To describe 1982’s Blood Tide (also known as Bloodtide) as a monster movie would be sort of like describing Ridley Scott’s seminal Alien as a movie about cats. There is a monster, yes, but it has a total of maybe 45 seconds of actual screen time. So while the fine folks at Arrow Video may call this a “thrilling tale of sea monsters and sacrificial virgins”, monster fans are going to be sorely let down.
Instead, go into this expecting something more along the lines of The Wicker Man. We’ve got an island with strange locals and their stranger customs, missing girls and SOMETHING that must be kept satisfied at all costs. Except with less Christopher Lee. And less burning. And definitely far less bees.
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The story follows two couples. Neil (Martin Kove) and Sherry (Mary Louise Weller) have just arrived at the island, looking for Neil’s artist sister Madeline (Deborah Shelton) who has dropped out of contact with them. Meanwhile, already on the island, is the pairing of bubbly blonde Barbara (Lydia Cornell) and grumpy, hard drinking, Shakespeare-quoting archaeologist/treasure hunter Frye (James Earl Jones) – and that really that should be enough for any cinema fan. Jones steals every scene he’s in, dominating it with sheer force of personality. Frye and Barbara are here looking for treasures beneath the sea but rather than ancient hidden riches they end up releasing something older. Something hungrier. Something that their effects budget simply couldn’t cover.
I strongly suspect a lot of the monster’s absence is down to the frankly, uhm, let’s just call them ‘unconvincing’ creature effects. There’s limited articulation on display and some decidedly unconvincing flesh/bone effects. I’m not entirely sure what look they thought they were going for, the effigies in the village would suggest something wolfish, but instead it looks more like a horse that’s had an unfortunate encounter with a threshing machine. Given that Alien was pants-wettingly terrifying when it was made three years prior there’s really no excuse for it beyond a simple lack of money to make anything better.
Where the film shines, though, is in setting up a skewed, unreal atmosphere. There’s always a feeling of tension, of inexplicable dread that permeates every sun-drenched scene. The locals exchange one too many knowing looks, and have conversations in quiet corners that always seem to end just as our protagonists approach.
Moving on from the film, let’s talk about this specific release. The cleanup job is, as usual, a thing of beauty. Colours are vibrant without being overwhelming and there’s a great level of detail on display. The mono audio soundtrack is crisp and clean, with none of the muddiness that often plagues movies from the 70s and early 80s. There’s not a great deal to be found in terms of special features, but for a lower budget feature like this that’s perhaps not surprising.
There’s an audio commentary with director/co-writer Richard Jefferies and a new interview with producer/co-writer Nico Mastorakis and that’s pretty much your lot! Purchasers of the first print run will also get a collectors booklet that gives more insight into the movie but really that’s for hardcore fans only.
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Blood Tide is an odd little film. Storywise there’s simply not a lot to really recommend it, but it’s the actors that lift it up. Jones is mesmerising in every scene, Deborah Shelton is captivating as Madeline, tormented by dreams and half-understood secrets, and Ferrer brings authority and gravitas as he confronts these uppity tourists who have invaded his island and tried to dictate what he and the others should do.
Is this worth picking up? I suspect perhaps one for genre fans only. If you like your films a little strange and unsettling then this is likely worth a look. Those who prefer a bit more wham-bam-explosions-and-gore in their films, on the other hand, will find this a rather tedious affair and should look elsewhere for their monster fix.
Blood Tide is out on Blu-ray on 25th May from Arrow Video.