THE BERMUDA DEPTHS on DVD from the Warner Archive Collection
Cult Favorite Rankin/Bass-Tsuburaya Co-production Now Available
Author: Keith Aiken
Source: Warner Archive Collection
Special Thanks to Gabriel Vicuna, Garo Setian, and James Ballard
What secret lurks 20,000 feet below the waves in the paranormal realm called The Bermuda Triangle? That’s the question a scientist (Burl Ives), his student (Carl Weathers) and a young man (Leigh McCloskey) haunted by nightmarish memories of his Bermuda childhood ask themselves. The answer involves a beauty (Connie Sellecca) who has sold her soul for eternal youth, and a giant sea turtle that leaves death in its wake. Eerie and hypnotic, THE BERMUDA DEPTHS was produced by Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass, who meld their imaginative fantasy style with the live-action horror genre. -synopsis courtesy of Warner Bros.
The 1978 cult classic THE BERMUDA DEPTHS— one of three movies produced by the American studio Rankin/Bass in association with Tsuburaya Productions in Japan— is now available on DVD from the Warner Archive Collection.
Rankin/Bass Productions was founded in 1960 by Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass and is best known for their popular holiday television specials RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER (1964), THE LITTLE DRUMMER BOY (1968), FROSTY THE SNOWMAN (1969), SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN’ TO TOWN (1970), ‘TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1974), and THE YEAR WITHOUT A SANTA CLAUS (1974). The company also produced the cartoon TV series KING KONG (1966), THE JACKSON FIVE (1971), THUNDERCATS (1985), and SILVERHAWKS (1986), and the animated films MAD MONSTER PARTY? (1967), THE HOBBIT (1977) THE RETURN OF THE KING (1980), and THE LAST UNICORN (1982).
The majority of Rankin/Bass’ projects were animated by Japanese studios like Toei Animation, Pacific Animation Corporation, and Tadahito Mochinaga’s stop-motion company MOM Productions. They also partnered with Japanese companies for their occasional forays into live-action productions such as the feature film KING KONG ESCAPES (Kingu Kongu no Gyakushu, 1967), a co-production with Toho Co. Ltd and based on the Rankin/Bass KING KONG cartoon show.
In the late 1970s, Rankin/Bass and Tsuburaya Productions (ULTRAMAN) teamed-up for a trio of English language, live-action movies; THE LAST DINOSAUR (1977), THE BERMUDA DEPTHS (1978), and THE IVORY APE (1980). The three films were primarily made by the same crew; producers Arthur Rankin Jr., Jules Bass, and Benni Korzen; director Tsugunobu “Tom” Kotani (THE PINK LADIES MOTION PICTURE, WHITE LOVE, THE BUSHIDO BLADE), screenwriter William Overgard (Rudy, THUNDERCATS, SILVERHAWKS); music composer Maury Laws (MAD MONSTER PARTY?, THE YEAR WITHOUT A SANTA CLAUS); special effects director Kazuo “Mark” Sagawa (MIGHTY JACK, ULTRAMAN: GREAT MONSTER BATTLE, ULTRAMAN COSMOS: THE FIRST CONTACT); and associate producer Masaki Iizuka (THE HOBBIT, THUNDERCATS) among them.
While released theatrically overseas, in the United States each film premiered as a primetime “Movie of the Week” on the ABC television network. THE BERMUDA DEPTHS debuted January 27, 1978 on the ABC Friday Night Movie, then went on to air in syndication for many years.
The lead role of Magnus Dens was played by Leigh McCloskey, a prolific actor actor who starred in the TV mini-series RICH MAN POOR MAN, the hit show DALLAS, several daytime soaps including GENERAL HOSPITAL, and also frequently guest-starred on series such as STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO, HAWAII 5-0, FANTASY ISLAND, STAR TREK VOYAGER. He is also an accomplished author and painter whose works have been collected in several books and featured onstage during the Rolling Stones’ 2005-07 “Bigger Bang Tour”.
Making her acting debut as Jennie Haniver was 22 year old fashion model Connie Sellecca. Sellecca went on to star in the superhero comedy series THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO (1981-83) and the primetime drama HOTEL (1983-88) as well as numerous made-for-TV movies in the 1980s and 90s.
The main cast also includes Carl Weathers and the late Burl Ives. Weathers, a former member of the Oakland Raiders, is best known for playing Heavyweight Champion Apollo Creed in ROCKY (1976) and it’s first three sequels, and for co-starring with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the original PREDATOR (1987). Burl Ives was a popular folk singer and an Academy Award-winning actor whose credits include EAST OF EDEN (1955), CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (1958), THE BIG COUNTRY (1958), and the acclaimed television mini-series ROOTS (1977). Ives had previously worked with Rankin/Bass, providing the voice for the narrator Sam the Snowman in RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER.
THE BERMUDA DEPTHS is an odd mix of ghost story, mystery, and giant monster movie that plays off the public interest in the Bermuda Triangle at the time the film was made. The story is sometimes confusing and contradictory, leaving several unanswered questions, but the film has a dreamlike quality that almost makes such matters unnecessary. Logical or not, the THE BERMUDA DEPTHS is an effectively haunting tale that has stuck with many viewers long after the last television broadcasts many years ago. The film has developed a small but loyal cult following; in 2005 the newspaper Bermuda Sun reported that more than 800 fans had signed a petition requesting the movie’s release on DVD.
While nothing came of that petition, THE BERMUDA DEPTHS has finally received a release from Warner Bros., the studio which owns rights for most of the post-1974 Rankin/Bass productions.
This past March 23, Warners launched the Warner Archive Collection, a new online distribution service offering pre-1986 titles from the studio’s vaults. With older and more obscure films and television programs being a hard sell in the current retail market, the Warner Archive Collection uses a “manufacturing on demand (MOD)” system to sell movies that would otherwise not be released on DVD. While mass-produced retail DVDs are manufactured by a factory stamping process, the Archive Collection individually burns NTSC format, Region 0 DVD-Rs that Warner Bros. states are “indistinguishable in quality from a standard pressed DVD”. Though no-frills releases, the Archive DVDs are sourced from studio materials and shrink wrapped in hard plastic Amaray cases. The cost per title is $19.95 plus shipping. Digital downloads of most Archive Collection films can per purchased for $14.95 each.
The Warner Archive Collection premiered with 150 movies and has added approximately 20 new titles each month. THE BERMUDA DEPTHS was among the films released on August 4, 2009. Warners stated that THE BERMUDA DEPTHS has not been remastered or restored, but that the DVD “has been manufactured from the best-quality video master currently available”. The studio has provided a brief video clip [see above] showing the quality of their materials, which are far superior to the multi-generation VHS recordings previously available in fan/collector circles. The film’s running time is 98 minutes.
The Warner Archive Collection DVD of THE BERMUDA DEPTHS can be ordered from the Warner Bros online store WBShop.com. The title is currently $14.95, a 25% discount off the standard retail price.