Damn, the Reaper appears to be working overtime so far in 2011, having taken British director Peter Yates last Sunday at the age of 81, and even if I would never have ranked him among my favorite directors, attention must be paid by BOF because he did do one of my all-time favorite films. In fact, I’ve just learned—courtesy of the mighty Turafish—that he was also an assistant director on another, The Guns of Navarone (1961), and it seems Yates received Academy Award nominations as both the director and producer of Breaking Away (1979) and The Dresser (1983). As a director, Yates will probably best be remembered for Bullitt (1968), yet in my mind he will always be associated first and foremost with The Deep (1977), from the novel by Peter Benchley.
Yates’s resume may have had more minuses than pluses (despite points for several episodes of Danger Man), although I liked The Hot Rock (1972) very much and enjoyed The Dresser, which my wife loves. In my opinion, Bullitt was overrated (but then I’m not a big McQueen fan); The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973) was just too damn depressing; Mother, Jugs & Speed (1976) was disappointing, considering its crazy cast (Cosby, Welch & Keitel); and Breaking Away was also overrated (except for one funny scene with Paul Dooley as the father). I hated For Pete’s Sake (1974; Streisand and Sarrazin—strikes one and two!), had major script problems with Eyewitness (1981) and Suspect (1987), and thought The House on Carroll Street (1988) was, at best, so-so.
With social venues a wee bit lacking in our semi-rustic Connecticut environs, the future Madame BOF and I attended a lot of movies during our courtship, including Krull (1983). I may not have seen it since, so I won’t presume to call it a guilty pleasure, but I think we enjoyed it at the time, especially the cool giant spider that for once wasn’t a tarantula, and that’s certainly on our list for another look, marking as it does an early appearance by Alexandra-fave Liam Neeson. The point is that despite my reservations about some of his work—and it should be noted that many of said reservations had nothing to do with his directorial abilities—Yates did know how to put a picture together, which brings us back to The Deep, one of those films I champion in a decided majority.
All my life, water—and more specifically the ocean—has inspired mixed feelings of fascination and dread within me; I do love snorkeling, and hope someday to scuba dive, yet I have a fear of drowning (indeed, any kind of suffocation), and what might lurk in that vast and silent expanse can be just as terrifying. For most people, the first Benchley adaptation, Jaws (1975), is the go-to reference point for such fears, yet while I am second to none in admiring Spielberg’s movie, I noted in my obit for David Brown that I remember the circumstances under which I hadn’t seen it better than I do my first viewing. But I sure as hell remember when Dad took me to The Deep (which, perhaps not surprisingly, I think he liked less than I did), and the impact it made on me.
If need be, you can refresh your memory with my B100 review of the film, but I will elaborate a little on its effectiveness, especially the quantity and quality of its underwater photography (UP for short). Say whatever you want to about other aspects of The Deep, but if you like UP, I don’t think you’re gonna find a more satisfactory helping than here and in my favorite James Cameron film, The Abyss (1989); in fact, I believe they set respective records for the amount or percentage of UP in fictional features. In those days before Imax and the resurgence of 3-D, seeing that on a big screen was perhaps the closest you could come to being underwater, and John Barry’s superb score somehow gave one an underwater feeling, as he did in the Bond film Thunderball (1965).
Special thanks to my main man Gilbert Colon for excavating my earlier Yates roundup from his invaluable e-mail archives, thus saving me a lot of time reinventing the wheel with this new post.