Mermaids of Tiburon (1962)

Article 1807 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-24-2006
Posting Date: 7-24-2006
Directed by John Lamb
Featuring Diane Webber, George Rowe, Timothy Carey

An oceanographer investigates reports of strange mammal life around the island of Tiburon, and discovers that mermaids live on the spot. He also must contend with a greedy and homicidal adversary who is after pearls.

If this movie had been described to me before I ever watched it, I wouldn’t have expected much from it. Somehow, the idea of a movie that takes place mostly underwater and requires extensive use of narration sounds like a bit of a bore. And to a certain extent, it is; there were times where my patience was strained. The startling thing is that this happened far less than could have been the case. For most of the movie, the underwater scenes and the narration achieve a simple elegance that makes the movie rather engaging. I like the visions of the mermaids swimming underwater, and I was startled by a sequence in which a shark appears and we see the actors interact with it in the same frame; there’s even an amazing sequence where the shark and one of the mermaids swim together. One thing I found rather interesting is that our two leads (Diane Webber and George Rowe) never say a singe word onscreen; whereas the former is a mermaid, the latter communicates entirely through the voice-over narration. Almost all of the dialogue is reserved for either Timothy Carey (who makes a memorable villain) and Jose Gonzales-Gonzales (whose likeable character is badly compromised by the fact that there’s something a little offensive about the use of Mexican stereotypes). The movie is also nicely edited and not confusing, as it might well have been, and director John Lamb had the knack for effective visual moments; there’s an unexpectedly moving scene with a floating guitar and a bird. This one was much better than expected.


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