The seventies are chock full of badly rendered ripoffs of Jaws, each trying with varying amounts of success to reproduce the rabid popularity of the monster hit of 1975. Just as I love me some bad sharksploitation films, so too do I adore watching these shit shows.
The formula is basically to replace the Great White Shark with any…and I mean ANY other animal. The plot and characters remain pretty much the same. The public brought their feathered hair and high-waisted-jean camel toes in droves to see killer grizzly bears, squid, piranha, bees, whales and alligators. It was a terrific time to be a kid. (I was born in 1974. I am old but also got to grow up in a time when camel toes were acceptable so who’s laughing now, huh?)
I decided to revisit Barracuda, which was released in 1978. I vaguely remember seeing this movie in my childhood but there is no possible way my feeble underdeveloped mind could have appreciated the atrocity it truly is. It’s a major bait and switch. The promotional material drew in viewers with the promise of watery carnage at the hands of monster ‘cudas. There is a little of that. Very little. The movie is really about The Lucifer Project. Now, that title might draw in a whole other crowd, salivating for the promise of Satanic monster ‘cudas!
You get neither.
This movie is bananas. I can’t even say that I mean that in a good way. It marries two really batshit ideas into one film yet presents the most anemic version of both of them. The setting is the town of Palm Cove, touted as the “Lobster Capital”, and home to Papa Jack’s Chemical Company. Divers get attacked right away and you get a good idea of the quality of the movie you got yourself into right out of the gate. Basically, the barracuda are made of rubber or perhaps they’re puppets. Fuck if I know. The victims sort of get whacked in their body parts with these prop fishies while someone chucks in some red food coloring. Sometimes you see footage of real barracudas swimming around serenely, about as menacing as a microwave burrito.
A marine biologist and a sheriff look into the attacks and figure out that all the fish in the area are saturated with weird chemicals from Papa Jack’s factory. Oh, okay. This is more than a Jaws ripoff! This is an environmental movie! Oh goodie.
The characters and plot are extremely slow. I take back everything I said about Jurassic Shark being the cure for insomnia. I stand corrected. I always knew that Quaaludes were big in the 70’s and that is very clear to me now.
Close to the end of the film, the biologist discovers that the town’s doctor has written riveting books with snazzy titles like “Low Blood Sugar and Violence” and “War and Diet”. He’s part of The Lucifer Project. As a Satanist, I’m offended that they brought his name into this, only because the entire premise of the project is a giant snoozefest and a huge waste of a good name. The doctor is infusing chemicals into the water system that create hypoglycemia. People and fishes can no longer absorb nutrients and are essentially starving to death. This explains why the ‘cudas are hungry and munching on the good people of Palm Cove. Also this tends to create hostility and aggression, which is all a diabolical plan of the government to make people welcome war into their lives. Yah, that’s right. The super duper evil project straight from the bowels of hell is all about making people “hangry”. Sigh…
As I mentioned, I vaguely recall seeing Barracuda when I was a child. I have no explanation why I would ever remember this since it’s perhaps one of the most forgettable movie experiences one can have in one’s lifetime. Most likely, I was just latching on to the teat of the Jaws coat-tail movies, hoping for the sweet mother’s milk of the terror I got from the original sharksploitation masterpiece.
I was not a normal kid.
Nevertheless, if you should have trouble sleeping tonight, I highly recommend this one.
See ya next time!
Director: Harry Kerwin
Where to watch: Amazon Prime