Today’s selection: The Bermuda Depths (1978, dir. Tsugunobu Kotani)
Available from: Warner
Some might take issue with calling an American movie tokusatsu, but The Bermuda Depths was produced in a partnership between Rankin-Bass and Tsuburaya Pro, so I’ll say it counts. The movie was one of three straight-to-TV monster flicks that the two companies made together, all under director Tom Kotani, the other two being The Last Dinosaur (which is awesome) and The Ivory Ape (which I’ve been looking for for years).
The Bermuda Depths is more of a ghost story/mystery/coming-of-age tale than a rampaging monster picture, but the plot does revolve around the presence of a giant sea turtle, in a fashion that would fit nicely with the original Ultra Q series. Basically, it’s about a dude named Magnus (a name which seems like it ought to be reserved for wizards and gladiators, doesn’t it?) who returns to his childhood home in Bermuda, seeking details about his father’s death. Through near-death circumstances he reunites with his childhood friend Jennie, which is problematic because Magnus’s other friend insists that Jennie was imaginary…so is she a figment, a ghost, what? As kids, Magnus and Jennie had raised a baby sea turtle together, which has continued to grow throughout the intervening years, now giant-sized and attracting the attention of the scientific community, leading to the spectacular climax/ Jaws-inspired hunting sequence.
The film isn’t as heavy on special effects as The Last Dinosaur, but what’s shown is well worth watching. It’s pretty great that the Warner Archives rescued both films from relative obscurity (sadly Ivory Ape is a no-go on that front), as I doubt I would have been able to see The Bermuda Depths any other way. According to wikipedia, there’s also a 102-minute Japanese cut of the movie (as opposed to the 98-minute US cut), but it’s unclear if it’s actually been released on home video there.
I found the following clip on youtube, which while not an official trailer, does a fine job of showcasing some of the effects: