Made-for-tv film (1978). ABC television network. Rankin/Bass Productions-Tsubura Productions. Directed by Tom (Tsugunobu) Kotani. Cast includes Burl Ives, Leigh McCloskey, Connie Sellecca and Carl Weathers. Written by William Overgard from a story by Arthur Rankin Jr. 100 minutes, often cut to 90 minutes. Colour.
Something of an oddball companion film to The Last Dinosaur (1977), The Bermuda Depths offers a fairly complicated plot for a US television film of the period, mixing sea Monsters, ghost stories and the Bermuda Triangle into a star-crossed romance of sorts. Magnus Dens (McCloskey) left Bermuda around age ten upon the sudden, mysterious death of his father, a marine biologist. Returning a decade later to try and resolve lingering emotional issues, he starts work for Dr Paulis (Ives), another Scientist who knew his father well. He has not been on the island long when he meets Jennie Haniver (Sellecca) on the beach, a stunningly beautiful young woman who hints that she may know something of him: in a flashback, the audience is shown Magnus and a juvenile Jennie watching a sea turtle hatch. Paulis informs Magnus that the lady must have been kidding him, since "Jennie Hanivers" are fake sea monsters such as mermaids which have been sold to tourists for generations; Magnus does not believe this. Reports of a sea monster in the general area interest both Dens and the professor's assistant Eric (Weathers). Magnus presses Paulis about his father, and the older scientist finally relents, telling him that when Magnus was ten Dr Dens was killed – and apparently eaten – in the grotto laboratory beneath the family's seaside mansion home. Shortly afterwards Magnus re-encounters Jennie, who entices him into an undersea cave where (it is strongly implied) she seduces him. The local folk all continue to swear that no such young woman is known on the island.
Despite objections from Paulis, Eric convinces Magnus to accompany him on a search for the sea creature still being reported. Armed with an especially powerful harpoon-cannon with an unbreakable line, they set sail without the doctor's knowledge and encounter the beast, a prehistoric giant sea turtle which Eric wounds seriously with the harpoon. Paulis arrives by helicopter, too late to stop them, as Jennie emerges from the sea on to the ship. Enraged, the turtle manages to bring down the helicopter, and also damages the small ship beyond repair; Eric, entangled in the harpoon line, is dragged into the depths. Jennie confesses to Magnus that she is not completely human, having (it seems) made a pact with the devil when her own ship was sinking during a hurricane in the 1800s. This spared her but has forever bound her to the ocean, and, apparently, a series of giant sea turtles over which she has some control and to which she leads victims. Jennie saves Magnus and gives him a loving if heartbroken last look as he lies unconscious on the beach, before returning to the ocean. Magnus leaves Bermuda vowing never to return, while Jennie's name is shown on a cemetery marker in a real-life Bermudian graveyard for those lost at sea.
Special effects are poor save for the turtle itself, which was well done for its time. The Bermuda Depths, one of several 1970s semi-sf films dealing with the Bermuda Triangle, had a powerfully haunting effect on younger viewers. Sellecca was never lovelier than as the doomed Jennie, villainous yet compelling some sympathy; this was her first film role. [GSt]
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