Really feeling the old with this one, but i don’t really care since it’s one of the few – as far as i know, the only – monster movies about a killer manta ray. And thankfully it’s so old that it is in the public domain (in the United States at least) and can be found at the Internet Archive… at least in his edited version released in 1946, which was apparently more focused on South Seas drama and also supplemented the 20 minutes of material cut from the original with stock footage of native girls, half dressed ones, which was oddly a loophole for the Hays Code prohibition on nudity by considering them “etnographic scenes” of “native” life (the parenthesis doing a lot of lifting here).
The old art of technically correct nudity, the best kind of nudity.
Also, in a similar fashion to Universal’s treatment of their monster movies back in the 30s, there was a different Spanish language version shot back-to-back, called El Diablo De Mar, which also used some of the same actors and footage from the 1936 english speaking version, upon which we’re basing this review, and which can be found on Youtube at the time of writing.
The plot concerns a rescue team sent to pick up possible survivors of a shipcrash that happened years ago, finding a lone man that has settled on living with the natives, and after he refuses to leave with them.. they just kidnap his ass anyway, the fuckers, and he gets revenge by leading them to the lair of the titular “devil monster/sea fiend”, which they fuckin deserve because the heroes are such horrible people, and a real prime cut of “only in the 30s”. Thankfully so.
Obviously there’s a comic relief fat guy with mismatched nickname (here “Tiny”), wouldn’t be it swell if it wasn’t, alongside horribly aged stereotypes, and of course “natives” with improbable accents (the tribe chief has a Romanian accent, for whatever reason) played by actors that sure as shit were native to Burbank, at best.
But there’s also an explicable segment about an octopus attacking and being attacked by fish, including a moray eel, all framed as a “water show” interlude the islanders wanted to show the american guys, instead of what it is: padding the runtime with animal stock footage.
Actually, worse, since its staged animal cruelty AND desperate padding. What a combo.
Ok, let’s confess, this is a some fossil shit, i mean, there are some classics old movies, and this one ain’t one of them, though there is a limit to my lamentations, since it’s a 30s monster movie from a minor studio, you can only expect so much, and it’s no real surprise that for the most part it’s this adventure with romance set in the “tribal jungles” (meaning there’s also tribal-liturgical dancing of the maidens, obvious) that just happens to have a monster more than being about the titular creature.
And the choice of killer animal in itself really show the age of the film, only in the 30s a manta ray could pass as a menacing animal… i think, there was enough ignorance to actually believe this creature was any harm to humans. So fuckin stupid, as is the scene where the creature… attacks, i guess, the movie has never been restored to any good quality, but either way it’s a joke. A bad one.
I’m not too angry at this one as even as a waste of time it’s barely over 1 hour long, but still, even for the time this one it’s pretty bad, boring, it uses WAY too much stock footage and sometimes it’s hard to tell if they actually filmed scenes for the movie or reused footage of fishermen working, so cheap Devil Monster/The Sea Fiend is, and expecially thanks to the many random acts of animal cruelty (and the “Sea Fiend” itself isn’t spared of any of that) i really don’t recommend going out of your way to fish out this coprolite necklace of a film about Mantyne abuse.
Some movies are just better forgotten, after all. Especially when you’d wish some of its many despicable characters (especially the “heroes”) got what they deserve, but nobody does. Puah.