Tentacles (1977)

tentacles poster 1977 movie
3.5 Overall Score
Story: 3/10
Acting: 5/10
Visuals: 3/10

Oddly good cast

Generic Jaws ripoff

Movie Info

Movie Name: Tentacles

Studio:  Esse Ci Cinematografica

Genre(s): Horror

Release Date(s): February 25, 1977 (Italy)/June 15, 1977 (US)

MPAA Rating: PG

tentacles octopus attacks swimmer

Picture the terrifying opening scene of Jaws where the swimmer is attacked…now imagine it being pretty crappy

Something is hunting off of the California coast.  The killer appears after work by Trojan Construction which might have unleashed something unexpected.  A giant-octopus has now tasted blood and hunting for whoever dares go in the water.  As a reporter named Ned Turner (John Huston) tries to draw connections to Mr. Whitehead (Henry Fonda), his sister Tillie (Shelley Winters) finds her own son headed out on the ocean in the local sailing regalia.  Meanwhile killer whale trainer Will Gleason (Bo Hopkins) realizes he might be the key to defeat the octopus once and for all.

Directed by Ovidio G. Assonitis, Tentacles (Tentacoli) is an Italian-American man-vs.-nature horror film.  The film was released to negative reviews and received a low box-office return.

Following the release of Jaws, clones of Jaws were the big draw.  While some movies borrowed the theme of animals-attack, other movies like Tentacles and Orca went harder on trying to recreate the success of Jaws by copying it…while sometimes enjoyable, Tentacles is a so-bad-it-is-good contender.

tentacles shelley winters hat

The real star of Tentacles should be the hat that Shelley Winters is wearing

The story taps into all the man-vs-nature, animal-attacks clichés.  It has people being killed randomly in a method that no one suspects the real threat, a boating sequence where people foolishly go on the water and everyone realizes the true horror, and a final battle with the villainous creature.  Though a lot of it is humorous, it is done in a non-ironic, non-reflective way (opposed to something like Piranha) and as a result, it is laughable.

The movie is also put together weird.  There is an all-star cast, but no real “star”.  John Huston and Shelley Winters are painted as the stars at the beginning, but disappear after the tragic boat regalia and are never seen again.  Bo Hopkins takes over as the lead of the film for the last half hour or so as he hunts the octopus, but it feels like his character should have been better established before (you can tell he’s important, but a partnership between Huston and Hopkins characters would have felt more natural).  Henry Fonda has a small role that he did while recovering from surgery and Claude Akins (shockingly) plays a sheriff…like always.

tentacles octopus attacks boat

Got to have a boat attack scene!

Visually the movie is a mixed bag.  The location and some of the underwater shooting isn’t bad, but the octopus is of course not high quality.  The movie also does some extremely weird editing (both film and sound) in attempts to class up the movie, but it feels like a desperate and a means to cover poor monster visuals…but at least Shelley Winters has some of the best costumes including a hat that can’t be taken seriously at all…but isn’t referenced.

Tentacles is a bad movie that can be fun depending on how a viewer takes it.  It is derivative and a waste of a talented cast.  Giant octopus movies don’t often seem too threatening to begin with (give me a giant squid any day), but Tentacles makes the even mundane threat of the octopus even less scary.  Mysteries of the deep will always surface, and Tentacles is a typical film of that genre.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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