Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. USA/United Kingdom, 1977. Casablanca Filmworks, EMI Films. Screenplay by Peter Benchley, Tracy Keenan Wynn, based on the novel by Peter Benchley. Cinematography by Christopher Challis. Produced by Peter Guber. Music by John Barry. Production Design by Anthony Masters. Costume Design by Ron Talsky. Film Editing by David Berlatsky. Academy Awards 1977. Golden Globe Awards 1977.
The success of Jaws meant that Peter Benchley’s follow-up novel would also find its way to the big screen, another adventure story with plenty of excuses to get characters into treacherous waters. Nick Nolte and Jacqueline Bisset play a married couple on vacation in Bermuda who enjoy scuba diving and, on one particular dive, come across quite the treasure trove: a sunken ship that contains both priceless relics and a huge collection of morphine ampules. They team up with a local islander (Robert Shaw, casting that blithely ignores the character’s ethnic background in the novel) who is also a treasure hunter and can help them solve the mysteries behind both discoveries, but it isn’t long before a local gangster (Louis Gossett Jr.) is after them for to get the medication that he can sell at a high price. Now an average couple is plunged into extraordinary circumstances that they could escape by going home, but find it difficult to walk away from the giant fortune that they can step into, provided they survive the bad guys. A clever narrative is taken quite faithfully from the book but without much spirit, the many sequences playing without intensity and the movie, while gorgeously shot, is rarely particularly exciting. At the time of release it made quite the splash (no pun intended) thanks in small part to audiences anticipating more of the kind of thrills that Steven Spielberg had provided two years earlier (and to be fair, there are a few moments involving some toothy underwater predators), and in very large part to the huge stir caused by Bisset’s opening scenes in a very revealing wet shirt.