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What is the draw to explore inhospitable places like the top of a mountain where the air can be too thin to breathe, in space where there is no air, or even underwater? I’m currently obsessed with underwater movies. You get strapped with a cool watch, knife, and diving gear to travel the unknown depths that can potentially host creatures, both beautiful and frightening. Today’s dive is with beautiful creatures in the Mermaids of Tiburon.
Stuntman actor John Lamb learned a thing or two as the underwater camera-person on the TV show Sea Hunt (1959), the film and subsequent TV show Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961 and 1964-68 respectively), and also the film Trapped Beneath the Sea (1974). He took this knowledge, then wrote, produced, and directed a mermaid adventure that was much like an expanded episode of Sea Hunt. The main diver is even approached for the adventurous assignment while working at Marineland of the Pacific, much like the first episode of Sea Hunt.   This film and Sea Hunt feature heavy voiceover narration describing the diver’s thoughts and actions as diving equipment prohibits dialogue. The diver is played by stuntman George Rowe (George Robotham), one-time director of Dark Echoes 1977, which also features some underwater sequences (I reviewed this on VideoReligion). He is pitted against the deliciously evil character-actor Timothy Carey (The Killing). They are both after the beautiful and rare Flame Pearls located deep in the waters near the mysterious island of Tiburon, and one of them is willing to kill anyone or thing to obtain them. Neither knows that these pearls are guarded by sharks and mermaids--complete with tail fins and flower tops instead of seashells.  The queen of the mermaids is played by the stunning model Diane Webber (The Witchmaker 1969).
Even with the great cast, adventurous plot, and fantastic underwater photography, the film didn’t sell well, so John Lamb reshot nearly all the underwater and island grotto footage of the mermaids. They did not sport realistic tail fins this time, but John was hoping the audience wouldn’t care since they were all topless!  He gave the film a salacious new title-- Aqua Sex.
Now that was something that might sell. Unfortunately, Diane Webber’s scenes were not reshot, and she appears only briefly in this version, which is a shame as she was well known as a nudist and Playboy Playmate. Lamb must have decided that only sex sells because all of his subsequent directorial efforts were adult films, including Zodiac Killer (Zodiac Rapist 1977), which featured a well-shot underwater scene with an early appearance by John Holmes.  I wonder if that was also filmed in Aquascope. It’s never explained in this new cut, Aqua Sex, why some mermaids have tails, and others have human legs. The film, unfortunately, does have detracting period sexism and racism. The strength lies in the underwater sequences that are very well-filmed and lit. So often, underwater footage is murky and dark, but not here. Plus, the edge of a pool can only be glimpsed a couple of times as the bulk of it was filmed in the actual ocean. You never know what wondrous creatures you will encounter exploring the sea for iridescent pearls. Speargun shooting, dynamite chucking, topless swimming, this isn’t Steinbeck's The Pearl!  If you ever wanted to see a color Nudie Cutie episode of Sea Hunt, then seek this out.
1h 16min | 1962
Director: John Lamb
Writer: John Lamb


Review by GrindhouseCellar
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