It's tough being "King of the World" - director James Cameron - but it's even tougher when you're one of his subjects, and tougher still when the movie you're shooting takes place entirely under water, in sub-zero temperatures, near an incomplete nuclear reactor.
Lead actor Ed Harris has vowed never to speak of the shoot, which must rank among the toughest in movie history. You can hardly blame him - the water was so heavily chlorinated that Harris's (already thinning) hair turned white.
Meanwhile, co-star Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio commented: "The Abyss was a lot of things: fun to make was not one of them."
The film takes place at the height of the Cold War, and concerns the workers of an underwater oil rig who (aided by a couple of Navy SEALS) investigate the crash site of a nuclear submarine. Tremendous, believable, performances from Harris and his co-stars really impress, and while the final act is rather silly, there's much to entertain here.
Plot-wise, as slight as a goldfish's memory. Luc Besson's drama-romance was always going to be struggling with human dolphin and chronic charisma vacuum Jean-Marc Barr in the lead role. Although he tries his damnedest not to look like a Calvin Klein model, he fails. Miserably.
Elsewhere, Jean Reno as the roguish Enzo has more fun than his clam-brained rival, but while the cinematography is undoubtedly peerless - the aquamarines, deep blues and greens of the ocean in daylight hours clash powerfully with the ominous purples of the sea at night - this is still, despite the deep-lunged subject matter, lightweight stuff.
It has delighted hopeless romantics sucked in by beautiful visuals the world over, but it's no masterclass in writing, acting or directing. A definitive missed opportunity.
Carl Brashear was a bit of a one-off. A black sharecropper's son without a high-school education, he signed up for the Navy just after WW2. America's then president, Harry Truman, had racially integrated the services, but the Navy wasn't too quick on the uptake and coloured folk were pretty much cattle-herded down two job avenues: they could become cooks or officers' valets.
Brashear wasn't having any of it. He wanted to be a diver, and was prepared to move heaven and earth to become one. And he nearly had to. Fuelled by more testosterone than builders at a bikini festival, this millennial release very nearly sinks under the weight of its own train-wreck-subtle histrionics.
Nearly, though, isn't quite it. With a terrific, "calmed-down" performance from Cuba Gooding Jr in the lead role, this film has a genuine emotional centre.
Robert DeNiro likewise totally convinces as the redneck racist who isn't so set in his ways that he can't appreciate real guts when he sees it. "Hollywood", yes (is there any point to Charlize Theron's character?), but it's moving film-making nonetheless.
They say "divers do it deeper", but with Roger Moore cast as a cat-loving, woman-hating retired secret agent, the makers of North Sea Hijack (or Ffolkes as it was otherwise known) were really taking the mickey. Comprehensively parodying his "ladies' man" persona, Moore is unintentionally hilarious in this realistic, if dated, aquatic romp.
His comic high-point occurs when Lea Brodie - a not-unattractive actress playing a woman posing as the male chef on Moore's vessel - complains of a sore back. Despite sporting a wet T-shirt of Bisset-like proportions, Moore's bewildered Captain Ffolkes still doesn't twig that she's a woman, even while giving her/him a back massage.
Like, duh. 007 would turn in his tux.
Outstanding underwater adventure. Two families of different ethnic backgrounds compete for sponges off the west coast of Florida. Sounds like a holiday picture?
Think again. One family of Greek descent is led by Mike Petrakis (Gilbert Roland) and son Tony (Robert "Number Two" Wagner). Their efforts in diving for valuable sponges are thwarted by Thomas Rhys (Richard Boone) and his dive-team.
Arnold (Peter Graves) is the aggressive diver who leads raids on the Petrakis sponge hauls, as well as competing with young Tony for the affections of Gwyneth Rhys (Terry Moore).
Highlights include: Wagner tussling with a giant octopus; Moore in a skimpy swimsuit; and the terrifically shot under-water scenes, which were considered revolutionary at the time.
Couples-on-tour drama in which a pre-substance-addiction Nick Nolte and a ravishing Jacqueline Bisset tangle with: sufficient morphine to numb a Terminator; crazed Voodoo Haitians; a moray eel big enough to make John Holmes blush; and weathered sea-dog Eli Wallach who, in one of the film's lighter scenes, proudly proclaims that he "just stays home and drinks rum".
The morphine is the real draw, obviously, but considering that the eel gives our intrepid wreck-divers a generous couple of warnings first, it's amazing that they pay him so little attention until it's too late. Cracking effects and some genuinely nightmarish scenarios combine with solid performances by Nolte and, particularly, Jaws alumnus Robert Shaw to make this one of the most exciting dive movies.
Meanwhile, flouncing mermaid-like at, quite literally, the other end of the gene pool, Bisset delights future Club 18-30 generations by spawning the "wet T-shirt" phenomenon through her poor-man's Ursula Andress impression.
Another "couples on tour" flick but, this time, it's real. Picture the scene. You're on holiday with your beloved, and fancy a bit of recreational diving - supervised, of course. Off you trot on your launch, and the dive is going just great as your lovely wife pulls amusing faces while you both chase tropical fish.
After a while, you decide enough's enough and head up to the surface. When you get there, however, and twig that your boat's gone, you realise pretty quickly that the only thing on today's menu is you.
A truly nightmarish cinematic experience, made all the more unnerving by the documentary look of the film - making it seem as if a passing seagull strapped to a camcorder shot the thing, and dropped it off at the studio.
Agonising for us, the stuff of endless nightmares for the couple's families.
The second Oscar-winning documentary from world-renowned oceanographer Cousteau sees the irrepressible Frenchman and his team diving nearly 300m down in the Red Sea to record the abundant aquatic life found there. Hardcore environmentalists, casual divers, Tony Blair, couch potatoes, tramps, Prince Harry, Keith Richards - it really doesn't matter who you are, you just can't fail to be staggered by the films and achievements of this remarkable, driven man.
Setting a couple of rich kids against a gang of cannibals, The Navigator features a lengthy underwater scene, and was directed by and starred Buster Keaton.
The underwater scene occurs when Keaton (above) flops overboard in an attempt to fix the boat's broken works. Sporting a brass helmet, a canvas suit and 10lb dive boots, the po-faced comic meets all manner of dangerous beasts, as well as several schools of friendly fish.
The film's comedic high-point occurs when Keaton finds himself surrounded by so many fish, flying in so many different directions, that he's forced to act as a traffic cop! Later on, when he's threatened by prowling swordfish, the opportunistic rich kid grabs a passing marlin and duels the surprised fish.
One of Keaton's better efforts, the shoot for this film comprised a series of technological disasters that burnt the fraught funnyman's nerves to a frazzle.
The most aqua-friendly Bond movie, and a veritable orgy of underwater rumblin' and tumblin', this film is considered responsible for introducing submerged sequences into the Bond franchise. With a whole bunch of nuclear weapons sunk off the coast of Miami, and SPECTRE looming, the only man HM Government can call on is our Jimmy.
Sean Connery plays Mishter Bond, and he does make wetsuits look good.
The underwater fight scenes are particularly exciting, and are made easy to follow by those nice/patronising film-makers through the subtle use of different-coloured swimsuits for the good and bad aquanauts. Thunderball was the first "epic" Bond movie and, naturally, snappy editing is not this film's forte.
However, this being a diving feature for a diving magazine, and most of the superfluous footage being of the watery variety, we might look on it as a blessing.
See if you can track down any of these on DVD or video:
- Deep Blue Sea (1999). Memorable suddenexit for Samuel L Jackson!
- Demon of Paradise (1993)
- Leviathan (1989)
- Licence to Kill (1989)
- Atlantis (1991). Beautiful Luc Besson documentary charting underwater life
- Splash (1984). Tom Hanks chases mermaid Darryl Hannah
- Raise The Titanic (1980)
- Beyond The Poseidon Adventure (1979)
- Warlords of Atlantis (1978)
- Shark's Treasure (1975)
- Deathbed Virgin (1974)
- Day of the Dolphin (1973)
- The Neptune Factor (1973)
- Hello Down There (1968), starring Tony Randall and Janet Leigh
- The Patriot (1968)
- Love Has Many Faces (1965)
- Around the World Under The Sea (1965)
- Underwater City (1962)
- Ghost Diver (1957)
- Don't Give Up The Ship (1959)
- The Creature Walks Among Us (1956)
- Wake of the Red Witch (1948)