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Return to Dream of a Big, Huge Turtle

By Bert Ehrmann

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Fort Wayne Reader

2007-05-21


Some people are obsessed with cars, others with comic books but for 20 years Fort Wayne Reader publisher Michael Summers was obsessed with a made-for-television movie that aired a few times in the late 1970s before slipping into obscurity.

A little history – in the late 1990s, Summers and I worked in the marketing department of Sweetwater, Inc. One day, Summers put my knowledge of movie trivia to the test and practically dared me to find the title of a movie he had seen a few times as a kid but never since. He couldn't remember much about the film other than it featured a gigantic turtle, had a girl with "glowing green eyes" and WASN'T the movie Gamera.

After a bit of online research, I was able to find the title of this movie that had eluded Summers over the decades – The Bermuda Depths (1978). A riff on Jaws (1975), The Bermuda Depths replaces the shark with a gigantic sea turtle and throws in a sort mermaid with the green eyes to boot. It stars Carl Weathers, Burl Ives, and Connie Selleca as the “mermaid.”

After my discovery, Summers wrote an article on his experience with The Bermuda Depths entitled "Dream of a Big, Huge Turtle" for my web site and that was that. Except that wasn't that — nearly a decade on, "Dream of a Big, Huge Turtle" is STILL one of the most popular features on my site. Since initial publication, I'd estimate that over 20,000 people have read the article, with the bulk of the e-mail to my site still being related to "Dream of a Big, Huge Turtle."

"If I were in the bootleg video business, I probably could have made a tidy sum selling copies of The Bermuda Depths," says Summers. "I love the responses, because they sound just like my sister and me about 10 years ago — 'this movie has haunted me forever. Everyone I asked thought I was crazy.' It’s hilarious to think that for years there have been thousands of people walking around the world asking 'do you remember this made for TV movie about a giant turtle and a girl with glowing green eyes?' And people responding: 'You mean 'Gamera?'"

What I find most intriguing is that in the terms of obscurity The Bermuda Depths is VERY obscure. It only aired a few times on broadcast television and was, as far as I can tell, never officially released on VHS or DVD. Anyone who has ever seen the movie either saw The Bermuda Depths when it originally aired or on a tape someone made of the broadcast. Why do all these people remember The Bermuda Depths and not the dozens of other television movies from the same period?

"People don’t remember the movie; they remember bits and pieces of the flick," Summers says. "They remember it as having this sort of romantic, dream-like quality. And, to give Bermuda Depths its due, for some brief moments the movie does attain the tone it seems to be striving for."

Since Summers originally published "Dream of a Big, Huge Turtle" there have been several updates to his story. A few years back he did manage to obtain a copy of The Bermuda Depths and was finally able to watch this movie that had alluded him for so long. But did Summers have any regrets about seeing the movie again after all these years? Would he have preferred his childhood memory of the film to the reality of seeing it again as an adult?

"Not at all," Summers says. "It was 1998 or '99 before I even discovered the title, and 2000 before I got a copy of the flick. 20+ years. There was NO WAY I was going to pass up seeing that movie again. The thing is, it wasn’t so much bad as just…blah. There was nothing remarkable about it at all. That was probably the most disappointing thing, not only that it wasn't very good, but that The Bermuda Depths probably wouldn’t even make anyone’s list of 'all time worst made-for-TV movies starring Burl Ives.'"

Bootleg copies of The Bermuda Depths can be purchased at various online retailers and copies of the movie turn up on eBay from time to time. Approach with caution. E-mail me at words@dangerousuniverse.com.

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