Quint on QT6 flicks BLUE WATER, WHITE DEATH and DARK AGE, the Australian JAWS!!!
Published at: Sept. 13, 2005, 5:54 a.m. CST by staff
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with what I'm assuming will be my only big report from QT Fest. I figure between Harry and Moriarty you have the fest pretty well covered since we're all seeing the same movies.
I have to talk about two films of the fest, though. I have no shame when it comes to my love of JAWS. I got lambasted for talking more about JAWS than grilling for upcoming movie info when I was lucky enough to have been given access to the set of WAR OF THE WORLDS and a chance to hold a conversation with Spielberg.
JAWS is my favorite film and has been since childhood. I love the characters, the effects, the pacing, the camera tricks, the inventive cinematography, the music... everything. I even love those JAWS ripoffs like ALLIGATOR and PIRANHA and GREAT WHITE.
I had no idea what the fuck DARK AGE would be when I saw it listed as the closer for the Australian night. I certainly didn't expect it to be a horror movie. I was maybe expecting more of an action film or a drama with a title like DARK AGE and what I got was the Australian JAWS.
On the surface the movie is more of an ALLIGATOR or LAKE PLACID, especially the last act where it becomes more about saving the killer crocodile instead of killing it, but the film mirrors JAWS in some uncanny ways. That's not to say it rips the film off. There are some stolen moments and imagery, but for the most part DARK AGE is its own thing.
Tarantino's print was brilliant, lab mint 35mm with perfect color and next to no wear. All that made the impact of the film even more for me considering the brilliant cinematography in the film. This was one of Andrew Lesnie's early films. For those that don't immediately recognize that name, Lesnie shot Peter Jackson's LORD OF THE RINGS films as well as the upcoming KING KONG and both BABE films. His work on this little killer croc movie is phenomenal and elevates the film out of being Z-grade trash.
His work isn't the only thing that elevates the movie. The acting, directing and effects are also very well done. The leads are John Jarratt and Nikki Coghill both Australian actors with a great amount of charm. Coghill's got a cherubic face and is definitely a looker.
The real success of the movie is its balls to the wall nature. DARK AGE's version of the Alex Kintner (boy on a raft) death is an Aborigine child of maybe 2 or 3 years of age. The set up is Coghill sees this child, one she plays with a lot, playing in the water and also sees this giant crocodile, perhaps 20 feet long, surfaced and slowly, so slowly, moving towards the playing child. She shouts and starts to run forward. The way they shot the scene, of the croc moving closer and closer and Coghill running faster and faster you expect a last minute save, but what you get instead is a close-up of the child seeing the croc and crying followed immediately by the croc consuming the child. It must have been a dummy, but if it was it was an incredibly realistic dummy that got its head crunched while being swallowed whole.
Early on in the film, we were introduced to some evil poachers who take the opportunity to kill any reptile in Australia when the order is put out to kill the maneating crocodile. These bastards quickly become the villains of the movie and you find yourself rooting for the croc to take them out in vicious ways.
There's also an aborigine angle. This crocodile is sacred to them, so they do what they can to save the animal, including helping the concerned Jarratt (who plays a kind of animal control officer) to find, trap and move the croc to safety. The aborigines are represented mostly by Burnham Burnham (who was in HOWLING 3), an old man with big white beard and a helluva face, full of major character, and David Gulpilil who I recognized at once from CROCODILE DUNDEE (he was also in WALKABOUT).
I don't think this movie is readily available, but if this somehow gets picked up for DVD release (Anchor Bay, are you listening?) I strongly recommend giving it a watch.
The other film I'm going to talk about is the 1971 great white shark documentary called BLUE WATER, WHITE DEATH, which showed tonight, the second film of a documentary double feature.
So, you're going out on a many months long oceanic voyage to capture the first real footage of Great White sharks. You bring with you scientific minds, award winning skin divers, shark experts, skilled underwater cameramen, a still photographer and... a folk singer?
No shit... There's a folk singer who joins the expedition and only pops up every 25 minutes or so to sing us a high-pitched folk song while strumming a guitar. That's bizarre, to say the least, but part of the documentary's charm.
This film is great and has some of the most amazing footage of sharks I've ever seen in my life.
I was talking to Harry after the movie saying that in this day and age of seeing so much Great White footage on TV (hell, you get a week of it on Discovery every year), I didn't expect to see much that blew my mind here, but goddamn is this footage raw and intense. You don't get Great Whites until the very end, but in the meantime you follow the group as they tail a whaling vessel. You see them harpoon these poor sperm whales, see them spout blood and die... This footage was really getting to me and you can tell it was getting to the crew following the whalers, too.
However they needed the carcasses to draw the sharks in, so they follow the whalers and drop their shark cages next to the bloody mass as the white tips and blues come cruisin'.
It's around this time that someone gets the bright idea of "Hey, how about next time we get out of the cages and swim with the sharks! We'll get better footage." This whole sequence was intense, as these 8 to 10 feet long sharks get curious about these intruders and start surrounding them. There are perhaps 6 people in the water and about 2 or 3 dozen large sharks. There was more than one point in this long sequence that I expected someone to lose an arm or a head. In particular there's this one shot of one of the cameramen intently filming a shark in the distance as a 10 footer slowly aims his pointed mouth at his bare neck only swerving away at the last second, brushing his hair. I bet the cameraman didn't know how close he came to potential disaster until he saw the footage himself.
By the time the group gets to the Whites off the coast of Australia (naturally) I thought that sequence wouldn't be topped. I was wrong.
The movie is built so well that by the time you see the Whites cruise in the movie shifts into high gear. The excitement of the crew is your excitement, the terror as Valerie Taylor sees her husband, Ron, decide to get out of the cage while no less than 2 giant whites are in a feeding frenzy is your terror. She says, "What is he doing?!? Get back in the cage!" and that's exactly the words on your tongue. You see the scale of these big fish as they bite at the cages and realize that a man would easily fit in the stomach of this creature... whole. You see the detail, how blood is pushed out of the sharks' gills with each bite of the bait... crazy stuff.
As a JAWS geek it was also fascinating for me to watch the style of JAWS beginning in this movie. I knew that Ron and Valerie Taylor shot the live underwater shark sequences in JAWS for Spielberg, but Tarantino said before the film that Spielberg also based a lot of the visual style of the underwater photography on what is in BLUE WATER, WHITE DEATH. You can see it, too. The type of blue of the water, the shafts of light that penetrate the water's surface, the design of the shark cage. Lots of that began in this film.
If you can stand the folk singing this is truly shark geek porn. I don't think I've seen footage of Great Whites to this day that tops what they show us in BLUE WATER, WHITE DEATH. They were the first and still the best... There's a moment where a Great White gets tangled up on a bait line attached to a shark cage and goes nuts, dragging the poor still photographer all around the ocean trying to get free. The power shown is amazing and awe-inspiring.
Plus you have to see this movie for the complete asshole moment where Ron Taylor sneaks up on a sleeping baby sea lion. Poor little bastard!
Anyway, I had to write about those two movies. You might see a best of QT 6 report from me before is all said and done, but no matter what I knew I had to put my feelings down for these two, which were so up my alley it isn't funny.
Gotta crash and get ready for more QT Fest! Good night, squirts!