Wednesday, December 8, 2021

ethel mermaid.

Just found out that Peggy Neal has died so in way of a tribute I thought I'd reshare this.


Terror Beneath The Sea (AKA Water Cyborg, 1966).
Dir: Hajime Sato (AKA Terence Ford).

Cast: Sonny Chiba, Peggy Neal, Franz Gruber, Andrew Hughes, Erik Neilson, Mike Daneen, Beverly Keller, Gunther Braun, Koji Miemachi, Tadashi Suganuma, Hideo Murota, Osamu Yamanouchi, Kosaku Okano, Ichiro Mizuki, Akemi Fuji, Enver Altenbay, Hans Horneff and Steve Queens.

Prof. Howard: "Some very peculiar things have been going on around here lately."
Cmdr. Brown: "What?"
Prof. Howard: "I'm not sure, but I think the Navy should be informed about them."
Cmdr. Brown: "What are you driving at?"

Our story (well scriptwriter Kôichi Ôtsu's story....actually it's not even his seeing as it's based on a novel by Masami Fukushima - but I digress) begins at the very important deep sea trials of "The Navy's" brand new homing torpedo, where among the assorted dignitaries and press we're introduced to the big haired Jenny Gleason (button-nosed Kate McKinnon alike and star of The X From Outer Space and Las Vegas Free-for-All, Neal) and the cool, collected Ken Abe (Golgo 13 himself Chiba) who will be our heroes for the next 70 odd minutes.

As the stoic Commander Brown (council estate Christopher Eccleston Gruber) entertains the crowd by randomly pointing at a collection of hastily cut out submarine stickers on a Plexiglass board Jenny begins to feel a sense of dread, made worse when the video feed begins to broadcast from the test site.

And not just because the model work is so atrocious.

Tho' it doesn't help.

As the test continues Jenny becomes even more distressed before screaming in sheer terror when, as the homing torpedo nears the target submarine, a shadowy humanoid figure quickly swims past the underwater camera before being consumed by the explosion as the torpedo finds its target.

Commander Brown, either spooked by the figure or embarrassed by Jenny's reaction  cuts the demonstration short before flouncing out of the room, leaving Jenny slightly shaken and Ken deeply aroused by her display of woman-ness leading to him offering to take her "up the bay" in search of whatever creature they saw swim by.

What a guy.

Jenny screaming: Please note - she'll be doing a fair bit of this during the movie.

After a few brandies in the press bar Ken and Jenny - with her camera to hand - don their wetsuits and head out to sea, partly to look for stuff but mainly as an excuse to track Jenny's undulating arse in her tiny swimming trunks as she swims past the camera.

Which is nice.

It's not all unearthly siren song and smooth milky thighs tho' as suddenly and without warning - well apart from the clumsy musical cue - a terrifying fishman appears from behind a rock and startles our heroine so much that she manages to scream thru' a scuba mouthpiece.

And that, dear reader, is fairly impressive.

Dropping her camera she beats a hasty retreat to the surface as the fishman drunkenly follows her but luckily she makes it to the boat before any flipper based shenanigans can occur leaving Ken to console our tear-soaked heroine and the camera - plus any evidence - presumably lost at the bottom of the ocean.


With nothing to show but a pair of mascara stained goggles, Commander Brown quite rightly accuses Jenny of making all this shite about boss-eyed sea beasts up before stomping off in a huff to examine some strange clawed footprints that have been found on the beach near to the top secret torpedo research lab.

No, nothing suspicious at all here.

"Laugh now!"

After downing a few more drinks to drown their sorrows the pair decide to head back into the water in order to find the camera and therefore prove the existence of the fishmen but quickly (well it only has a 70 minute running time) end up getting captured and taken to the spooky underwater lair of the eminent slick haired science guy Dr. Josef Heim (Daneen from the classic Gappa the Triphibian Monsters), an evil mastermind obsessed with turning humanity into remote controlled, crudely constructed models of Will Self made entirely of shortbread.

Sorry I mean cyborg fishmen.


Ever the gracious host, Dr. Heim proceeds to give our dynamic duo a tour of the facilities even going as far as to give a demonstration of the cyborgs sophisticated control system which appears to consist of a massive knob (there seems to be a lot of them in this film) with three settings - work, rest and fight which he twiddles with glee as he makes a couple of fishmen grapple in a vaguely homoerotic manner.

Unfortunately neither Ken nor Jenny seem impressed (or even a little aroused) by this display of strength and with that Heim sends them back to their cell before skulking away for a tearful wank and a cod flavoured Pot Noodle.

Aware of the films scant running time, the pair quickly escape and decide to have a nosy around the base for a bit (mainly to admire the matte paintings on show) before being recaptured.

Well I say recaptured but in reality they just arrive in a room with a couple of dartboards on the wall where Heim just happened to be waiting and with a sigh he orders the scarily bouffanted Nurse Smallbone (Keller in her only film role outside those 'special interest' ones she did to pay her way thru' college) to take them back to their cell.

Exciting isn't a word I would use but heyho they're doing their best.

“You know that sickening feeling of inadequacy and over-exposure you feel when you look upon your own empurpled prose? Relax into the awareness that this ghastly sensation will never, ever leave you, no matter how successful and publicly lauded you become. It is intrinsic to the real business of writing and should be cherished....Now get back in the sea so I can bite you.”

Meanwhile back at the top secret naval base, distinguished science-type Dr. Russell Howard (monster movie mega star Hughes, star of everything from Destroy All Monsters to Battle In Outer Space via playing a comedy Hitler in Crazy Adventure) is suddenly grabbed by the cyborgs - which is way less painful than it sounds - and taken to the undersea base because, um reasons, where he - and Ken and Jenny - are given a chilling ultimatum: join Heim's evil empire or be turned into undersea cyborg fish folk.

Obviously they refuse and next thing you know poor Jenny is strapped to a table, her smooth shoulders on show, covered in Swarfega and sweating like Bobby Crush on an oil rig as disco lights flash all around her before passing out.

Which is probably the most erotic thing I've seen on film this year.


Waking in her cell Jenny soon realises that both her and Ken appear to have bits of PVA glue hastily stuck to their bodies (this, we're told is phase one of the conversion process) and quickly becomes hysterical, waving her sticky mitts in front of her face whilst grimacing and violently shaking her head.

Ken on the other (slightly less sticky) hand just gazes into the middle distance heroically.

"Warm it up in the microwave for 40 seconds and slip it in......"

If like me at this point you're beginning to miss dear old Commander Brown then fear not as he's currently shouting orders at anyone who'll listen as he valiantly searches for the missing reporters (and scientist) in a commandeered submarine whilst narrowly avoiding crashing into hundreds of discarded beer barrels labeled "Very Dangerous Atomic Waste" on the ocean floor* for some reason or another that isn't explained.

Maybe the director realised that as we were heading toward the films climax it'd be a good idea to have something - anything - exciting happen?

Just a thought.

Heim is soon alerted to the submarines presence and orders a missile strike resulting in some quality rocking back and forth acting from the cast and causing Brown to don a wet suit and clench a knife 'tween his teeth as he angrily threatens to swim over to the base and stab someone as random missiles fly out of the sea and into the sky, nearly killing Jenny and Ken's boss who is currently flying about in an old plane looking for them.


I think I got all that down.

"Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just sexually aroused? Oh it's a gun, my bad."

The heroic submarine crew and the evil undersea based bastards continual shooting at each other randomly whilst scowling into camera comes to a head when a missile fired by the submarine actually hits Heim's base causing the control panel for the cyborgs to stop working and the fishmen to go bat-shit mental, throwing shapes, wanking into pot plants and attacking the crew.

Soon the entire base is filled with the sound of gunfire (and a smell of old socks and egg) as Heim's henchmen battle the cyborgs for undersea supremacy.....

Will Ken, Howard and Jenny escape?

Will they find a cure for their scabs?

Will anyone bother repairing the massive tear on the lead fishman's costume?

Will the film's final scene feature a forced laugh and comedy turn to camera?

I'm not saying.

From Hajime Sato (the film director that is, not the sustainable seafood advocate, sushi chef and certified Saké advisor I found on Twitter) - the man behind The Golden Bat, four episodes of Captain Ultra, Jûdai no âshidôri and the terrifying Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell comes this threadbare thriller that takes the very best bits of Voyage To The Bottom of The Sea and mixes it with  a smidgen of Bond style spy hijinks before adding a child's approximation of The Creature From The Black Lagoon and beating the whole thing senseless in an alley then filming the results in a warehouse full of giant Lego bricks.

Yes, it's that good.

Big drink or tiny head?

Featuring future Street Fighter and professional sexy man Sonny Chiba in the lead role, ably abetted by the absolutely adorable (and that's just her hair) Peggy Neal and Japanese junk stalwart  Andrew Hughes, the rest of the cast of ne'er do wells and never wills don't matter as the interchangeable henchmen and military types seem to spend the film either barking orders or just being barking mad as they attempt to keep a straight face as the poor sods stuff in the fishmen suits potter about trying not to knock any bits of the set over as the piss-poor plot unveils - and unravels - in front of them, but what it lacks in logic, budget or intelligence it more than makes up for by ignoring all of that and just going for it.

Which gives it the edge over modern sea-based fayre like the Kristen Stewart starrer Underwater, tho' to be honest the monsters in that were slightly better realised.

But only slightly.**

"Are you the farmer?"

But let's be honest, you kinda know what you're letting yourself in for with quality cinema like this so kick your shoes off, crack open a beer, sit back and enjoy.

And if nothing else, Peggy Neal sports a smashing blouse at one point.


* Oh go on then, at the bottom of the directors bath.

**Tho' neither of them hold a candle to the utterly terrifying Underwater Puppies calendar my kids insisted on buying the other Christmas.

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