TOT TERRORS: THE BERMUDA DEPTHS (1978) – and wow, is there a SEQUEL in the works?
I often get asked about what influences my work as a writer. Inspired by the amazing website Kindertrauma–which is right up my alley–I’m compiling all of my childhood (and some adult) terrors.
In 1978, the ABC Friday Night Movie aired The Bermuda Depths. It was billed, in the original TV Guide full page ad, as a frightening mystery surrounding the Bermuda Triangle—a hot topic back in the In Search Of-cryptid-paranormal-UFO-obsessed decade that was the 1970s. I didn’t know this then, but it was written by Alan Rankin, produced by Jules Bass (yes, the Rankin/Bass behind Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer) and directed by Tsugunobu (Tom) Kotani of 1977’s The Last Dinosaur fame—which meant creatures and creepy imagery, and it would certainly deliver.
In the 1970s, my family had a pop-up Coleman Camper—a Valley Forge, for those of you who remember Coleman’s series named after battles of the Revolutionary War (remember, it was the bicentennial decade). When we weren’t using it at a campground, it was set up at the top of the driveway for use as a sort of “playhouse” and “summertime sleeping area” for us kids. The gas wasn’t hooked up, but there were extension cords running from outside plugs on the house providing electricity. There was also a nine inch black and white TV with “rabbit ears.” We got three channels—not very clearly—and one of them was Channel 7, the ABC affiliate. My brother and I popped popcorn and got ready to watch.
After we did, I was pretty sorry. We slept in the camper that night, and every noise in the woods woke me up and freaked me out.
What’s really odd is that this program, according to multiple sources, aired in January of 1978. We wouldn’t have had the camper set up outside at that time, as it was winter, but I clearly remember watching this on the small red TV outside. So two things are possible: A, it’s persistence of memory—meaning I’m confusing this with another film that scared me which aired in the summer, and I DID watch this, but on our television indoors; B, it aired a second time in the summer—which would’ve been possible even if I can’t locate a record of that. For you young’uns, there wasn’t a whole lot of new programming on in the summer. Series seasons, television premieres of theatrical films, and original movies ran from September through May or June, and in the summer, it was all re-runs. ABC very well could have aired this that summer.
Like many of the commenters on the Kindertrauma entry for this (check it out here: https://www.kindertrauma.com/the-bermuda-depths/), this movie and its scary imagery haunted the back of my mind for years, like a half-remembered nightmare. Although I was certain that I had indeed seen a movie, I couldn’t remember the name of it, anyone who was in it, or what it was about, except for some scary monster from the sea.
In 2002, I started work on a complete catalog of sea creature movies. I wanted to track them all down and own them. Keep in mind, this was still in the very early days of DVD, so most things were still on VHS. It was the early days of Amazon, the early days of Ebay, the early days of the internet (it’s certainly not the information playground it is now). Email was unreliable, and if you ordered something, you honestly didn’t know when (or if) it was going to arrive. In fact, many times, you had to order something online and then mail a check to the person or company or call them on the phone to give them your card number. I’m really not kidding.
At any rate, to help me in my search, I bought a book at my local Borders (this was not only before they went out of business, but a couple of years before their shelf-stock became extremely poor—I could go there and find a book on just about anything; it was better than the library). I bought Creature Features: The Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Movie Guide, by John Stanley, and I read the whole thing cover to cover (interested? Check it out here: http://a.co/4Q6b2xh). There were a few entries that caught my eye, among them this one:
It was the giant sea turtle that made me think this could be the film I was looking for, and the timing was about right. I remember calling my local video store, where I had a lifetime membership, to see if they had it, which they didn’t. I did turn to the immature internet (back then if you had it at home it was kind of big deal; I did) and I managed to find someone who had VHS copies for sale (I bought Barracuda from the same guy), I think on Ebay. Here’s a photo of the videotape he sent me, which I JUST converted to DVD and tossed recently.
Sure enough, it was the movie I remembered, but A, it wasn’t at all scary, and B, the ending was lame. Ahh, persistence of memory. But in a recent re-watch, I’m thinking I might be able to do something with the whole idea of a Jenny Haniver—even if it’s just telling people about it at the Ray Touch Pool at the aquarium.
On one lasting note—in poking around looking for stuff I found a listing on IMDB for a film called Back from the Bermuda Depths, with the same tagline as the original (info on that is here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4040660/). It’s still in development and has a release date of 2018. Who knows? Interesting to think about, though. That WOULD be cool and I’m sure many of us who were traumatized by this film wouldn’t miss it!
Posted on August 7, 2017, in Deep Thoughts & Fun Stuff, Horror Movies, News, Tot Terrors and tagged 1970s creature features, Connie Selleca movies, Jenny Haniver, movie with giant sea turtle, ocean folk tales, Rankin-Bass movies, sequel to the Bermuda Depths, The Bermuda Depths. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.