Exploitation Retrospect | The Journal of Junk Culture and Fringe Media
Devilfish aka Monster Shark (1984)
Vidmark Video | Review by Dan Taylor

I rented this from a video store a few towns away which boasts the largest XXX-rated selection in the county. Yes, they do have an enormous repetoire of flicks like INVASION OF THE SAMURAI SLUTS FROM HELL and A FISTFUL OF BIMBOS, but they also have a fine selection of low-grade exploitation that could only be referred to as "normal" in a store where "Transsexual Films" have their own section!

While sleazing through one night we stumbled upon DEVILFISH, a quaint little French-Italian co-production which tells the tale of a "shark with tentacles" that is terrorizing the waters off the Southern Florida coast. If it sounds like a JAWS rip-off in the PIRANHA/UP FROM THE DEPTHS school of exploitation you're absolutely correct. However, what sets DEVILFISH apart from the usual low-grade, sleazy Italian fare (quickly becoming my fav genre) is the people behind the camera: the script was co-written by Lewis Coates (aka Luigi Cozzi), and the directorial chores were handled by none other than Lamberto Bava (under the pseud "John Old, Jr."). With talent like this involved you figure that the flick has to have something to offer. Right?

But what is it about these Italians? Are they so intent on out-doing Hollywood flicks that they try to compensate with an overblown story requiring 10 times the budget they have? Yeah, I guess that's it...Overambition Without a Clue...that about sums up the whole Italian Experience.

In DEVILFISH, Bava and Company have constructed a whacked, confusing and out-of-control story that has all the elements of JAWS (marine bio-experts, a hi-tech boat, dismemberment) along with a subplot about espionage and genetic engineering that left our brains totally in its wake. As one character says, "The only thing that's screwed up is your head." Never have truer words been spoken.

Despite its inanities, the flick left me with a great sense of respect for the Bavster. DEVILFISH has zero story despite three screenwriters and he knows it. So, he overloads the movie with slow-mo glimpses of the Devilfish, hot babbage, silly soap opera bits, intelligent parts that had to be accidents, and a shitload of scenes where the main characters are sucking down Buds! After awhile you stop laughing because it's just too good.

Bava builds what suspense he can until the heroes corner the 40 foot long Devilfish in two feet of water (you figure it out!) and set the thing on fire. One Question: Why doesn't it just submerge?

For fans of Italian cinema only...

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