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  Deep, The Sunken Bunkum
Year: 1977
Director: Peter Yates
Stars: Robert Shaw, Jacqueline Bisset, Nick Nolte, Louis Gossett Jr, Eli Wallach, Dick Anthony Williams, Earl Maynard, Bob Minor, Teddy Tucker, Robert Tessier, Lee McClain
Genre: Thriller, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 2 votes)
Review: Tourists David (Nick Nolte) and Gail (Jacqueline Bisset) have opted to travel to Bermuda for their holiday, not because they want to soak up the sun on the beaches but because they want to go diving in the azure depths around the coast. That is what they are doing today, and Gail is in a playful mood as she goofs around with David under the water, or she is until she notices a glinting object and tries to fetch it with the stick she has tied around her hand. Reaching under the hull of a shipwreck, suddenly her arm is yanked by a huge eel, and she cannot get it free...

Well, that sounds exciting, doesn't it? Not in practice, however, as it became clear after about five minutes of this that the only reason Peter Benchley's novel The Deep had been made into a similarly waterlogged movie was down to the huge success of his blockbusting book Jaws. Whereas the makers of that had struck gold, adapting a potboiler into the seventies equivalent of Moby Dick, only far more accessible, the team behind this were stuck with a lumbering plotline that should have had the grace of those multiple underwater sequences, but ended up having all the elegance of your average basking shark.

The only reason audiences were talking about The Deep in 1977, and probably why they mention it now, was that the opening ten minutes or so of star Jacqueline Bisset sporting a wet T-shirt clinging to her bosom upstaged the rest of an over-two-hours-long movie. After that, all you had to look forward to was Donna Summer crooning the disco-flavoured title song - as this was made by the film division of disco behemoth Casablanca Records - and maybe that bit with the giant moray eel chomping that guy's head. Everything else was, to coin a phrase, treading water, a thriller that singularly refused to thrill and instead sank to the bottom of the ocean as if weighed down by its leaden pacing and plot.

That plot concerns buried treasure contained within the wreck lying on a shelf of rock that David and Gail are investigating, but at first they seem to have uncovered a stash of morphine bottles, medical supplies that never reached their destination. Having also uncovered a trinket that they think could be expensive, the couple go to Treece (Robert Shaw - you may know him from such movies as Jaws, oh, what a coincidence that he turned up in this), who is an experienced diver and treasure hunter. He is initially reluctant to help, but once the interest shown in the couple by local gangster Cloche (Louis Gossett Jr) puts them in danger, he feels he should assist - yet how unselfish is he being?

That's about your lot for intrigue, as most of the film is either longwinded conversation or yet more diving sequences, and if you've seen one of these in The Deep, you've pretty much seen them all. After a while, you know the drill: David and Gail venture out in a boat, go to the location of the treasure, pick up some of it, then get menaced either by marine life - yes, sharks do make an appearance, but not ginormous Great Whites, unfortunately - or the bad guys, or both. The trouble is that even when they're on dry land the characters move the plot forward as slowly as if they were still beneath the sea, and as there's not much to it other than pondering the non-question whether our hero and heroine will prevail, being as they are stereotypical innocents abroad for this type of thing, you find yourself asking, hey, is that Robert Tessier with hair? Or, hey, do eels really get that big? John Barry's music is nice, though.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Peter Yates  (1929 - 2011)

British director with some range, originally from theatre and television. After Summer Holiday and Robbery, he moved to Hollywood to direct Bullitt, with its car chase making waves. There followed The Hot Rock, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, Mother, Jugs & Speed, The Deep and touching teen drama Breaking Away before he returned to Britain for the fantasy Krull and The Dresser. Spent most of his final years working back in America.

 
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