"The Bermuda Triangle," arriving at area theaters more weeks after the abominable "Sasquatch" lumbered through, suggests that the manufacturers of cut-rate pseudo-documentary folklore are loath to let the suckers off the hook. But isn't there a point of diminishing returns? How many stilted retellings of preposterous stories about vanishing ships or elusive monsters can people consume before being liberated by boredom or skepticism?
An infinite number, it would appear. If the desire to believe in the existence of a Bermuda Triangle or Bigfoot is strong enough, each invocation of The Disappearance of Training Flight 19 or The Roger Patterson Film may seem as satisfying as hearing a favorite song. Any variation from the tune, particularly any kidding around, would interfore with the reassuring nature of the repetition.
Someone ought to make a lightearted movie designed to ridicule this heavyfooted genre off the screen. The ships and planes supposedly lost in that mythical "sea of fear" between Miami, Puerto Rico and Bermuda are a drop in the bucket compared to the brain cells massacred by prolonged exposure to the expository style of "The Bermuda Triangle." As one inadequately explained or miserably dramatized case history succeeds another, you wish the ever-present narrator would say, "Stop me if you've heard this one..." so you could yell "Stop!" at the projectionist.
The narrator, bearded in order to emphasize his learned, authoritative tone, tends to repeat such penetrating observations as "Sounds fantastic, doesn't it?" and "The explanation baffles scientists" and "Is there someone or something out there in the void of outer space?" Although the producers insist on snoring in your ears and glazing over your eyeballs for an hour-and-a-half, there's never any mystery about the Triangle, which is envisioned from the start as a haven for UFOs -- either an underwater base or convenient time window.
The first sightings are made by Columbus and his crew. They set a precedent in more ways than one. The looks of wonder and bewilderment achieved by the pretend Italian mariners on their pretend ship establish a klunky standard of acting sustained through the production. It peaks during a sequence in a control tower where a very tall actor, a very short actor and a very fat actor outdo each other peering intently through binoculars to keep track of the fast-moving UFOs just out of camera range on every side of them.
Observing this hapless charade, one may appreciate anew the vigilance of Steven Spielberg, who managed to persuade a few hundred actors to stare up at the set as if they were really seeing something more remarkable than the ceiling. In fact, the success of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" ought to take a toll on movies like "The Bermuda Triangle" by exposing their lack of imagination and poor workmanship.
For example, Spielberg lyricized the Training Flight 19 mystery by having his extraterrestrials return both the planes and the pilots. After this endearing gesture it seems downright backward to return to the literal-minded approach of a "Bermuda Triangle" in which the mystery flight is reenacted with a listless attempt at both authenticity and suspense.
It's apparent from the look of the UFO models that "The Bermuda Triangle" was whipped up after "Close Encounters." Spielberg's majestic mothership, inspired by the sight of an Indian oil refinery at night, is echoed here by a glowing golden miniature that seems to have been modeled on the innards of a television set. The funniest model in the picture is a map of the Triangle which the narrator keeps crowding with tiny replicas of missing ships and planes.Ultimately, he creates such a traffic jam affixing these toys that the producers must resort to a larger map, dotted with orange sopts, as if the Triangle were plagued by some exotic pox.
Despite all the case histories supposedly being recalled, not one is authenticated in a documentary manner.The only recognizable pieces of documentation are clips from other movies: stock footage of ships and planes, a tank-shot storm scene from a seafaring melodrama, cataclysm scenes from a costume melodrama about Atlantis.
Since every depiction is obviously faked, why not let out the stops and have some fun with the fakery? One can't escape the conclusion that the producers think of their public as incorrigible, unobservant numbskills. For example, there's a whopper about a ghost ship "tacking in the wind, but there is no wind." However, that's definitely a strong wind rustling through the sails of the ship we're shown and churning up the sea around it. There's a portentous episode abouth a voyage of the Queen Elizabeth II in which it's impossible to determine what, if anything, untoward may have happened as the great ship cruised through the dreaded Triangle. The alleged mystery is outrageously unspecified.
I caught both "The Bermuda Triangle" and "Sasquatch" at Saturday matinees where kids made up the majority of the audience. The monster movie hokum that gave them some provocation for screaming or hooting at "Sasquatch" is missing from "Triangle," which stirred only incidental curiosity, typically when something was blown up or a UFO was visualized.
The movie offered so little stimulation that it seemed to trigger an inordinate amount of noise and rowdyism. The boys launching missiles and setting up a racket in the balcony might have been better off at "The Warriors." Not to mention the customers on the ground floor. Anti-social acts are almost always blamed on movies that are exciting to watch. While such accusations probably have some merit, they ignore the potentially undesirable effects of exposing restless kids to boring, understimulating films.
Perhaps a juvenile fantasy as supercharged as "The Warriors" can create PROBLEMS AFTER THE KIDS LEAVE THE THEATER, BUT IT'S LIKELY TO RIVET THEIR EYES ON THE SCREEN WHILE IT'S RUNNING. A plodder like "Triangle" loses them so fast that restless energy turns into disruptive behavior during the show itself.