How does a rat end up on a substation at the bottom of the ocean? Maybe it got on board before the station was lowered or somehow or another it ate its way into a storage bin and was placed on the ship. Or better yet, maybe it was a pet one of the crew snuck into their suitcase and it escaped one night and they didn’t tell their supervisor because it would get them fired (even though who is going to fire someone 30,000 leagues under the sea)? Instead of being entertained and taken away in cinematic paradise, I kept pondering such mysteries, trying desperately to make sense out of this 1989 aquatic thriller from the B-movie killer Roger Corman.
They say only 5% of the Earth’s oceans have been explored, but 95% of all hit movies are ripped off (or barnacled) by the Poseidon-sized King Corman. Once every so often certain years will have a movie theme and 89 was the year of the underwater tankers (literally, one worked and the others sank to Davey Jone’s locker). Two graduates of the Corman Film School (Gale Ann Hurd and James Cameron) were about to swim the high seas with their action/thriller The Abyss, but floating nearby were a couple of knockoff turds (or were they Baby Ruth’s?) like Deepstar Six, Leviathan, and The Rift a.k.a Endless Descent (starring Chuck Steakroast himself Reb Brown), but the big kahuna of group goes to Lords of the Deep. Although only 5% of this movie actually shows the ocean (or the cameraman filming through a dirty fish tank) this film does score points in its accuracy of what the year 2020 would be like (small ozone layer, depleted natural resources, COVID, corporate cheapness) and I am surprised it does not get the recognition today for its strong liberal mindedness for the time (blow it out your scuba tank Reganomics).
It’s the year 2020 and the world is void of so many resources mankind must dive deep into the oceans to try and save the world… oh, yeah, and make more money. The team of the undersea laboratory is desperate to find new ways to save the planet (I mean could the rat have jumped off a boat and swam into the toilet tubes?) and are trying every experiment they can muster. One such scientist, Claire, even experiments on herself, risking the lives of the crew in order to save Earth (I guess the need for the many rats outweighs the many or the few in the subways?). However, her connection to a new source material unknown to humans allows her to telepathically connect to creatures in the ocean with really red eyes (don’t rats have red eyes?) and float around like angels (Did Corman the teacher read Cameron the student’s script beforehand?). Are they here to harm us? To help us? Can rats tread water for three days at a time? All of the answer comes at the end of the movie and everyone soaks in the warmth of their friendship, except answering those rat questions that gnaw at the brain waiting for the movie to tell us something deep and pacific!
Waving on by at seventy-eight minutes, and directed by Mary Ann Fisher (who went on to produce classics such as The Bloody Monks and Bloodfist VIII: Trained to Kill), this film features a neat cameo by Corman and was one of the first films lensed by Frequent Spielberg cinematographer Janusz Kaminski (although his footage was so good it had to be left out for not matching the bad stuff!). You can find this streaming on Tubi or Shout Factory channel, but make sure you get the Scream Factory BD which features the MST3K episode of the film. So hydrate yourself with a bottle of Dumb water, crank open a can of fried Chicken of the Sea, and jump into the deep end of the pool with this bloody good splasher, just know sharks can smell blood in the water (I think rats can, too)!