BR: Deep Blood / Sangue negli abissi (1990)

July 5, 2021 | By

Film: Good

Transfer:  Excellent

Extras: Standard

Label:  Severin Films / Unobstructed View

Region: A,B, C

Released:  April 27, 2021

Genre:  Sharksploitation / Eco-Thriller / Horror

Synopsis: Using a sacred Native American carving for mystical power & protection, a group of college boys save their seaside town from a great white shark.

Special Features:  Theatrical Trailer




The lineage linking three specific Jaws rip-offs from Italy goes beyond merely riffing Steven Spielberg’s 1975 film about a beach community threatened by a great white shark. In 1981 action maestro Enzo Castellari directed Great White, from which producer Joe D’Amato cribbed the explosion footage to similarly cap his own shark epic, Deep Blood, in 1990. Then in 1995, for Cruel Jaws / aka Jaws 5, schlockmeister Bruno Mattei cribbed whole chunks of scenes from D’Amato’s production (including his interpolation of grainy National Geographic shark footage) for his own (and more direct) Jaws riff.

Whereas Mattei amped up neon-drenched boobery, babes in swimwear, beach balls, bad music, spastic scene structures, and bits of gore, D’Amato’s take on a man-eating shark is strangely PG, and if the main threat of Spielberg’s Jaws were melded with Stephen King’s 1985 novel It, where a group of boys reunite to fight off a mystical villain threatening their friendship and the people they love, you get Deep Blood.


Not quite Band of the Hand. More Band of the Deep (Light) Blood.


Maybe writer Raffaele (Raf) Donato had read King’s tale, because Deep Blood begins with a group of boys sealing a blood pact when a Native American warns them of an evil force, and offers them a symbol-clad, carved baton which holds the secret to vanquishing the monster from whence it came.

The film then fast time-leaps into the boys’ college freshman years, and the sudden emergence of a great white threatening both lives and the tourism industry, especially the regatta (heavily cribbed by Mattei in his opus). Mid-film, a helicopter with a sharpshooter supposedly kills the beast (also cribbed), and like Jaws, when a hasty mayor thinks the waters are safe, danger threatens the regatta! When one of the boys is killed, his pals dig up the baton and the knives used in the blood pact, and as the symbols are deciphered, the trio head out into the water, and similar to Brody, Quint, and Hooper, shovel chum to lure the shark towards them.

For the finale, sinking a boat was beyond Deep Blood‘s budget, so taking a nod from Jaws and Jaws 2 (1978), the shark is to be blown up with charges surreptitiously concocted and handed over to the group by a criminally-minded pal in a scene eerily reminiscent of Mickey Rourke giving William Hurt a bomb near the denouement of Body Heat (1981). Whereas Mattei skipped any explanatory scenes as to how his goofball characters acquired their bomb (it’s the same yellow blinky-blinky toy fire hydrant), he cribbed footage of divers setting the bomb and the explosion, but there are major stylistic differences in how each filmmaker tackled their respective rip-offs.

Mattei’s made-for-video nonsense is a melange of incoherence, moronic dialogue, and wan gore, whereas D’Amato and Donato aimed for a more linear, coherent story with one very strange decision: focus almost exclusively on the boys’ friendship.

Feeling overwhelmed early into production, Donato reportedly stepped away from his lone directorial assignment after the opening scene, and although D’Amato’s cinematic canon includes gore and porn, he maintained Donato’s tonal restraint and odd style by sticking to a persistent use of cutaways, such as one boy + then next boy + first boy + reaction shot + smile + another boy + more reactions, etc. Composer Carlo Mania Cordio fixates on these scenes of friendship by plastering a treacly main theme which further reinforces the PG nature of the film.

There are girlfriends and bullying by high school educated, local punks, but whereas the morons and bimbos in Mattei’s riff get blown up early into the production, the punks in Deep Blood quickly recognize group strength gained by virtuous acts, and all band together; even the mayor’s son, who in any other genre riff would be a preppy asshole, sticks with his blood brothers and never demeans or shrugs anyone because of social or economic stature.

Donato and D’amato’s cross-cutting approach does extended and pad montages, but it’s also part of the filmmakers deliberately dropping the girls and any T&A from the story; D’Amato, who’d made gialli, thrillers, gialli thrillers, horror, porn-veiled horror, zombi-intestine-slopping-porny-smut, porn drama, and hardcore porn could’ve rewritten the script after Donato left the director’s chair, but he didn’t, and that’s perhaps why this tepid, mediocre Jaws rip-off has a bit of merit: for whatever reason – perhaps purely economical and logistical – it feels as through D’Amato followed the script’s intended design, maybe as a personal challenge amid a busy schedule of more vulgar productions, or stuck with the shooting script to get it done, and move to the next production start date.

Like Mattei’s toothy idiocy, Deep Blood seems to have been cast with locals and unknowns, but poking through group of largely one-timers are husband & wife comedy & character actors Charlie Brill (TV’s Silk Stalkings) and Mitzi McCall (TV’s Laugh-In and countless voice work in animated shows & feature films).

It’s also well-shot – unsurprising to fans, since as Aristide Massaccesi, D’Amato was a fine cinematographer on several genre classics, including the nasty giallo What Have You Done to Solange? (1972), and the foamy Exorcist rip-off The The Antichrist / L’Antricristo (1974) – and it’s well-cut by Kathleen Stratton, D’Amato’s longtime editor in straight, soft, and porn outings.

Composer Cordio’s grating main theme is nicely contrasted by super-synthy action & suspense cues, where bass and some nice abstract rhythms add solid atmosphere to otherwise mediocre scenes. Cordio’s filmography is very D’amato-centric, plus a few duds by Bruno Mattei (rip-off Shocking Dark / Terminator 2), Claudio Fragasso’s dim-witted Troll 2 (1990), and Sonny Boy (1989), and a bizarro tale of extreme child cruelty that killed the film career of Robert Martin Carroll.

Severin’s transfer is very nice, and the mono sound mix is especially bouncy, with Cordio’s music enhanced by some subwoofer sonics. Pity Severin wasn’t able to include a bonus CD of the score, as was the case with Cordio music for Lucio Fulci’s Aenigma (1987), but perhaps the music elements were nowhere to be found.

The sole extra – a trailer – slices together every major plot beat, leaving little of surprise. The film comes nowhere near the terror and high fun of the poster art, but like connoisseurs of the similarly prolific Jess Franco, D’Amato’s fans can scratch off another title from their Ultimate Rip-Off Want List.



© 2021 Mark R. Hasan



External References:
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