Ocean Movies you Love to Hate: Tentacles (1977)




Is being chased by an octopus while sailing your ultimate nightmare? This movie is for you.

A Note from Dr. Abalone: Whilst you all have been frolicking along the shores and diving in the sea, as is your way, I, Dr. Abalone, have been scouring the moviesphere for the perfect entertainment to enlighten your decadent souls. After extensive research I unleash upon you a slew of films so pathetic in their attempt to entertain, they win the piscatorial prize for perfidy: movies so awful you’ll love to hate them. Because only those that truly love the sea and live daily at its mercy, such as yourselves, can transcend the blood and gore and celebrate their essence of utter stupidity.

After Jaws, sharks became the critter to fear in the ocean, followed by a ton of sequels (Jaws 2, Jaws 3D, Jaws the revenge). In addition to giving sharks a bad name they don’t deserve, these films created a new genre of “Nature run amok” films typically focused on animals or plants that kill people or at least scare the shi*t out of them. So when sharks became a bit passe in the late 1970s, Hollywood searched for the next killer marine animal. In the case of Tentacles, released in 1977, that critter was….a giant octopus.

Starting with “a chilling tale of nature gone wild!” and a talented by somewhat bizarre all-star cast including Henry Fonda, John Huston, Bo Hopkins and Shelley Winters, the plot, which parallels Jaws — including a maverick octopus-hunting marine biologist (Hopkins) —  you might think Tentacles would have been a blockbuster movie. But to simply call it bad is an understatement.  Like other movies I’ll blog about, it is so bad that it is fun to watch, with my finger on the fast-forward button I might add.

The central plot revolves around the construction of an underwater tunnel that is emitting sounds “above regulated levels” and pisses off a giant octopus which begins killing everything it can get its tentacles on. The skeletons of swimmers and boaters are picked clean of flesh and bone adding to the horror — if you can avoid laughing. As a marine biologist who has often watched octopus devour their crustacean prey, encountering a giant human-eating octopus would indeed be my ultimate horror. Unfortunately, this movie fails to capitalize on that element but instead falls for cheap cliches, bad dialog, and simply awful pacing. The sailing race, for example, runs on for 10+ minutes cutting back and forth between the mother (Winters) attending a seminar on the beach while the octopus chases the racers in the water. I got so restless I was hoping the critter would attack the mother just to end the miserable scene.

The sad truth is this film is the ancestor to the bad marine creature genre which has given rise to the recent Sharkanado line of movies. However, at least Sharkanado knows it’s bad and takes that to an extreme just for the fun of it. With Tentacles we have an awful film masquerading as an actual movie. But again, this might be just the type of film to enjoy on a summer vacation when you need a few laughs before you head down to the beach. But don’t take my word for it: check out the short trailer below.



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