The Deep

As a member of the illustrious entertainment press, I have been fortunate during my 22 year tenure to be part of some exciting stories. One of those events even changed my life, and the way I live it. In August of 1976 I was invited by producer Peter Guber to a press junket for the film “The Deep.


deep” Press junkets are usually held after the film is completed and ready for release, but Guber wanted the press to experience the filming conditions of the second Peter Benchley novel to reach the screen. The production company had constructed a 30 foot deep underwater tank where they shot most of the film’s action scenes and interaction shots. It had taken five months for the production company to build the set consisting of two underwater wrecks, one a World War II freighter and the Spanish Galleon underneath it. Guber and Columbia Pictures flew us to Bermuda, where we met the film’s publicist, who handed us our itineraries and explained that we would be diving with the cast and crew to experience the wonder of “The Deep” ourselves.

The tank was built to take advantage of the island’s actual water sight line, so from certain angles you can’t tell where the tank ends and the real ocean begins. The tank had been stocked with tropical fish for realism, and the water was a little warmer than the actual ocean, adding to the comfort level of the stars and crew. I was familiar with the cast.

I had been a fan of Jacqueline Bisset for years, and Robert Shaw was super hot coming off the success of “Jaws.” The fact that he was starring in another Peter Benchley vehicle was not lost on anyone. Nick Nolte was new to films, but had blown America away with his performance in “Rich Man, Poor Man.” I had never snorkeled before, much less SCUBA dived, but we were given a quick run through of what was expected of us and emergency instructions in case there were any problems. There were no problems.

As we lowered ourselves into the tank and then submerged, a whole new world opened up for me. Maybe it was a womb thing, but I loved being totally submerged in water. Hey, I was even breathing. I instantly fell in love with the idea of SCUBA or skindiving. They couldn’t keep me out of the tank. The moment I put on the mask and breathing apparatus, I was someone else. Diver Dan from my childhood television days. I even had my picture taken holding a sea cucumber, which ended up on a local diving magazine back in 1977 when the film came out. I loved diving so much that the next time I visited Hawaii, I spent a week on Maui becoming certified with Central Pacific Divers.

I don’t know how many times I’ve been diving since, but all I know was that “The Deep” left a big impression on me. Oh yeah, the film was pretty good too. Actually, “The Deep” is my video reminder of a better time and place. The film makes me feel good every time I watch it, and it’s current incarnation on DVD brought back a flood of memories. Nick Nolte and Jacqueline Bisset are quite engaging as a young couple spending their vacation diving the wrecks off a tropical paradise. When David (Nolte) and Gail (Bisset) stumble across some mysterious vials, their find piques the interest of local black-marketeer Cloche (Louis Gossett).

Cloche knows that the vials are morphine, the lost cargo of a World War II medical freighter that disappeared off the coast. Unknowingly, David and Gail turn over the vial to local treasure hunter Romer Treece (Robert Shaw playing a thinly disguised Mel Fisher) when they seek his assistance on a medallion they also found on the wreck. Treece is puzzled by the medallion, but recognizes the morphine, and hides it from David and Gail. Fearing that Cloche will attempt to secure the remainder of the morphine and turn it into heroin, Treece decides to blow up the wreckage. That is until he learns that the medallion David and Gail found is a missing link to a mysterious wreckage that could yield fame and fortune for all involved.

That means Treece must put Cloche off long enough to salvage the treasure, a task that proves deadly when one of Treece’s long-trusted friends Adam (Eli Wallach) double crosses him. Filled with double crosses, close calls and some of the most beautiful underwater cinematography ever filmed, “The Deep” was pure Benchley, who had a hand at writing the screenplay before it was handed over to Tracy Keenan Wynn and eventually Tom Mankiewicz.

Director Peter Yates filled the screen with breathtaking action and adventure, putting the actors and thus the audience in the middle of the proceedings. The underwater scenes are as authentic as they come, while the action on the tropical paradise is just as riveting, including a motorbike chase on a narrow road, and a no holds barred fight that includes a rather nasty spinning propeller. The cast was excellent.

Nolte and Bisset felt like a couple, while Shaw was absolutely winning as the old sea salt who knows his stuff. You’ll be enthralled with the film’s attention to detail, it’s exciting combination of suspense and romance, and the gorgeous cinematography that pulls it all together.

COMPLETE CHECK-UP

VISION: [ X ] 20/20 [ ] Good [ ] Cataracts [ ] Blind

Time has been very, very good to the original negative of “The Deep.” The pristine print makes an excellent digital transfer, and the proof is in the pudding. The 2.35:1 widescreen transfer (the flipper disc also includes the full screen version) is incredibly sharp and vivid, displaying bright, natural colors, expressive flesh tones, and sold blacks and clean whites. The shadows are especially accommodating, never wavering or fading. The color saturation is excellent, from the comforting azure color of the ocean, to the warmly lit interiors that makes good use of Earth tones. There are some noticeable compression artifacts, but not nearly enough to warrant any more mention. Instead, the digital transfer offers compelling imagery with exquisite attention to details. The field of depth is especially strong.

HEARING: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Minor Hearing Loss [ ] Needs Hearing Aid [ ] Deaf

Outstanding 2.0 Dolby Digital Surround soundtrack features impressive high and low ends, a distinctive dialogue mix, and exciting ambient noise that makes the underwater scenes sound realistic. John Barry’s lush, adventurous score pours through the speakers with clean, clear sound. The stereo split is good but not definitive, but considering that the film is more than 20 years old, very expressive. The soundtrack really rocks when Donna Summer sings the title tune (I have to admit that I still have my “The Deep” soundtrack from Casablanca Records, the one on see-through blue vinyl), while the basses are strong but not overpowering.

ORAL: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Good [ ] Poor

Subtitles in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean and Thai.

COORDINATION: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Good [ ] Clumsy [ ] Weak

Not much here except the handsome main and scene access menus, which make navigating the DVD easy.

PROGNOSIS: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Fit [ ] Will Live [ ] Resuscitate [ ] Terminal

Hold your breath and prepare for the dive of your life.

VITALS: $29.99/Rated PG/126 Minutes/Color/28 Chapter Stops/Keepcase/#01689

ATTENDING RESIDENT: John Larsen

PATIENT: THE DEEP

BIRTH DATE: 1977

HMO: Columbia-TriStar Home Video



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