THE BERMUDA DEPTHS: One Cinephile’s Movie Memories Finally Reach the Surface

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Randall Martoccia has graciously agreed to write the first guest post ever for Judgmental Observer. Having a guest writer makes me feel important, like I’m too busy to write for my own blog. So while my servant boys feed me grapes and massage my feet please enjoy this guest post:

Thanks to Amanda for letting me guest write. I’m sure the rest of you will appreciate the break from the usual insight on this web site. Intelligent ideas can be so daunting.

And so Randall's obsession began...
And so Randall's obsession began...

This tale begins in the late 1970s. I was 7 years old, scared of girls, and infatuated with sea creatures. My parents, either through a desire to encourage my passion or due to negligence, let me see any marine-related movie, even though these tended to be thrillers. They took me to Jaws (1975, Steven Spielberg) (when I was 6-freakin’-years old), and then to Orca (1977, Michael Anderson) and Tentacles (1977, Ovidio G. Assonitis).

Theatrical Poster for ORCA
Theatrical Poster for ORCA
Starring Shelley Winters!
Starring Shelley Winters!

When I was 8 years old, my parents let my brother and me stay up late to watch another one of these creature features that followed in Jaws’s wake. This one was a network TV movie. A scene in which the turtle rises up and swamps a boat is pretty much all I remembered—and all that are left of that scene are fragments: A boat in rough seas. An ominous sky. A seven-story-tall, pissed off turtle.

Pissed off turtle.
Pissed off turtle.

Over the ensuing three decades, the patchy memory of the turtle kept coming back to me, but I had come to wonder if the scene was from a movie or a recurring dream. My memory never really nagged me so much for me to look into it. Any impulses to identify the movie were swept away by the usual business of life—or my lame version of it.

About two years ago, for one reason or another, I decided to find out for sure about this movie. Blessed be Google—it only took about ten minutes to find with the key words “giant sea turtle TV movie.”

Theatrical Poster for THE BERMUDA DEPTHS
Theatrical Poster for THE BERMUDA DEPTHS

It turns out the movie exists. It’s called The Bermuda Depths, directed by Tsugunobu Kotani and starring Connie Selleca and Carl Weathers. What is astonishing about the movie is the odd community that has formed around it. Here are some typical posts on the movie’s IMDB discussion board:

From yihaa2: Wow. I’m not crazy, it is a real movie, after 25 haunted years of dreams and fragmented memories, I really wasn’t imagining it.

From lilbearlovr: I had the same problem since I was a little kid. I was beginning to wonder if it was just some silly little kid dream.

From barbiegrrl: I have been telling people for years about the fragmented memories I had of seeing this movie as a kid, and no one ever knew what in the heck I was talking about!

From lamsaes: This is extraordinary. I thought I was the only one to remember this film. I saw it on TV when I was just a little kid. For a very long time, I thought I had imagined this film.

From traceymermaid: Holy smokes. Is this coincidence that so many of us are not only remembering this movie but are also taking action, such as writing on this message board? Maybe it is a symbol of something.

From Demarkov-1: My own experience with this movie is so similar to all of you…this is incredibly creepy and wonderfully comforting.

From newtondkc-1: Wow…so I’m not the only one in the world that remembers this flick…. I remember seeing this and I too was scared but strangely drawn to it. I remember the girl with the glowing eyes standing on a boat – I think she came out of the water? And the kids on the beach, carving their initials into the poor turtle’s shell – and then seeing the distorted initials on the back of the fully, fully grown giant turtle as well as a guy caught in the net that the turle was dragging into the depths.

Strangely enough, I have no memory of the oft-referenced girl with glowing eyes, but she would explain my fear of girls.

The origin of Randall's gynophobia.
The origin of Randall's gynophobia.

Michael Summers compares the Bermuda Depths phenomenon to the shared vision of Devil’s Tower in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977, Steven Spielberg), and I do wonder how many of you–like the skeptics in Close Encounters–are thinking that the authors of those posts and this blog entry are, well, nuts.

Devil's Tower: NOT made of mashed potatoes.
Devil's Tower: NOT made of mashed potatoes.

But I doubt all of you think this. While I was doing my sea-turtle research and reading The Bermuda Depths’ posts, my wife Christie (I got over my fear of women—or most of them) piped up and said that she had a similar experience with a different movie, making me think that this kind of experience was fairly common. I’m willing to bet that many of you—being movie junkies, scholars, or makers—have your own version of a giant sea turtle haunting you.

By the way, Christie’s fragmentary memory was of a short called “All Summer in a Day,” based on a Ray Bradbury story, which left her with little more than a image of the sweep of the sun’s ray under a closed door. But that image stayed with her for more than two decades.

1899444.large

Do you have your own haunting movie or television experience? An image fragment that you can’t shake? If you share them below, then perhaps I can help you to identify your movie or to discover a community of like-minded inviduals. Or, if you prefer, you can just call me “nuts.” With lilbearlvr, yihaa2, and barbiegrrl getting my back, I feel secure.

About the Author: When Randall Martoccia isn’t grading stacks of freshman papers he writes screenplays and makes short films. His “Pub of the Living Dead” and “They Shoot Zombies, Don’t They?” can be found on YouTube—though (alas) few people have found them. You can checkout his faculty profile here and you can e-mail him at: MARTOCCIAR@ecu.edu.

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9 thoughts on “THE BERMUDA DEPTHS: One Cinephile’s Movie Memories Finally Reach the Surface

    princesscowboy responded:
    October 5, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    Great topic Randall! I have had a similar experience, only it was a television show. The only images that survived were of two women with long pigtails, sitting on rope swings, playing the acoustic guitar in a faux garden. I also vaguely recalled a sock puppet/squirrel-like creature that would pop in and out. I knew that this was my favorite show when I was 5 or 6 but as I grew older and tried to find out the name, no one seemed to know what I was talking about. This was pre-Google, of course.

    I had forgotten about it until I was reading over your post the other day and was inspired to pursue those fragments. I Googled “women, acoustic guitars, garden, children’s show” and Viola! THE MAGIC GARDEN! It was so wonderful to know that I hadn’t concocted this show in my head and even better to see the clips on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ApbGw_G0qxQ

    Why did everything from the late 70s/early 80s involve giant psychedelic mushrooms?

    Nick said:
    October 6, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Oh man. I had this same experience, but it was with the image on the box cover of a film, and no one I’ve ever talked to remembers this movie. My dad used to take us to this video store every weekend, and without fail I would pass by the shelf and stare, terrified and fascinated at this image: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2413/1620904727_b5646cee73.jpg

    It took me almost twenty years to remember the name of the film, and when I did I was shocked to find that it was directed by Brian DePalma, of all people. It’s called The Phantom of the Paradise, and it’s like a bastard lovechild of Rocky Horror, Faust, Dorian Grey, and Phantom of the Opera. The film itself is truly NOT frightening (I mean, Paul freakin’ Williams is the villain), but for some reason that creepy dude with metal teeth in the bird-like helmet traumatized my little brain. Here’s a link to the preview in case anyone’s interested: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2n5qVJEg3qA

    Amanda's brother said:
    October 6, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    My movie is “The Mouse and his Child”. This animated gem haunted me for years until the wonder of the internet. Then I found out that I wasn’t the only 5 year old scarred by this movie. Most of us even remember the EXACT same scene (the “can of dog food” scene if you’ve seen the movie). Thank goodness for the Amazon comment section. I picked up a copy of it on VHS (no DVD yet) and am not in the process of scarring my boys.

    […] Other like story can be found here. […]

    Mark said:
    October 7, 2009 at 7:28 am

    When I was a kid there was a show called “Voyagers!” about a guy and kid who traveled through time to “help” famous moments in history happen. No one I know remembers this show; for years I would ask friends if they remembered it. Thankfully the Internet has come along for us to find these old shows & films that traumatized us.

    There was one episode of Voyagers! where the kid was viciously attacked by a rabid dog, which led to Louis Pasteur’s invention of the rabies vaccine. The dog attack was like the most terrifying thing I’d ever seen. I was afraid of dogs for quite a while after that. Here’s the whole plot synopsis of that episode from Wikipedia: “Bogg & Jeff land in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on the deck of the RMS Titanic on April 14, 1912. While Jeff tries to warn the captain with Molly Brown, Bogg meets a man named, Haggerty who is not a Voyager, but has an Omni. It belongs to Voyager Olivia Dunn who is trying to get the Mona Lisa off the ship. The three Voyagers then jump to 1884, France where a dog bites Jeff and gives him rabies. Louis Pasteur then works on a vaccine and Jeff fully recovers. They all go back to Titanic and Bogg finds Haggerty in the boiler room where they get the Mona Lisa just as the ship goes underwater. In Paris, April 15, 1912, Jeff (who left separately) thinks they died until they show up and explain they had to bring the stolen painting back to the home of Vincenzo Peruggia. ” Man, all I remember about that episode is that kid getting attacked by the dog. It probably also contributed to my skepticism about ocean liners.

    princesscowboy responded:
    October 7, 2009 at 8:22 am

    It’s interesting to me that all of these memories are of film and television shows are either traumatic or negative. It makes me wonder what popular culture is currently scarring my child. Maybe I should turn off the Howard Stern show…

    Anna said:
    October 12, 2009 at 11:12 am

    I’m with traceymermaid. Something is definitely happening here, and it is a symbol of something.

    My movie was Night Crossing, which I have searched for in futility in IMDB until you all helped me remember that magic of google. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082810/maindetails

    A war film. Go figure.

    Denny said:
    November 12, 2009 at 2:17 am

    A movie I inexplicably dug as a teenager that seems to have been wiped off the face of the Earth as if it never existed is BAND OF THE HAND. There’s also an early ’80s horror flick about a group of escaped psychopathic killers (played by Jack Pallance, Martin Landau, Donald Pleasance, etc.) stalking their shrink (Dwight Schultz–that’s right, Howlin’ Mad Murdock) called ALONE IN THE DARK that has eluded me since I saw it on cable as a kid. These movies haunt me and even Youtube fails me.

    yihaa2 said:
    March 10, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    It still amazes me to see the wayward souls who piece together the fragmented memories and find out that they are not haunted alone.
    There is a Facebook group now, if anyone is interested.

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