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Peter Benchley’s the Beast

Meanwhile, sour Coast Guard Lt. Katherine Marcus (Karen Sillas), just off a bum romantic interlude, arrives in timely fashion to do some deep-sea diving.

With:
Cast: William Petersen, Karen Sillas, Charles Martin Smith, Ronald Guttman, Missy Crider, Sterling Macer Jr.,Denis Arndt, Adrienne-Joi Johnson, Larry Drake, Murray Bartlett, Laura Vasquez, Robert Mammone, David Webb, Marshall Napier, Les Hill, Andrew Hill, Laurence Coy, David Argue, Helen O'Connor, Chad Tyler, Angie Milliken, Alan David Lee, Bruce Alexander, Scott McRae, Matt Day, Justin Monjo, David Whitney, Joe Petruzzi, Tyler Coppin, Ken Radley, Francine Bell, Kyra Stempel, Rick Adam, Andrea Cunningham, Robert Echols, Margie McCrae. Another Peter Benchley threat from the sea: This time, an avaricious, vengeful giant squid that'll devour anything is pitted against a Washington State island fishing community that's going all-out commercial. It's a hand-me-down version of "Jaws," and J.B. White's flat, poster-colored teleplay, based on Benchley's novel, needs a fresher story and characterizations, and the humbling presence of more than a squid. What next, an upset jellyfish? Widowed fisherman Whip Dalton (William Petersen), lifelong Graves Point resident, finds a large claw in an abandoned life raft.

Meanwhile, sour Coast Guard Lt. Katherine Marcus (Karen Sillas), just off a bum romantic interlude, arrives in timely fashion to do some deep-sea diving.

Whip sends the claw off to marine biologist Dr. Talley (Ronald Guttman), who IDs it and then hurries to Point Graves to try to see the giant squid.

Whip’s sore about how commercial development has killed off so many fish and cut into his business, but the island’s patriarch, Graves (Charles Martin Smith) , is blatantly greedy.

Opening of telepic sets up a doomed couple (Chad Tyler, Angie Milliken) aboard their small craft, and catches them being sucked under by the as-yet unidentified monster; it’s an effective, if familiar, device for gluing viewers to the screen. There are the requisite underwater shots of young women leisurely swimming on the surface, unaware there’s a menace lurking below them.

At sea, the vidpic makes progress thanks to some special effects and to director Jeff Bleckner’s shrewd pacing; on shore, the plotting’s pedestrian pulp.

Rum-pot fisherman Lucas (Larry Drake), poacher and ne’er-do-well and best thing in the production, agrees to help the burg’s bigwigs by blowing up the squid.

Whit warns that he’ll be wiping out all fish, and the fish-eating giant squid , deprived of its usual fare, will expand its appetite.

Ham-handed aspect of the mini is the segregation of Whip’s black partner, Mike (Sterling Macer Jr.), and his wife, Nell (Adrienne-Joi Johnson), from white characters.

They’re seen roaming the beach, at home talking over her pregnancy, but they’re not seen mixing with others until Mike winds up in the hospital, where Whip is his only visitor; it’s a dumb and clumsy slight.

The camerawork at sea zooms over and through watery ways while Don Davis’ pounding score energetically tries to churn up suspense.

There’s a vivid description of a giant squid, which can grow to 50 feet, but there’s no overall look at it.

Squid sightings are only teases: A tentacle or two reaches out of the sea; the brutes fuzzily whiz by in brief underwater clips (courtesy of Howard Hall Prods.), but no one’s seen actually being devoured (moments that were among the most vigorous in “Jaws”).

There is one inconclusive seg involving a pooch in part one that’s shrewd and worrisome, and watching Lucas’ craft maneuvered by the creature is entertaining.

But special effects, supervised by second unit director Gene Warren Jr., don’t otherwise succeed in making the squid scary.

Petersen, not handed much to do, but whose persona at least suggests a reserve of strength, looks worried.

Otherwise, acting’s pretend stuff.

Owen Paterson’s production design suffices at best, and Geoff Burton’s lensing is routine. But Tod Feuerman’s editing, superior stuff, helps beleaguered director Bleckner pick through the old-hat sea drama.

The actioner boils down to environmentalists confronting commercial interests.

The doomed, angry and grieving mother squid is only a catalyst. And a whole lot of calamari.

Peter Benchley's the Beast

Production: Peter Benchley's The Beast (Sun. (28), Mon. (29), 9-11 p.m., NBC) Filmed in Sydney, New South Wales, by Michael R. Joyce Prods. and Dan Wigutow Prods. Executive producers, Dan Wigutow, Peter Benchley;co-executive producer, Julie Cohen;supervising producer, Michael R. Joyce; producer, Tana Nugent; director, Jeff Bleckner; writer, J.B. White, based on the novel "Beast" by Benchley.

Crew: Camera, Geoff Burton; editor, Tod Feuerman; production designer, Owen Paterson; art director, Colin Gibson; visual effects supervisor/second unit director, GeneWarren Jr.; second unit camera, Roger Buckingham; sound, Guntis Sics; music, Don Davis; casting, Mary V. Buck, Susan Edelman; Liz Mullinar Consultants/Ann Robinson (Australia).

With: Cast: William Petersen, Karen Sillas, Charles Martin Smith, Ronald Guttman, Missy Crider, Sterling Macer Jr.,Denis Arndt, Adrienne-Joi Johnson, Larry Drake, Murray Bartlett, Laura Vasquez, Robert Mammone, David Webb, Marshall Napier, Les Hill, Andrew Hill, Laurence Coy, David Argue, Helen O'Connor, Chad Tyler, Angie Milliken, Alan David Lee, Bruce Alexander, Scott McRae, Matt Day, Justin Monjo, David Whitney, Joe Petruzzi, Tyler Coppin, Ken Radley, Francine Bell, Kyra Stempel, Rick Adam, Andrea Cunningham, Robert Echols, Margie McCrae. Another Peter Benchley threat from the sea: This time, an avaricious, vengeful giant squid that'll devour anything is pitted against a Washington State island fishing community that's going all-out commercial. It's a hand-me-down version of "Jaws," and J.B. White's flat, poster-colored teleplay, based on Benchley's novel, needs a fresher story and characterizations, and the humbling presence of more than a squid. What next, an upset jellyfish? Widowed fisherman Whip Dalton (William Petersen), lifelong Graves Point resident, finds a large claw in an abandoned life raft.

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