Film Torments: Tentacolino / In Search of the Titanic (2004)
SEQUELS Month at Film Torments continues with a follow-up that no one asked for, no one saw and most people haven’t even heard of: The Italian animated knock-off (again), In Search of the Titanic.
In Search of the Titanic is one of the most gleefully insane motion pictures ever made. That it is a sequel to one of the two infamous animated Titanic films (The Legend of the Titanic, to be exact) is just the Flake ’99 in the shit sundae. A wonderful hodgepodge of made-for-television animation, lazy voice-acting and general incongruity, In Search of the Titanic (or, Tentacolino, referred hereafter) is a should-be cult classic, chock full to the brim with quotable lines and riveting schlock spectacles.
Made by the same team that brought us the ersatz joy of The Legend of the Titanic, Tentacolino picks up the pieces a year after all the passengers(!) of the ill-fated vessel were saved(!!) through the heroics of Oddy (née Tentacles) the giant octopus (the same octopus who also, albeit inadvertently, hurled the offending iceberg into the ship’s path at the encouragement of chain-gang Mafia sharks in collusion with Maltravers, a whaling magnate, but not before the intervention of magical moonbeam dolphins and sailor mice).
Elizabeth, Don Juan – our Not-Jack-and-Kate for the evening – and his dog Smile, who inexplicably speaks now, clamber into a bathysphere in an attempt to salvage the wreck of the ship. After the aforementioned sharks, captained by Razorteeth, scupper the bathysphere, the gang are rescued by a group of merpeople, who take them to Atlantis. Once there, they must help the faceless King of Atlantis contend with a mounting invasion from rats, sharks and Big Boss impersonator Maltravers, who has his eyes on the Atlantean prize.
Originally distributed by Mondo TV in Italy, Tentacolino quickly dispenses with any historical pretext, dipping straight into the hallucinogenic happy sauce that so characterised its predecessor. The Titanic itself is present for all of six frames right at the end and is mentioned in passing about three times after the prologue recap. Free from the shackles of historicity – having already dismissed the tragic death of hundreds – Kim J. OK and his team get really creative.
Not content with mere talking criminal sharks, Tentacolino has its own response to the infamous rapping dog from Titanic: The Legend Goes On: Razorteeth, the rapping shark, who hates the colour yellow (spoilers: his suit has a bit of yellow on it). The protagonists essentially develop Stockholm Syndrome after being rescued/kidnapped by the Atlanteans, even after being told they can never return to the surface for no adequately-explained reason.
Pingo, the King’s silverfish counsellor with a slinky for legs, introduces the heroes to the King’s horrifying menagerie of experimental creations. Crafted from discarded toys and given life, they look and act as if they belong in the home of Blade Runner’s J.F. Sebastian. They all help Pingo deliver an excruciating ‘Be Our Guest’-style song, which oscillates schizophrenically between a showtime number and a techno-rave, with priceless lines like, “At the fishoteque / it’s a real cool sound” throwing salty garnish into the mix.
Pingo’s ear-splitting tunelessness, coupled with his inability to stay in time with the music, helps to create a swirling aural nightmare that’s only compounded by Pingo’s admission that Elizabeth and Don Juan can never return to the surface. The two are relegated to vacant bystanders as subplots and characters are introduced on a whim and vanish just as quickly. Smile is enamoured with a female dog (who leaves). The rats plan to take over the world with the Elixir of Life, but never explain how.
Maltravers exists to scoff at the notion of mermen and mermaids (after receiving a teleclam from his allies the chain-gang sharks). Within the same breath, he orders the mobilisation of (repeated verbatim) “mini-subs to help the rats and the sharks in the battle against the mermen and the mermaids”. The battle that follows introduces Briouglough(?), a kilt-laden doll who plays bagpipes while firing cannons underwater. He gets promoted from artilleryman to general after hitting one enemy; he, like many of the other characters, is forgotten about.
This same battle features the glory of Smile – looking for all the world like a canine Han Solo – riding into battle on a chariot pulled by sea dinosaurs, flanked by Oddy, firing an amnesia-inducing laser gun at the retreating rats and sharks. Screwy the Screwdriver shows up as Pingo’s close friend, despite it being previously established that all screwdrivers are banned and that Pingo is mortally afraid of screwdrivers. There’s the whale-sized manta ray that’s nearly double the size of the Titanic, and then there’s this fucking thing:
Even aside from the narrative debacles – the horror of the ending, for instance – the animation is stiff and lifeless. Characters loosely flap their mouths when speaking, precluding any sense of lip-sync. The localisation team, working from the original Italian, have so loosely translated the English dialogue it sounds otherworldly, spoken by amateurs who seem to have wandered into the recording studio at random. There are obvious audio de-syncs where lines are cut off mid-sentence. There are also numerous instances of repeated frames of animation, most noticeably in Pingo’s song.
For all its flaws, Tentacolino is awash with vibrant primary colours, so you won’t have to squint at the insanity unfolding onscreen. It clocks in at a trim 88 minutes, thereby allowing your brain time to process what just happened. It’s a deluge of incompetence and misjudged ideas, held together with a shoestring and catering to a demographic that’s either moved on or doesn’t exist.
Put it this way: Tentacolino and The Legend of the Titanic, taken together, run for 172 minutes. James Cameron’s Titanic is 194 minutes. In spite of Kim J. OK’s apparent insanity, I’d take that double feature any day.