Friday, May 7, 2010

The Neptune Factor

(Daniel Petrie, 1973)
The muted tone and deliberate pacing that looks like a clever stylistic device in the first scene becomes positively sadistic as the damn thing plods endlessly on. And you've never seen a movie with so much arrant gazing - from the ship captain to the undersea adventurers, great chunks of the film's running time are further padded with the all-star cast staring relentlessly offscreen. I'd describe it as a feature-length Kuleshov experiment, except for more than an hour they're not even looking at anything in particular, so there's no emotional response - and when they do finally gaze upon their deep-sea nemeses, the only possible response is uncontrollable contemptuous laughter. Did anyone on this production actually believe that macro shots of tropical fish would fill their audience with wonder and thrills? They could barely even afford any process shots, so the actors and the guppies almost never appear in the same frame, and as things drag on you become increasingly aware of the deep-sea vessel as a four-inch toy in an aquarium. The brazen contempt this 'climax' expresses is of a piece with the film as a whole: what dramatics Petrie allows are barely worthy of bad episodic TV, with the very worst stuff accruing to Yvette Mimieux as an astonishingly inept marine biologist. Worth seeing just to prove to yourself that it actually exists.

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