As kids, four boys were warned with an anecdotal tale of an ancient Native American spirit that took the shape of a killer shark malevolently stalking and killing the native villagers for their overfishing ways. Now adults, the four friends pursue very different lives as all four return home for the summer with interests in rebuilding family relations, girls, colleges, and avoiding the local punk, Jason, hellbent on making their lives miserable, but when a shark turns up and kills one of them during a solo dive, they recall the ancient tale and sound off to the authorities who take little heed to the incident. Their small beach community thinks they’ve killed the man-eating shark causing the ruckus, but when more chewed up bodies color the ocean red, the friends must take the task upon themselves to see the shark never devours anyone else again.
Italian shark-on-a-loose romper helmed by the legendary serial Italia horror and erotica trash filmmaker, Joe D’Amato (“Emanuelle in America,” “Anthropophagus: The Grim Reaper”), cashes in on the monster, man-eating shark celluloid frenzy with an uncredited directorial of the 1990 sharksploitation, “Deep Blood.” Originally to be Raffaele (Raf) Donato’s directorial debut, the George Nelson Ott script was salvaged by the then producer and cinematographer D’Amato after Donato’s change of heart and professions in the film industry. “Deep Blood,” that went under working titles “Wakan,” the designation for the Native American evil spirit, and just simply “Sharks,” was shot mostly with an English cast in the sunshine state of Florida with various underwater scenes filmed in Italy. D’Amato’s production company, Filmirage, supported the film in collaboration with Variety Film Production that has dipped it’s toes into another killer shark flick, Enzo G. Castellan’s “The Last Shark,” which some footage was utilized for D’Amato’s film nearly a decade later.
“Deep Blood” circles around the opening of four friends innocently having the time of their lives with a normal ocean side firepit, roasting wieners, being told horrifying campfire stories of the black finned Wakan by a mysterious Native American (Vans Jensens) who hands them a relic piece of oblong driftwood with noteworthy carvings about Wakan and slicing their wrists to make an impromptu blood pact to fight against Wakan whenever the time comes. You know, the usual stuff you do with your friends. As grown men, Miki (Frank Baroni), Allan (Cort McCown), Ben (Keith Kelsch), and John (John K. Brune) find themselves back home, reunited to only have their friendship ripped to shreds when John becomes Wakan’s tasty snack on a solo dive. Ott’s script really, really, and I mean really, tries to add depth to the characters, such as Allan’s spoon-feeding Mayor of a father handing out life advantages to his son every possible moment or with Ben who struggles between fulfilling his parents’ wishes of going to college or starting his professional golf career. There’s also some backstory about the death of Ben’s sibling at sea that has had some psychological torment on his father, Shelby (Charlie Brill, “Dead Men Don’t Die”). D’Amato crumples up character development like a piece of scrap paper and shoots a fade away jumper into the waste basket. My personal favorite in the shallow end moment is the local lout and head of a gang, Jason, who senselessly disparages the four friends, for whatever reason we don’t know, acutely 180’s from I’m-going-to-kill-you to becoming a good friend (out of respect?) and takes an active participation in hunting down the shark. All the relationship dynamics seem to just culminate right into the big, explosive deep-dive and pursuit for shark blood in the guys’ booty shorts and cut off sleeve shirts. Talking roles are aplenty but nothing worth the empathy or sympathetic emotional baggage surrounding the remaining cast of characters played by actors James Camp, Margareth Hanks, voice actress Mitzi McCall, and Tom Bernard as Sheriff Brody…I mean, Cody.
Only slightly echoing acts of Steven Spielberg’s flawless “Jaws,” “Deep Blood” also begs, borrows, and steals scenes to piecemeal together a semi-coherent story. In the wild Great White shark snippets from National Geographic video clips and shark scenes plucked and reused straight from another Italian schlocker, there lies a nonexistent sliver of thought in creating an original piece of footage that puts the resemblance of a monstrous shark and an actor in the same scene together with D’Amato relying burdensomely on editor Kathleen Stratton to handle the fragmentary bits of different look and feel shots and turn it into single profit linear narrative gold. But honestly, what do you expect? D’Amato was to be the director of photography but ended up in his lap directorial duties, taking on the extra work like any good producer. Many of the shark attack scenes are spliced together with the actors bobbing and turning up and down in the water with the iconic bubble and splash sequences that solidly create the allusion and the illusion of a frenzied blood bath, but some locations are blatantly amiss shots, especially those of the actors snorkeling and scuba diving inside an obvious aquarium vivarium in clearly an exterior beach scene, that are more of a blow toward our intelligence than anything else. When the movie magic shark finally does make an appearance, a rigid, clean cut, my 9-year-old nephew could draw better shark effects sells little amazement, wonder, or pelagic terror of the open water. “Deep Blood” is a see-it-to-believe sharksploitation disaster-piece with the Joe D’Amato Midas touch.
Luckily, seeing every story blighted nook and cranny and experiencing all the dysfunctionalities between characters have never looked better with Severin Films’ worldwide inaugural Blu-ray release of “Deep Blood.” Newly scanned in 2k from the original 35 mm negative and presented in a pillarbox 1.33:1 aspect ratio with a high definition 1080p transfer, the image clarity is about the only thing flawless in the film with natural looking color grading for a richer hue presentation. Aside from the wonkiness of equipment quality differences with Nat Geo’s stock footage, there wasn’t much in the way of image imperfections aside from faint speckle damage and a slight scratch briefly visible in one of the later scenes. Details are phenomenally crisp in the face, as you see every sagging wrinkle on Van Jensens’ mug, and even the slight white capping of the waves renders clearly across. The English language 2.0 mono track features a clean, discernable dialogue albeit some slight hissing. Carlo Maria Cordio’s synthesized score doesn’t invoke fear of the water, but does contribute to the Italiano-charm of D’Amato’s underwater thriller with a seducing melody of lo-fi chords to accompany the shark attack scenes. Optionally, a parallel Italian track provides a dub that isn’t typically as elegant in syncing with American actors. Special features for the 91 minute film include a trailer and a listed multi-region playback; however, I could get the disc to play on the region B setting. If you’re a shark film aficionado like myself, no matter how undeniable cheesy (and I’m looking at you “Bad CGI Sharks”), then “Deep Blood’ is an enjoyable serrated chomp into a chum soaked sandwich good to the last morsel.