Peter Benchley’s Creature

| May 18, 2015

Did you ever get the feeling, when you hear about an upcoming home video release, that perhaps the distributor is putting that title out just for you, as if their decision-making process had been cosmically driven by your deeply personal, esoteric interests? That’s how I felt when I learned of Olive Films’ upcoming Blu-ray release of Peter Benchley’s Creature, a 1998, two-part TV movie/miniseries (I’ve seen it called both) event loosely based on Jaws author Peter Benchley’s 1994 novel, White Shark.  Though I had previously had zero personal engagement with the movie prior to this release’s announcement, it was as though this Blu-ray was intended from its inception to find its way into my home.

I mean, here I am in the world arguing for the validity of TV movies that aren’t disease-of-the-week or women-in-distress pictures as topics of valuable conversations. Here I am having written my Master’s thesis about TV movies adapted from Marvel Comics properties and now heralding the legitimacy of TV movies about hybrid shark creatures to my undergraduate students. Sometimes, I’ll admit, it feels like no one’s listening. But what does Olive Films do? They announce a full-HD release of a vintage, hybrid shark creature TV movie!

Seriously, I am the target audience for this and with any luck whatsoever I am not totally alone in this. We need more such titles on Blu-ray, I tell you, and soon! If you’re a fan of the TV movie format as I, you know what I mean when I say that this has everything I look for in a TV movie. The quality of performances and music are exactly what you’d hope for from a TV movie from 1998. The stars (Craig T. Nelson and Kim Cattrall) deliver solid performances while the supporting cast are more than appropriately hammy, and the music has that sort of late-90s TV synth sound that just doesn’t quite hold up amidst today’s grander orchestrations! And I wouldn’t have it any other way. There are also some hilariously glaring continuity errors in the movie’s pickups. Not only is Nelson’s hair occasionally two inches or more longer than it had been a split second earlier in the pickup shots, but characters are suddenly driving around in vehicles with steering on the opposite side of the dash (a switch that sometimes humorously occurs between consecutive shots).

More importantly, though, there’s a super rad shark creature: a shark/human hybrid that evolves suddenly and as necessary. At first it’s essentially a great white shark with hands. Then, the beast gets itself grounded and sprouts arms and legs, becoming amphibious. So basically, it’s Jaws on land as the shark gains the ability to chase people on foot and also arbitrarily hang upside down from trees. It may sound silly, but believe me, the shark man is the real deal. This is no cheap, CGI beastie. It’s a full-scale, practical creature effect from the studio of special effects master Stan Winston (Aliens, Terminator 2)! At three hours long, Creature certainly has its fair share of the predictable dull moments you’d expect from a television feature of the era, but the creature itself makes every second you wait between attacks worth it (which is not to say I didn’t enjoy every second in between, enamored with the feature-length television format as I am).

To see the creature in HD in a Blu-ray transfer was an incredible treat. The picture quality on the Olive Films release is stunningly clear—better than I’ve seen any TV movie from the era look in any transfer. Certain shots in the movie were filmed in such a way that they appear highly grainy for some reason though, and of course any stock footage utilized therein predictably looks like the incongruous stock footage it is, but of course the producers weren’t anticipating a Blu-ray release when they made the thing.

About the Author:

Jef is a writer and educator in Chicago, Illinois. He holds a degree in Media & Cinema Studies from DePaul University, but sometimes he drops it and picks it back up again. He's also the Editor-in-Chief of and is fueled entirely by coffee (as if you couldn't tell).
Filed in: TV on DVD

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