By the late 1970s, Roger Corman had already produced a pair of Jaws ripoffs -- one (Piranha) quite entertaining and the other (Up from the Depths) not so much -- and the uber-producer was about to set his sights on sci-fi with flicks like Battle Beyond the Stars, Galaxy of Terror, Forbidden World, Android, Space Raiders, etc. But that didn't stop the notoriously prolific schlock-master from pumping out one more low-budget tale of waterlogged horror and wet, sticky ickiness.
One can almost hear the brief pitch meeting for 1980's Humanoids from the Deep (aka Monster), and it probably went something like this: "Remember the Creature from the Black Lagoon? Well, let's get a dozen of those freaks and this time we make it real gory. Oh, and instead of grabbing some chick in a 1958 bikini, our lagoon monsters are a lot more volatile. And by that I mean horny. And by that I mean humanoid reptiles raping naked human women. Plus a local cannery is to blame. They poisoned the water with chemicals and yadda yadda, etc."
And bang, Roger Corman was impressed.
The flick's problems are numerous: from the limp and predictable "environmental" subplot to the choppily-inserted kill scenes, there's really not a lot of meat on the Humanoids' bones. The design of the creatures is a clear indication of the silliness on display here. For example, most sci-fi monsters have a vulnerable spot that somehow gets discovered by accident. In The Blob it was cold, in War of the Worlds it was germs, and in Signs it was (duh) water. In Humanoids from the Deep, you know what the monsters' Achilles heel is? They're vulnerable to huge whacks on the head. Anything lying around will do: a 2 x 4, a pool stick, a life preserver. It's odd that the potential victims figure this weakness out only at the end of the film, given that the Humanoids' heads are huge, goopy, soft-looking cauliflower things. But that's asking a bit too much logic from a film that aspires to be nothing more than Horny Creatures from a Cheap Lagoon.
On the plus side, Doug McClure makes for an affably bland hero type, Vic Morrow has some fun as a strangely evil fisherman who supports the new cannery plan (uh oh), tons of curvy gals, and a strong early score by James Horner. Soon-to-be effects masters Chris Walas and Rob Bottin do the best they can on limited funds, but the creatures look best in scenes that are dark and/or overladen with seaweed. Many of the carnage scenes were reshoots, incidentally, which explains why A) they're mostly shot in broad daylight, and B) the creatures look a whole lot goofier because of it.
Overlit, tacky, and brutally slapped together in the editing room, Humanoids from the Deep is nobody's idea of a "good" film -- but if you're looking for some grade-B Corman mega-cheese that was tailor-made for an eager drive-in audience, there's still a little bit of charm to be found here. Despite all the rapings and devoured children and murdered doggies and a final splatter scene that comes straight out of Alien ... which is where Roger Corman was headed next anyway.
Once again, Shout! Factory presents a grimy old flick in a new-fangled high-definition format, and man it almost looks like a real movie. (The underwater scenes are particularly beautiful.) As far as extras, this package is missing the audio commentary that we found on Piranha, Galaxy of Terror, and Forbidden World, but there's still plenty to (ahem) chew through. First up is a seven-minute reel of previously unseen outtakes, some of which lack sound but do not lack female nudity! (As if the film itself didn't offer enough bouncing boobs.) Brand-new is a 22-minute retrospective featurette that offers some fascinating behind-the-scenes anecdotes from Roger Corman and several cast / crew members. Also included is a four-minute chat between Corman and Leonard Maltin from a few years back, some radio and TV spots, a collection of posters, stills, and trailers, a nifty reversible DVD cover, and a booklet with some liner notes from DVD producer Michael Felsher.
Bottom Line: Even on the Corman scale of quality, Humanoids from the Deep is a decidedly lesser effort -- but that's not to say you won't have some fun. There's a cockeyed charm to the film's bizarre mixture of monster mania and rampant rape, which is the sort of thing that only a Roger Corman production could pull off.