BluRay/DVD Reviews

PSYCHOTRONICA: THE MERMAIDS OF TIBURON/CRY OF THE BEWITCHED

By • Feb 23rd, 2009 •

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Dedicated filmgoers all have a half dozen or so classic titles that have slipped by them over the years. For me, that includes Gillo Pontecorvo’s THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS, John Ford’s THE LONG VOYAGE HOME, Luis Bunuel’s THE MILKY WAY, and John Lamb’s THE MERMAIDS OF TIBURON.

Finally, thanks to VCI’s Psychotronica Collections, I had my chance to catch up with the 1962-1987 exploiter, a hybrid of three different versions, just like its eponymous characters, some shot in ’62 with the fish-femmes wearing pasties and tails, and some shot 35 years later, with a bevy of added beauties sans tail-gear and sporting what appear to be steel-wool thongs. The plot concerns a man searching for humongous pearls near the island of Tiburon, with a killer hot on his trail who wants the treasure for himself. Director Lamb, though presenting a demented version of mermaid lore in his updated take, was right to add all the nudity. The earlier version had nothing to recommend it except for the appearances of Diane Webber – one rung lower than Bettie Page on the captivating nude model ladder in her day, and Timothy Carey as the villain, always fun to watch, but not on screen long enough to keep the film afloat.

Richard LaSalle’s ‘original’ score is rampant with borrowed cues, from Rozsa’s THIEF OF BAGDAD, Hans Salter’s THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, and Bernard Herrmann’s VERTIGO. Which means, by default, that it’s a pretty nice score. The underwater photography by director Lamb (who also produced and wrote the film) is clear, highlighting the fleshy ballet of the water-maids. The quality of the film isn’t pristine, but I wonder if it ever was.

Also on the disc is a second feature – YAMBOA (aka CRY OF THE BEWITCHED), a Cuban Horror flick from 1957 – and, supposedly (it’s listed on the box cover), the earlier, non-nude version of TIBURON, which I wasn’t able to access. Why would I want to, you ask? Because of my suspicion that there’s more footage of Diane Webber, and she really was a minor icon of her time. A Playboy playmate of the Month in both 1955 & 1956, cover girl for countless other girlie mags, and a nude model for Bunny Yeager and Russ Meyer, she was a hardcore devotee of nudism, and certainly gave the practice a good name. She also reprised her mermaid gig in an episode of TV’s ‘Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.’ Her last role was that of a belly dance instructor (which she did professionally) in 1974’s THE TRIAL OF BILLY JACK. She died in 2008…the same year as Bettie. There must have been some rip-roaring party going on at St. Peter’s gates when those two ladies sashayed through.

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2 Responses »

  1. Now this is on my wish list!

  2. Click on “extras” on the Psychotronica DVD to find the original Mermaids of Tiburon

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