45 Years Ago: ‘The Deep’ Almost Bellyflops


Probably the most essential issues to recollect about films is that it is extremely laborious to make a great one. A movie can have every thing going for it – an thrilling story, a great director, star energy, a terrific location, an exceptional advertising marketing campaign and all the remaining – and nonetheless not sniff greatness, as a result of it lacks that one final thing.

Name it magic, name it luck, name it the contact of destiny: If it is lacking, a movie’s not going to totally succeed. For an instance, look no additional than The Deep, which was arrange in the summertime of 1977 to be a mega-hit and succeeding solely in being mediocre.

The movie’s beginnings, like a lot of ’70s cinema, lie with the exceptional success of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws two years earlier than. That movie had been based mostly on a novel by Peter Benchley, made by a trendy director and featured an adventurous water-born story. So why not use all of these components once more?

Columbia Footage purchased the rights to Benchley’s follow-up novel about treasure looking off Bermuda. They employed Peter Yates to direct, who had a variety of fantastic motion films on his resume, together with the basic 1968 Steve McQueen car Bullitt and the 1973 Robert Mitchum gem The Buddies of Eddie Coyle.

Additionally they solid a mixture of established and up-and-coming actors to provide The Deep each avenue cred and buzz: Robert Shaw, who had given an all-time nice efficiency as Quint in Jaws; Eli Wallach, who was by no means lower than stellar in any of the 90-some movies he appeared in; Jacqueline Bisset, whose it-girl appears to be like belied her critical appearing chops; and Nick Nolte, who had just one different large function movie to his credit score however was clearly on the cusp of stardom.

Watch the Trailer for ‘The Deep’

Launched in the summertime of 1977, The movie that includes all of this expertise follows a younger couple named David Sanders and Gail Berke (Nolte and Bisset), who uncover what seems to be a chunk of treasure from a sunken Spanish galleon after they’re diving off the coast of Bermuda. On the identical dive, additionally they discover what seems to be a small ampule of morphine from a sunken World Battle II cargo ship.

They take the gold to native treasure hunter Romer Treece (Shaw), who finally helps them uncover that as a result of the 2 ships sank roughly on high of one another, the Spanish gold has been coated by the World Battle II wreck. Sadly, the morphine attracts the eye of a Haitian drug-runner named Henri Bondurant (Louis Gossett Jr.), who is set to carry up the remainder of the cargo of morphine and promote it on the road.

Bondurant torments the younger couple with some voodoo shenanigans till they and Treece conform to carry the morphine up and promote it to him. When he finds out by means of a neighborhood rummy named Adam Coffin (Wallach) that they are extra enthusiastic about salvaging the treasure than his medication, nonetheless, Bondurant takes two of his henchmen out to the dive website to kill them. As an alternative, Bondurant is killed by an enormous moray eel that haunts the realm, and the nice guys get away with the treasure.

Though the film would not work, it isn’t for a scarcity of making an attempt. The Deep was filmed on location in Bermuda, and the entire major actors (together with Yates) realized to dive so they might shoot their very own underwater scenes. A few of these have been shot at depths of as much as 100 ft, and Nolte and Bisset both survived doubtlessly deadly moments within the course of.

To expedite filming of the sequences within the World Battle II wreck, a million-gallon pool was constructed to function an underwater soundstage. As a result of a lot of The Deep was set within the water, new know-how was invented for the movie, together with a rig whereby a Panavision digicam might shoot underwater, and 5,000-watt underwater lights.

Watch the Fundamental Title Scuba Diving Sequence From ‘The Deep’

Due largely to an $8 million ad campaign – which included pilfered photographs of Bisset in a see-through teeshirt, in addition to a Marvel comic-book adaptation ­­– The Deep turned a revenue on its launch. However all of the promotions, all the cash and all the trouble on the a part of the actors and crew could not fairly cowl up the truth that the film is resoundingly flat.

The issues begin with the story, even though a primary draft of the script was written by Benchley himself then polished by screenwriters Tracy Keenan Wynn and Tom Mankiewicz. The trope of two ships wrecked one on high of the opposite would possibly work in a novel, the place there’s limitless room for exposition, however it turns into deflating in The Deep. Slightly than specializing in both the gold-hunting storyline or the morphine-salvaging one, the plot bounces aimlessly from one to the opposite.

Nor does The Deep do nicely with its particulars. There are actually some good underwater sequences, however an excessive amount of of the remaining by no means comes collectively. The enormous moray eel feels gimmicky – like a grade-school knock-off of the shark in Jaws – and exists within the movie solely for the aim of killing the unhealthy man within the last scene.

Bondurant’s voodoo sequences are half-hearted at greatest: at one level he tortures Berke by dipping a rooster foot in blood and rubbing it on her abdomen, which is actually disagreeable, however not likely a trigger for a screaming breakdown. Regardless of the two-hour-plus runtime, there may be neither any actual character growth nor any sources of inside battle between them. The individuals who need the medication are unhealthy, and the individuals who need the treasure are good – and it is all simply as bland as that.

In the long run, the monetary success of The Deep saved its short-term repute. Yates went on to direct the great Breaking Away, and lots of different movies. The actors all continued reserving good roles. Wanting again, nonetheless, it is clear that the film got here uncomfortably near changing into the form of flop that will have put a critical dent in folks’s careers – as a result of making a great film is a tough factor to do.

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