Friday, October 9, 2015

Hubrisween 2015 :: D is for The Devil's Triangle (1974)

Since its heyday in the crypto-addled 1970s, many myths about the dreaded "Bermuda Triangle" have long since been debunked, with plenty of plausible and practical explanations for the large number of ships and aircraft that have entered this geometric anomaly only to never be heard from again. Even back then some researchers were working hard to separate the facts from the fabrications, and one of the loudest was a man named Richard Winer.

Winer was a writer, sailor, and underwater photographer, who had served as a cinematographer on Michael Harris' documentary, Deadly Fathoms (1973), which focused on the ecological impact of all the nuclear bomb testing near Bikini Atol and the surrounding Pacific. Around this same time Winer was also writing several sobering magazine articles about the Bermuda Triangle. And soon tired of all the sensationalist spins his editors kept putting on his work (“Bermuda Triangle – UFO Hot-Zone”, “The Deadly Bermuda Triangle Flying Saucer ‘Space Warp’ Domain”), Winer managed to get his own version published in the expose The Devil's Triangle, where he focused more on documenting the Triangle's more notorious cases, weeding out all the embellishing and sticking to the facts, and left any non-scientific speculation as to the possible causes out of the mix.

In fact, in the last chapter of the book Winer addresses this supernatural angle and seems to take great pleasure at taking pithy potshots at his contemporaries -- John Wallace Spencer, Charles Berlitz, and Edgar Cayce -- for their *ahem* outlandish theorizing on magnetic space-warps, UFOs, and rogue Atlanteans.

The same year his book was published, Winer and producer Larry Kelsey of WNEW, New York, started putting together a documentary on the Triangle that ABC would broadcast nationally. Alas, all my digging could not find an exact broadcast date but there is ample evidence the 54-minute film also managed a theatrical release. I remember it playing in my area back in 1975, at least the ads for it, but I didn't get to see it until much, much later. The documentary itself covers most of the same ground, case wise, as The Bermuda Triangle (1979) did five years later -- Flight 19, the strange case of the Ellen Austin, and the U.S.S. Cyclops among others. But like with Winer's book, the film digs a little deeper into the history of each case to give the audience a wider view of these tragedies, sticking with speculation on bad weather, faulty equipment, and inexperienced sailors and pilots as most probable explanations.

The production also scored a major coup with the inclusion of Alan Kosnar, a retired Marine tail-gunner, who begged off sick and thus was excused from participating in Flight 19, who gives a firsthand account of the day his comrades disappeared back in 1945. The film is also littered with several other nautical and aviation experts, but the film's biggest asset was who Winer and Kelsey managed to get to serve as our narrator.

As the old saying goes, there are some people you would gladly listen to if they just read the phonebook. Here, we get the great Vincent Price adding a slightly sinister twinge to all of these salty sea mysteries and he is simply delightful. As for the footage he fills us in on, in lieu of any actual recreations of the events we are treated to a lot of stock footage, vintage photos, some rather obvious scale models, and some fairly effective montage sequences where the camera crash-cuts between several Edvard Munchian-style paintings of what might have happened to all these doomed sailors and airmen. All of this is fleshed out with a soundtrack provided by King Crimson. Well, mostly just one song, "The Devil's Triangle", from their In the Wake of Poseidon album, which is used over and over and over again.

And that about sums up the film: repetitive, as each tale comes off a little too lather, rinse and repeat. But if you're a crypto-nut like me, or a huge Vincent Price fan, you'll want to track this down and give it a spin. Beyond that, there's no reason why The Devil's Triangle couldn't just stay lost forever.

What is Hubrisween? This is Hubrisween. And now, Boils and Ghouls, be sure to follow this linkage to keep track of the whole conglomeration of reviews for Hubrisween right here. Or you can always follow we collective head of knuckle on Letterboxd.

The Devil's Triangle (1974) Libert Films :: UFO Productions :: WNEW New York :: American Broadcasting Company (ABC) / P: Richard Winer / AP: Larry Kelsey / D: Richard Winer / W: Worley Thorne, Richard Winer (novel) / E: Steve Cuiffo / M: King Crimson / S: Vincent Price

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