I know we’ve got a whole huge thread to discuss the MST3K episode and the livestream and all but I want to stop and talk about the movie itself.
I think this is the first MST3K movie where I just don’t understand what anyone is actually trying to do. Well, almost anyone.
Usually, even if it’s poorly written and acted and everything, I can piece together the intent behind it. The motives. The narrative thread. But this movie is just… I don’t even know.
East Eddie is a local crime lord who just saw his first major success, having killed the previous local crime lord and taken his place. He’s young and ambitious, and all he wants to do is expand his power (turf, wealth, influence, etc.) no matter whom he has to exploit or kill to make it happen. Okay. I get that. Fairly boilerplate, but it makes sense.
Logan is… a guy who lives on this unnamed island. Just a broke nobody trying to get somewhere. All he cares about is money, and he’ll do anything to grab more for himself no matter what. He’s not even one-dimensional. He’s a single point.
Dr. Vernon is a science lady who doesn’t actually have a specific field of study and is also sexy. She’s not an archaeologist or an anthropologist. More of a historian, maybe? She has this old mask in the museum’s collection that came from the Minoan era of Crete’s history, and she wants to know what happened to the tribe that made it. Except she pretty much does know what happened to them. But also she thinks they might be from Atlantis even though they’re Minoans from Crete. Anyway, the mask is made with pearls and she overheard these guys talking about pearls so there must be a connection! Even though it’s 3000 years later and they’re on a different island and pearls are all made from oyster secretions. Anyway, she only speaks English. But somehow she’s able to translate Eddie’s words from English into Slow English so the islander can tell them where to find the right Manuel. Her job is museum curator, but her self-described life’s work is to find the tribe and learn about them and she’s made no progress at all until she happens to overhear Logan’s meeting with Vic. But once she actually meets the tribe, they want nothing to do with outsiders. So she gives up after trying twice, and then agrees to blow up their temple for some reason. Also, due to Movie Law, she falls in love with Vic even though they’ve basically got nothing in common and have known each other for like two days.
Vic is a guy who owns a boat. He’d like more money, but he has his limits and a modicum of morality. He’s Our Hero, but he doesn’t actually do much of anything. Still, being Our Hero, the women are compelled to instantly fall in love with him. Then again, given their other options, you can almost see why they’d settle for him.
Manuel is a fisherman who ferries supplies out to the tribe and gets paid in pearls. Despite having done this repeatedly, he doesn’t actually know what pearls are worth. Whatever. He’ll take whatever he can get in life, as long as it’s not too much trouble.
The tribe are… Uhm… Well, they’re apparently maybe possibly the descendants of Atlantis? But at no point is that confirmed, and at no point are we given any information about the fate of Atlantis, how the tribe came to this island, what their connection is to the pearls, or why they do literally anything that they do. They’re very good swimmers. And most of them have weird bug eyes for some reason. The tribe is highly inbred. Mostly because they kill all outsiders. (Except for Eddie’s crew, who are allowed to come to the island and take all the pearls.) But they have guest huts for some reason. Which are a safe zone (except when they’re trapped with a pit trap that was apparently dug overnight in utter silence and then filled with bloodthirsty crabs). At no point do we learn why they don’t accept outsiders or what it is they don’t want outsiders to see, learn, or take.
The island is… somewhere. Crete is in the Mediterranean but the movie was filmed in the Philippines, which are on the edge of the Pacific ocean, clear on the other side of Asia. Most of the water is safe to swim in, but they have one pond of fish which definitely are not piranhas (because those are native to South America) but will devour any animal in a matter of seconds. The fish are called “cannibal fish” because even though they don’t eat each other they do eat people. Apparently, a lot of the Filipino Greek islanders are named Manuel.
Nereus is the king of the tribe. Or whatever title they use. He’s the last man with human eyes. But he says that the tribe are no longer the same species as humans. But they are able to breed with humans and they look and act human except for the eyes and the fact that they can stay underwater for an unspecified length of time even though they don’t have any kind of gills or anything. Probably they’re just pearl divers who can hold their breath a long time? Anyway, Nereus is played by George Nader, who was also in Robot Monster and The Million Eyes of Sumuru, so welcome to the MST3K Hat Trick Club.
Syrene is the daughter of Nereus and the only woman with human eyes. Her job is to breed with an outsider so as to get some fresh material in the gene pool. She’d rather run away from it all, but Vic doesn’t want to marry her on their first date and she’s not interested in Eddie, Logan, or Manuel. Can’t really blame her there. But her dad says she has to have sex with one of them that week. Which I guess means that he’s aware that she’s ovulating? And he expects her to get pregnant on the first try and carry the baby to term and that one baby will be enough to repopulate the tribe even though they don’t seem to have kids? So she lures Vic to the bottom of the ocean and then kisses him right on the SCUBA mask while the others throw a net around them. Vic gets the bends or something. The doc thinks maybe Syrene is a Greek Siren, who were
monsters who appeared to be women, who used magical song to lure men to their deaths women who could make men feel euphoria and then black out. Apparently, the islanders have sex underwater for some reason, and I guess she got pregnant from their first try? But it’s not actually ever mentioned. Because Patrick Wayne insisted that the film be PG (which is also why there’s no swearing, very little gore, and no topless scenes, despite being a Filipino exploitation film). But apparently implied rape was okay.
So… Eddie’s crew could come to the island and collect pearls and leave as long as one of them had sex with Syrene (a condition they were not made aware of). And apparently pearls like that don’t grow anywhere else. But instead of taking a good haul back home, selling it off, and then coming back next year to harvest more, they were overcome by single-mided greed. The whole reason the pearls are valuable is that they’re extremely rare, but these guys are just going to flood the market with an entire suitcase of them in one go.
The tribe desperately need to expand the gene pool. But they don’t want anything to do with outsiders. Syrene is allowed to go with Manuel to get the supplies, and thus can meet any number of men on that island. But she has to choose from the guys who came to the island to plunder it. Because she absolutely has to have a baby this year no matter what. For some reason. The tribe will kill anyone who invades except these guys. And also their only weapons are big pointy sticks that they use as crude spears, they have no defenses whatsoever, and they have no strategy to deal with guns. The island’s sole source of income is from the pearls, but they don’t do anything to actually protect those. Nigel from Spinal Tap put more thought into the Druids than the writers put into this tribe.
With Syrene’s death… Uhm… I don’t know. Is it just that Nereus is depressed and grieving? Or is it that she was the only fertile woman the tribe had left? Are all the bug-eyed ones (including the men)infertile? Nereus only cares about getting some outside genetic material without allowing the outsider to interact with the tribe in any other way, and he doesn’t care what means are used to make that happen. So it seems like they could have used just about anyone.
Nothing about this makes any sense. I can’t even really put a plot together. Manuel sells the pearls to Eddie, but Eddie doesn’t bother finding anything out about Manuel or how to find him. So instead he gets Logan to recruit Vic, but Logan doesn’t know how to be subtle about it so Katherine joins them. And they all go to the island. But none of them can make sense of what the tribe is doing because nothing the tribe does makes sense and we’re never given a reason for it. So they blow up the temple and kill the princess and leave with all the pearls, but of course they’re all so greedy that they end up throwing the pearls overboard and everyone laughs.
There’s supposed to be a romance, but there isn’t. There’s supposed to be action, but there isn’t. There’s supposed to be a plot, but there isn’t. There’s supposed to be some level of characterization, but there isn’t.
I just… what is even happening here?
I can’t even formulate this into a sensible post. I just end up with as much of a confused, disjointed ramble as the movie itself.