Sony Pictures | 1977 | 125 mins | Rated PG
It seems safe to say that author and screenwriter Peter Benchley will always be best known for Jaws, his 1974 bestselling novel that he subsequently turned into a screenplay with Carl Gottlieb. Of course, Jaws was directed by Steven Spielberg and became one of the first modern box office blockbusters. On the heels of that success, The Deep, an adaptation of Benchley’s novel of the same name was released. Written by Benchley and Tracy Keenan Wynn (the grandson of Ed Wynn), The Deep isn’t a terrible film, it simply fails to capture the thrill and excitement that made Jaws such a major success. Further, perhaps in their efforts to capitalize on Jaws‘ box office performance, the filmmakers (or the studio) released a cut of the film that clearly needed better editing.
Nick Nolte and Jacqueline Bisset play a young couple named David Sanders and Gail Berke. While vacationing in Bermuda, the two stray off course while scuba diving. As luck would have it, they stumble upon the remains of a World War II vessel, The Goliath and find two kinds of treasure–a Spanish medallion and an ampoule of morphine, one of thousands being sent to the front lines of Europe. Realizing they’ve found some valuable loot, the two decide to bring the treasures to the surface. Unfortunately, they soon find themselves in the crosshairs of Henri Cloche (Louis Gossett, Jr.), a local Haitian crime lord; Cloche asks the couple if he can purchase the morphine; when David and Gail deny his request, Cloche begins to threaten them.
David and Gail visit famed treasure hunter Romer Treece (Robert Shaw, in one of his final film appearances). Reece secretly steals the morphine while chatting up the pretty but worthless Spanish medallion. After David and Gail are assaulted by Cloche and his men in an attempt to recover the morphine, Treece joins forces with the couple to collect the morphine (to buy off Cloche) while investigating the ruins of an 18th century treasure ship. However, unbeknownst to Romer, his pal Adam Coffin (Eli Wallach) is giving information to Cloche behind Romer’s back.
As an adventure, it’s hard to say that The Deep really falters in one particular area. The film has action, intrigue and suspense; it’s just that none of those characteristics are elevated beyond the ordinary. Nothing happens that really takes hold of the audience and makes them feel like a part of the story. That is really what separates Jaws from this film; Jaws was so full of energy and suspense that the audience had no choice but to become part of the adventure. In contrast, while The Deep is enjoyable enough to watch, it fails to make the audience feel like a part of the story.
Though The Deep is lacking in the story department, the film features some positively breathtaking underwater shots. These shots help the film to overcome its occasionally slow pacing. The underwater sequences reveal the myriad of dangers the characters face as well as coral-encrusted and corroded steel, colorful fish and other ocean life. Unfortunately, the land sequences are a mixed bag of everything from solid action to undeniable bore. While it seems like the screenwriters tried to create a cohesive story, the whole thing comes across as to bloated and detail oriented to be given the status of a great film.
In terms of the acting, Louis Gossett, Jr. and Robert Shaw deliver memorable performances; Eli Wallach, though his part is quite small, does solid work as always. Though Nick Nolte is tanned and in great shape here, he looks like he’s mailing it in and though Jacqueline Bisset had done some memorable work in prior films, she is clearly here for titillation and when it comes to The Deep, fans will remember her revealing opening sequence.
The Deep delivers a good, but not strong, story. The underwater sequences are memorable and fans that enjoy Robert Shaw and Louis Gossett, Jr. will not be disappointed. As long as you’re not expecting another Jaws, The Deep on Blu-ray wouldn’t be a bad way to spend a couple of hours.
The Deep comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p, 2.40:1-framed transfer. The transfer boasts strong details throughout; most impressive are the long-distance Bermuda shots that open the film. They feature strong, clean images of the green land masses and the houses that dot them, surrounded by shimmering blue waters. The primary action takes place underwater and those scenes flourish. They offer strong color reproduction, the many shades of clothing, mesh bags, scuba gear, and the many colorful creatures that swim by stand out in every frame. Treece’s home features plenty of warm colors and wooden accents and decor that look a bit soft in the background but otherwise help to create an inviting, nicely-rendered locale. The transfer also delivers decent blacks and flesh tones. A fair amount of grain may be seen over the image. It’s rarely presented heavily enough to be a distraction. There are a few pops and a bit of debris scattered here and there but it’s in very good shape. Overall, this Blu-ray release of The Deep delivers an impressive transfer of a 32-year-old catalogue title.
The Deep is fitted with a fairly good Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack. The presentation manages to deliver suitable content throughout, beginning with a string-heavy opening title score that flows naturally and pleasantly into the listening area with strong, but not overbearing or awkward, rear-channel support. The track creates a solid sense of submersion From here on out, the track offers plenty of fine sound effects that play across the entire soundstage. The creaking metal of the ship; the shifting of its perilous position on an underwater cliff; the constant, deep sound of the water pressure; and various other niceties; create a fine underwater atmosphere that greatly benefits each such sequence that otherwise delivers minimal sound. On the surface, sound effects don’t pack much of a presence and dialogue is often hard to hear at reference level and requires that you turn up the volume. However, the track also features a few good instances of rumbling bass. A slight audible hiss accompanies the soundtrack but it still does the job.
The Deep does have some special features:
• The Making of The Deep (1080i, 48:40) Narrated by star Robert Shaw, this piece looks at the “danger, challenge, excitement, and fear” of making an aquatic-based film. Topics include the number of dives required to make the film, shooting underwater and with real derelict ships, the danger of natural predators to the cast and crew, the performances and professionalism of the cast, filming some of the dangerous stunts, and much more. The piece also contains plenty of archival and behind-the-scenes footage and cast and crew interview clips.
• Six Selected Scenes from the 3 Hour Special Edition (1080p) Romer Treece’s Disposition (1:06), Treece and David Harassed by Cloche’s Goons (2:12), Pillow Talk (6:22), Extended Conversation between Cloche and Treece (3:22), Treece’s Past Revealed (5:19), and Prologue: The ‘Goliath’ Sinks (3:09).
• BD-Live Functionality (This wasn’t enabled at the time of my review).
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