the buoy, they find the cables have been bit through and the traps are completely destroyed. Kathryn pays a visit to Whip asking to go on a dive trip and he agrees to take her that Saturday, then asks if there was any news about the life raft. The next day, Whip receives a call about the claw and is told that it is being sent to Dr. Herbert Talley, a famous marine biologist, so that he can identify it. Whip goes to see Graves about the zodiac and learns that it was scuttled, then the two proceed to argue about what Graves’ business plans for the island are. When he gets home, Whip’s daughter Dana introduces him to two college kids that want to hire Whip for a diving trip but Whip refuses so they hire Lucas instead. That Saturday, after returning from his dive trip with Kathryn, Whip receives a phone call from Talley, telling him that he would be there in a few days and telling Whip to go through the material that he sent him. When Mike and his wife find the remains of a juvenile whale and take some pieces to Whip, who tells him about what Talley told him. Meanwhile, Lucas takes the two divers out to the wreck they wanted to dive but as they go diving down, they encounter the squid and are killed by it, while Lucas flees the area when he sees the buoy being dragged down. Hearing about the divers, Whip goes to the site and warns Kathryn and the other Coast Guard to get out of the water, then examines the remains of the divers gear on the beach. A town meeting is called and Whip tells the townspeople about the squid and suggests staying out of the water until the squid leaves, due to a lack of food, but Lucas and some of the other fishermen are not happy with that advise. After everyone leaves, Graves meets with Lucas and hires him to kill the squid. The next day, Talley and his assistant Christopher meet Whip at his house and accompany him to the Founder’s Ball, where they are introduced to some of the other people they will need in town. During the event, Dana and Christopher start to hit it off while Kathryn gets upset when, despite her qualifications, her boss chooses another Coast Guard member, Henderson, to act as liaison on Talley’s expedition. She vents her frustrations to Whip but when he tries to offer to help, she tells him to let it be and walks off after telling him that she isn’t interested in starting a relationship. The next day, Lucas and his crew head out and use depth charges to kill the squid and bring it back to shore, not noticing the sonar showing an even larger squid following behind them. After Lucas brings the squid to shore, Graves takes the credit for having the squid killed. Whip and Talley go to try and examine the carcass but Graves informs them that they can’t because it was sold to Osborne Manning, who owns the Sea Land Texas amusement park. As they are leaving Talley asks Whip to take him out to where the squid was killed, saying if he can’t study the body he can at least study it’s habitat. Meanwhile, Graves is looking at the body of the squid with Manning, who tells Graves that the squid is only 3 months old. Kathryn is assigned to go with Talley’s expedition to ensure they don’t find anything classified but as they are preparing to leave, Jameson arrives with a letter from Graves, saying that he is to go down in the submersible to protect Graves Point’s interests. Christopher and Jameson get in the submersible with the pilot and head down towards the shipwreck but as they start to come back up, they encounter the mother squid and are killed. When the ship returns to port, Whip interrupts a business luncheon to hand Graves the tape of what happened, Christopher and Jameson’s deaths. Graves goes to Lucas and tells him to kill the second squid but when Lucas asks for more money, Graves threatens to take his boat due to his illegal trap fishing. Lucas heads out with one of his crew and Mike, who is forced to join due to financial trouble, and they try to lure the creature to the surface so they can kill it. As night falls and a storm rolls in, Mike and the other crew member convince Lucas to leave for the night but as they start to leave, the squid attacks their boat. The crew member is grabbed and yanked from the boat and Mike gets trapped in some netting and injured when part of the mast falls on him as the squid pulls the boat underwater. Whip, having heard about Mike going out with Lucas, heads out to go look for them and finds the wreckage of the boat and sees Mike hanging on to the buoy and manages to rescue him. Whip gets him to the hospital and as he is waiting there with Mike’s wife, Nell, the doctor tells them that Mike will live but they won’t be able to tell the extent of the damage to his back and legs until the swelling goes down. Whip gets drunk and when he sees Kathryn waiting at his house, he yells at her to go away before he passes out in his bed. When the squid appears at the salt water pool that holds the baby’s carcass and attempts to retrieve it, the town is forced to close the beaches as well as the harbor. Graves, Talley, Manning, and several other townsfolk go to Whip and try to convince him to go out and kill the squid but he refuses to leave. When Dana hears about Whip refusing to hunt the squid, she talks to him and convinces him to go after it. Whip heads to Graves’ office, where he finds Talley, Manning, and Graves making plans and says that he will go out but only if they use his boat and Graves goes with them. Talley and Manning explain their plan, using a lure baited with the scent of the baby to attract the squid and when it becomes tangled in the lure, shooting it with cyanide filled harpoons. That night, Whip goes to apologize to Kathryn and the two embrace and kiss while back on Talley’s boat, Manning is seen messing with the harpoons. The next day, they are preparing to head out and Whip is shocked to see Kathryn on board and though he is angry at first, he reluctantly agrees to let her stay as the two admit they love each other. The group heads out and as night falls, they finally find the squid on the fish finder and start to lure it to the surface. When the squid gets tangled in the lure and they manage to bring it to the surface, Manning shoots it with two of the darts and after it stops moving, they manage to get some ropes on it and start bringing it back to shore. As they make their way to shore, the engine goes out and there is no way to repair it so Whip says they will have to wait till dawn to get towed back to port. Manning says that won’t work and admits that he filled the harpoons with sedatives instead of cyanide. Whip cuts the lines holding the squid but as he starts to cut the cable for the lure, Graves decides to take the lifeboat and save his own life. Whip manages to finish cutting the cable for the lure just as the squid regains consciousness and leaves, going after Graves and killing him. The squid returns and attacks Whip’s boat, killing Manning and grabbing Talley and dragging him into it’s beak. When a Coast Guard helicopter shows up to rescue them, Kathryn starts climbing up the ladder while Whip uses an ax to start breaking open the extra fuel barrels, then has Kathryn shoot them with a flare gun, igniting the fuel and causing an explosion that kills the squid. The next morning, Dana is woken by the helicopter as it drops off Whip and Kathryn and she embraces the two of them as they head back to the house.
A bit longer than necessary but this wasn’t a bad movie. The acting was good, with William Peterson (Whip), Charles Martin Smith (Graves), and Ronald Guttman (Talley) doing a great job in their roles. I did like Karen Sillas (Kathryn) but if I recall correctly, her character was not in the book and was merely written in as a romantic interest for Whip. The plot was good, staying fairly true to the book in regards to the main plotline but with some changes, such as being located in the Pacific Northwest instead of Bermuda as well as Whip’s wife being alive in the book but dead in the movie. The special effects were ok for a TV movie, but there were sometimes where the effects appeared cheesy, such as the “dramatic lightning bolt” when Whip is heading out after Mike and Lucas. My biggest complaint of the movie is that it really was too long and they could have cut out some of the unnecessary parts of the movie to make it shorter. A decent movie to watch in spite of the length.
Rating: 3 out of 5