COMMENTS & CURIOSITIES:Holy calamari! Big squid invasion!

They're back. Not the raccoons in the backyard; I have nothing to report on those — no sightings, no entrapment, no nothing — and that's assuming they even are raccoons. What's back are the giant squid, washing up on local beaches and being hauled onto fishing boats like so many chubby little aliens, all pink and white and squishy, with coal-black eyes and really long tentacles.

The last time giant squid stopped by to say hi was in January 2005, stacking up on beaches from Huntington to Laguna and whipping local fishermen into a squid-induced frenzy. The slippery visitors are making news across the country once again, and reporters still can't resist dubbing it Orange County's "attack of the giant squid." Catchy, but the big squigglies that made a return appearance this week are technically Humboldt squid.

Are they from Northern California? They are not. Did they go to Humboldt State? They did not. According to squidologists, they swam here from South America — and boy, are their tentacles tired. Humboldt squid are named for the Humboldt Current, which I assume was named for somebody named Humboldt and which runs along the Western coast of South America.

But even the largest Humboldt squid are just shrimps compared to their really big brothers, the colossal squid, or "mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni," which I assume were named for someone called Mesonychoteuthis, who I'm guessing went by a nickname. Those squid can grow upwards of 25 feet and weigh hundreds of pounds. By the way, colossal squid were the source of many of the wild-eyed claims of sea monsters by ancient mariners long ago and far away. When you're in a 50-foot boat in the open ocean in 1595 and a 30-foot squid wraps its tentacles around your bow, it gets your attention.

I am ambivalent, squidologically speaking, about the whole thing. True, I am a huge squidophile, but the small version, as in calamari — fried, sautéed, ideally Fra Diavolo over linguine. Cook it, love it, can't get enough of it. But when a squid from South America that weighs in at a quarter of what I do shows up, wriggles onto the beach and says "Hola!," that's more squid than anyone needs.

I'm still amazed that no one has ever done an "Attack of the Giant Squid" movie, which would have made the perfect 1950s horror flick, a la "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," only this time it's giant squid instead of pods from outer space.

There was "Attack of the Giant Leeches" (1958); "Attack of the 50-Foot Woman" (1958) and the excellent remake with Darryl Hannah (1993), which was itself parodied in "Attack of the 50-Foot Chihuahua from Outer Space" (1998), and of course, "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" (1978). Then there's "Attack of the Crab Monsters" (1957), not to be confused with "Attack of the Bat Monsters" (2000); "Attack of the Red Neck Mutants (1986); and "Attack of the Killer Refrigerator (1990), which I can't believe I missed, to say nothing my favorite attacking creature film of all time, "Night of the Lepus," with Janet Leigh and Stuart Whitman (1972.) A scientist doing genetic research with rabbits inadvertently creates a horde of mutant, 10-foot tall bunnies that roam the desert at night and do really scary things, or try to anyway. The "scary" scenes were shot with real rabbits, and apparently no one realized that rabbits are really cute whatever size they come in, even if they're crushing miniature cars.The sequences of Janet Leigh screaming for her life intercut with closeups of the giant bunnies twitching their whiskers might be some of the greatest moments in film history.

So that's it then. The attack of the giant squid, coming soon to a beach near you and maybe, someday, on DVD. Come on, Hollywood. Just because the mutant bunnies didn't work doesn't mean the giant squid won't. There are times when you just have to be bold. By the way, the experts say that if you see one of these things on the sand, don't touch it. You don't know where it's been, and I'm not talking about Argentina.

I gotta go.


  • PETER BUFFA is a former Costa Mesa mayor. His column runs Sundays. He may be reached at ptrb4@aol.com.
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