Friday, July 06, 2012

A Little Lighthouse Keeping

The less you know about SH! THE OCTOPUS going in, the better it works. That said, even after several viewings of this fast-paced comic mystery from Warner Brothers, I’m not tired of it.

As original and goddamned crazy as it seems, SH! THE OCTOPUS (one of cinema’s great titles) is actually a remake of the play and the film THE GORILLA, except with an octopus (natch). It definitely isn’t admired by everyone, but I love the film’s chaotic energy, striking camerawork, amusing performances by hams Hugh Herbert and Allen Jenkins, and—most of all—one of the craziest damned plots on record.

By the by, don’t bother following the plot too closely. Just allow its dreamlike qualities to soak over you, much like the thunderbumper splashing down on bumbling detectives Kelly (Herbert), whose wife is expecting a baby any minute, and Dempsey (Jenkins) the night they’re summoned to a mysterious lighthouse. What do they find there? How about a bloody corpse hanging from the top, a hook-handed old salt appropriately named Captain Hook (George Rosener), an enemy submarine, poison gas, and a multitude of secret passages and trapdoors?

And, oh yes, a giant octopus with impossibly long tentacles that emerge from the lighthouse’s hidden panels to snatch unsuspecting victims. Screenwriter George Bricker ensures that a good number of strangers just happen to drop by an abandoned lighthouse during a torrential storm to serve as cannon fodder for the murder and mayhem happening under Dempsey’s and Kelly’s clumsy noses. Almost nobody turns out to be who he or she initially claims, and although nothing in Bricker’s densely packed plot seems to make any sense, rest assured all will be explained in the twist ending.

SH! THE OCTOPUS is just straight-out fun, not to be taken the least big seriously. The cast approaches the material with exactly the right spirit, and director William McGann (who never directed another horror movie) demonstrates deft comic timing, particularly an explosion that buttons the third act. The movie is just 54 minutes long and is so frenetic that another second may well have unraveled the whole thing.


The Goodkind said...

This sounds really fun, and yes the title, too good. I'll have to get a copy of this and see it myself.

VoyagerG said...

I agree, this sounds like a hoot! One of those rare cult classics!