I have a weakness for cheesy, "so bad they're good" low budget horror, sci-fi or action movies. I watch'em so you don't have to!
"Blood Tide" (1982)
Starring: Martin Kove, Lydia Cornell, James Earl Jones, Deborah Shelton, Jose Ferrer
Directed by: Richard Jefferies
"Blood Tide" certainly sounded like a promising enough film when I found the DVD at the dollar store years ago, and it certainly didn't hurt that Lydia Cornell's name was above the title. In case you don't remember Miss Cornell, she was best known for her role on the early '80s sitcom "Too Close For Comfort" as "Sara Rush," the bubbly, bimbonic daughter of Ted Knight's character, cartoonist Henry Rush. I hadn't thought about her, or the show, in years, but like most red-blooded American teenage boys of the early '80s, I had a major crush on her when I was in junior high. As an added bonus, since this film was set in the sunny Greek islands, I figured that if I bought this movie there was a pretty good chance I'd get to see her in a swimsuit. (Yes, I am fully aware of how shallow that sounds. Don't bother pointing it out.) On that note, "Blood Tide" was a "SCORE!!" but as a horror fanboy hoping to see some gory monster hi-jinks, this movie turned out to be (as my kids would say say) an "epic fail."
In the film's opening sequence we are taken on a flashback to "ancient times," where we witness the inhabitants of a Greek island sacrificing a virgin to some kind of mysterious sea monster in a secluded cave. We then flash forward to the present day, and meet a young American couple (Martin "Sweep the legs" Kove of "The Karate Kid" and Mary Louise Weller) who are sailing to that same island. They're newlyweds so this trip serves double duty as a honeymoon and also because they're searching for Kove's sister, an archaeology student who has been out of contact with her family for several months. The inhabitants of the island are not terribly friendly to the American newcomers and suggest they leave immediately. Our tourists ignore these warnings of course, and eventually they locate sister "Madeline," who is played by early '80s uber-babe Deborah Shelton, of TV's "Dallas." Madeline has taken up residence at a convent atop the island, where she restores ancient artworks, says very little and generally acts very strange. Madeline seems nonchalant about seeing her brother again and doesn't seem to care whether or not he hangs around. If I were Kove's character at this point, I would've said "Oooookay sis, fine, great to see ya, bye," and left her there, but of course he feels honor bound to get his sister away from this island of weirdos and take her home. During this process Husband and Wife also meet "Fry," a grizzled, hard drinking, Shakespeare-quoting treasure hunter (played by James Earl Jones of all creatures!) and his assistant Barbara (the aforementioned Lydia Cornell, in full on "bubbly blonde beach bunny" mode). The pair make their living by diving in the waters around the island looking for coins and other relics. During one such diving expedition, Fry uncovers the underwater cavern we saw in the prologue and makes the mistake of blowing it open with dynamite, thus freeing the Unnamed Evil From the Past (smooth move there, Fry).
From there... well, you can probably write the rest of this movie yourself. Now that the monster has been awakened from its slumber, the islanders are required to offer it a human sacrifice to satiate its centuries-long hunger. Three guesses who they want to use for that honor? Madeline, of course. Can our heroes rescue her from the jaws of certain death without becoming Monster Chow themselves?
Unfortunately the "horror" elements in this film are underwhelming, to say the least. You only see the "monster" on screen for about ten seconds, tops, and when you finally do, it looks like a soggy Muppet. The acting is mostly terrible, the pacing is slow and the dialogue is cringe worthy. The only reason I even sat through this entire film was because the female cast members were all hot as Hell, and they weren't wearing much. James Earl Jones puts in a better performance than the film deserves (his deep, rich voice makes even the most hackneyed B-Movie dialogue sound like Masterpiece Theatre, of course) and Jose Ferrer (as the Mayor of the island, who of course knows more than he lets on about his hometown's dark secret) is suitably sinister, but horror fans looking for shocks and action will be severely let down by "Blood Tide." The scenery (both of the island, and of the female cast members) is nice to look at, but even though the flick's run time is a mere 80 minutes, it felt like twice that long.
Whatever happened to Lydia Cornell anyway?
I assume that the copyright on "Blood Tide" must have lapsed and the film is now in the Public Domain, since it's available from dozens of different bargain-bin video labels, and can also be seen in its entirety on YouTube. If you do buy this movie (and I am not for a moment suggesting that you do), you can save yourself a lot of pain and suffering simply by fast-forwarding to the part where Lydia Cornell practices yoga on the beach in a skimpy outfit, and then pressing "eject" as soon as it ends. I think the filmmakers threw that scene in just for me.
I have to wonder if the cast of "Blood Tide" signed up for the movie just to get a free vacation to the Mediterranean. I'm sure the experience was a blast for them, but the end result is torture for the viewer!
© 2017 Keith Abt