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  Sea Serpent, The Or how Timothy Bottoms hit rock bottom
Year: 1984
Director: Amando de Ossorio
Stars: Timothy Bottoms, Taryn Power, Jared Martin, Ray Milland, Gérard Tichy, Carol James, Jack Taylor, Leon Klimovsky
Genre: Horror, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: A discarded American nuclear missile revives a prehistoric glove-puppet, er, sea serpent that goes on a murderous rampage around the coast of Spain. Fisherman Pedro Fontán (Timothy Bottoms, sporting a bushy Latin ’tache) survives an attack on his ship but since his drunkenness cost the lives of men aboard his last vessel, including the brother of resentful first mate Lemaris (Jared Martin), no-one believes his crazy story. Socialite Margaret (Taryn Power) has her own encounter with the sea monster when it gobbles up her best friend. Confined to an insane asylum, she is sprung by Pedro after which they enlist the aid of grumpy marine biologist Professor Wallace (Ray Milland, in his last role) in a bid to halt the rubbery menace from killing anyone that ventures into the water.

This shoddy Spanish monster movie was the last film from Amando de Ossorio, the occasionally inspired Euro-horror auteur behind Tombs of the Blind Dead (1971) and its numerous sequels. Armed with a fairly respectable cast and a seemingly bigger budget than was the norm in his Seventies heyday, de Ossorio still managed to produce a ridiculous time-waster likely to arouse more laughs than screams of terror. Most laughable of all is the titular leviathan whose hilarious ping-pong eyes evoke fond memories of Cookie Monster from Sesame Street. Every time this sock-puppet beastie pops out of the sea it undoes de Ossorio’s already lacklustre attempts at suspense. Only the monster’s attack on a lighthouse is fairly well staged, though even here the tension is undone by the antics of a comedy lighthouse keeper. Gore is all but non-existent though de Ossorio regularly treats viewers to the sight of screaming victims writhing between its jaws. Speaking of Jaws (1975), composer Manel Santaleban does his best to imitate John William’s famous score to generally underwhelming effect.

Dull, plodding (particularly a needlessly drawn-out courtroom scene that goes nowhere) and unintentionally funny where its intentional comedy falls flat, this nonetheless packs a certain camp appeal where more self-aware examples of trash filmmaking are simply plain bad. While The Sea Serpent lacks any semblance of the lyrical eeriness de Ossorio brought to Lorelei’s Grasp (1974), it shares the same florid, overly earnest tone common to Spanish horror. Characters come across as dim, blinkered or absent minded and indulge in endless amounts of chatter just to reach a simple point. There is a funny scene where the heroes spend five minutes interrogating a corpse before they realise he is dead, but Pedro and Margaret’s ludicrous escape from the oddly luxurious asylum and Professor Wallace’s periodic rants are equally entertaining, albeit for all the wrong reasons.

Much like Godzilla 1985 (1985), this revives the Fifties tendency to meld Cold War themes with marauding monsters, but aside from an unconvincing prologue with American air force pilots (with one black pilot dubbed with a ridiculous Jamaican accent: “This be madness, mon!") drops any further discussion of the subject along with several other subplots. Ubiquitous Spanish player Jack Taylor cameos as a drug smuggler who murders a crucial surviving witness then abruptly exits the film. Another Spanish horror stalwart, director Leon Klimovsky, appears in a small role as a doctor. Performances are hard to judge given almost everyone is dubbed though it is a mystery how Timothy Bottoms went from The Last Picture Show (1971) and The Paper Chase (1973) to substandard junk like this, plus it was a pretty sorry career bow for the great Ray Milland.

Interestingly, despite the sea serpent being responsible for at least a dozen deaths, Professor Wallace’s plan is to scare it away to another corner of the globe, not kill it. The climax relies on sheer coincidence not heroism to save the day, but remarkably leaves the monster alive and off to Africa (haven’t they got enough problems?) as Wallace plans to resume the hunt. However, the leads couldn’t care less about the monster eating Africans and decide to stay home and frolic on the beach, leaving Ray Milland to look on in disgust. And who can blame him?

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


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