There has been a spate of mystery deaths around the coastline of a California seaside town, including a baby left unattended by its mother for a brief while and a peg-legged sailor who was attending to his boat and disappeared into the water - although his body reappeared later on, almost stripped of flesh and giving the two teenagers who found it a terrible fright. Journalist Ned Turner (John Huston) wonders about this and thinks to call in a sea life expert of his acquaintance, but believes he knows the motive behind these attacks has something to do with the undersea drilling nearby...
Yes, it's Jaws rip-off time again, and also time to contemplate if we John Carpenter's Halloween had not been the hit it was, would all those slasher movies of the late seventies and early eighties have been waterlogged horror adventures instead? Probably not, but it's chilling for all the wrong reasons to think that this trend could have never gone away, especially when you see a film as bankrupt of ideas as Tentacles, or Tentacoli as it was originally known in Italy, proving that there was nowhere for this subgenre to go.
Jaws had really been the first and final word in this type of film, and here director Ovidio G. Assonitis and his team of four writers exhibited little understanding of what made the Steven Spielberg hit tick. Indeed, he may have secured the services of some notable (if ageing) guest stars, but they hardly seem to be appearing in the same movie together so disjointed is the editing and plotline. Fourth-billed Henry Fonda, for example, shows up for about two minutes in two - count 'em - scenes, and one of those features him on the telephone to Huston, so we never see them share the screen.
Also appearing for a nice holiday in the sun with pay is Shelley Winters as Ned's sister Tillie, who he lives with along with her young son (too young to be believable, really). As Winters fluffs her lines, even forgetting her screen offspring's name at one point, it becomes clear they are present to be menaced by the monster, which in this case is an octopus of humungous proportions. Of course, we have to take this great size as read, because in the footage we see of it, it looks like a normal-sized octopus. Because that's what it is.
Despite this handicap, the monster cuts a swathe through the cast with the assistance of a rubber tentacle and a rubber head which zooms through the waves as if it were a speedboat; we get octopus-eye views of the action, too. In the big attack sequence, Tillie's son taking part in a sailing race with his young friend when the creature disrupts it, and this bit can be seen as the highlight if only because it's filmed so bizarrely it verges on the avant garde. With Stelvio Cipriani's groovy soundtrack blaring, Assonitis employs freeze frames, intercutting between dry land and the sea, and a weird stand up comedy voiceover that includes an lengthy anti-Scottish gag as all the while the octopus goes after who you'd expect. Thank goodness for Bo Hopkins' marine expert and his two pet killer whales (he even gives them a heartfelt pep talk) who get on to the octopus's case when Bo's wife is eaten. If only it was as funny as it sounds then Tentacles might have been entertaining.