An intriguing idea, delivered with efficiency and atmosphere if not much verve, has made this a cult item — though the video version, which runs roughly half the length of the broadcast original, removes the horrific science-fiction elements that made the two-night, syndicated telefilm so memorable. London, 1939: Edward R. Murrow (Tony Ballen) broadcasts a radio report that the luxury ocean liner Goliath is about to leave Southampton. Unfortunately, the thousand-foot vessel is torpedoed by a Nazi submarine shortly after her departure, and sinks with all hands on board. Present-day: Oceanographer Peter Cabot (Mark Harmon, sporting a '70s disco mustache) of the U.S. Navy salvage ship Enterprise IV discovers the legendary Goliath atop a volcanic vent that keeps the surrounding water warm. Exploring close-up, Cabot gets an even greater surprise — the face of a young woman, alive and well, staring at him through a porthole. In one of the film's best scenes, Cabot becomes utterly, believably hysterical, terrified his mind has snapped. While recovering at the Naval Hospital on Puerto Rico's Roosevelt Roads Base, he's assigned by Admiral Wiley (Eddie Albert) to investigate further. This time, he and a crew that includes physician Sam Marlowe (Alex Cord) and radio operator Bill Sweeney (John Ratzenberger) — officer Jeff Selkirk (Robert Forster) remains behind on the recovery vessel — enter the ship to discover 240 survivors, led by Chief Engineer John McKenzie (Christopher Lee), who have rigged a life-support system that allows them to survive at the bottom of the ocean; it includes a hydroponic plant nursery, a fish hatchery and air culled from the oxygen in water. The woman Cabot saw was McKenzie's daughter, Lea (Emma Samms), who was born into Goliath's rigidly controlled underwater society. But all is not well down below: The ragtag Bow People, led by Paul Ryker (Duncan Regehr), raid supplies and warn of McKenzie's benevolent despotism and of his right-hand henchman, Wesker (an incredible Frank Gorshin, completely submerged, so to speak, in his role). Worse, the injured, old and deformed all seem to quickly die from the conveniently mysterious Palmer's Disease, which Cabot and crew soon realize is a cover for forced euthanasia. The original version, never released on video, expands on this notion, with Goliath's life-support system needing human blood to operate; there's also a subplot about lost Nazi documents the Navy desperately wants retrieved. Engrossing despite some silliness and abrupt edits, this tightly constructed variation on Lord of the Flies itself deserves proper retrieval. The credits reflect the compete version, though some performers uncredited on the video version do appear in it.
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- Released: 1981
- Rating: PG
- Review: An intriguing idea, delivered with efficiency and atmosphere if not much verve, has made this a cult item — though the video version, which runs roughly half the length of the broadcast original, removes the horrific science-fiction elements that made the… (more)