Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Black Water Gold (1970)

The subpar version I watched was
in this four-pack DVD set.
Black Water Gold (1970)
Director: Alan Landsburg
TC4P Rating: 4/9
Species: blacktip reef sharks, Caribbean reef sharks

Let's get this over with quickly, shall we? A full 55 minutes into this not wholly dull ,made-for-television, deep sea treasure adventure, we finally get a glimpse of sharks in the water. After several diving sequences and some other watery action, a plan is hatched by one of the heroes to get the native population of the island to lightly chum the water with fish remnants from their fishing boats, thus attracting a handful of sharks to keep the villains out of the water where the hero knows the treasure is hidden. What seems (I'll explain in a moment) to be a blacktip reef shark or two, and then a reef shark of the Caribbean variety, show up to grab a quick snack and drive the baddies off for the nonce. The film doesn't make the sharks look menacing at all; in fact, they are only filmed from above the water, and are literally onscreen for less than 45 seconds, and after a couple of throwaway lines regarding the creatures -- such as "Nobody dives when those babies are in the water!" -- the movie resumes its focus on treasure diving.


What a strange combo of
films for a DVD.
When I say "seems to be", I mean exactly that -- the film is titled Black Water Gold, and while in the context of the film this refers to the type of water under which the treasure ship is sunk, it really should refer to the quality of the print which I had to endure to wait 55 minutes to see just 45 seconds of crappy shark footage that could have been shot in equal quality by an epileptic third-grader with a Fisher-Price PixelVision. As it turns out, it was shot by Andrew Laszlo, who did turn out a handful of decent films through the 1980s, and was even nominated for an Emmy for his work in Shogun a decade after this film. And I really can't fully criticize the cinematography anyway, because it seems the main problem with watching the film lies in the quality of the print that was transfered to DVD. And that was likely transfered from VHS. And who knows? Maybe they just recorded it off of TV in the first place.

A handful of people on IMDb talk about what a great movie this is and how they remember it fondly from their youth, and I won't trample on their memory. I will say, however, that because the film is rather short (about 73 minutes), Black Water Gold feels like it is missing at least one act -- namely, the second half of Act II and the first half of Act III. There is some murky underwater action, that thankfully (or not) is narrated by the hero so we can understand what the hell is happening, and just when there should be a final confrontation with the flamboyantly evil Bradford Dillman, the movie just ends. The villains are in the custody of the cops, and the heroes await their eventual payday. There are any number of made-for-TV movies (most of them ABC product, too) from my youth that I recall fondly, and many of them are fine to watch again, except that they do seem a tad truncated when viewed anew. Having to fit most often within a ninety-minute (though sometimes two-hour) time slot in the schedule probably had something to do with this.


DVD image found on Amazon.
But the guy on IMDb who mentions something about how there are "plenty of hungry sharks" on hand? He is clearly a front for the fellows who put out this DVD, which comes backed with a copy of Mako: Jaws of Death (which I will be watching next -- I have already seen it numerous times, so I know it will fulfill the shark action quotient I desire, but hopefully the print will be better, too). It's actually from a cheap-ass four-movie set called Into the Deep, and naturally they try to lure the shark-loving viewer in with a picture of a shark (a great white) that doesn't even actually appear in any of the movies in the DVD set! Boy, are we suckers! (I didn't even mean to rent this film; I was after Mako, but since they are on the same disc... what the hell...)

At least the movie is competent enough and has a few good lines from Dillman, even if supporting star Ricardo Montalban does not have very much to do. You can't really fault it for a lack of sharks, since that is not what the movie is about, and the connection only comes from a video company 37 years after the fact. And the one thing, besides the sharks, that the film is deeply, deeply lacking are more glimpses of Lana Wood. Maybe her older sister Natalie didn't swim so well in the end, but Lana could have swum laps around everything else in this film as far as I am concerned.

RTJ