Tuesday, 31 March 2015

March Monsters: Revenge of the Creature (1955)

Revenge of the Creature (1955)
Director: Jack Arnold
Starring: John Agar, Lori Nelson, and  John Bromfield
Running Time: 82 min

  Sometimes I feel bad for the creature from the Black Lagoon or Gill-man, has his friends call him.  He's like the Aquaman of the Universal Monster Super Fiends squad and with his limited range of scaring ability and the fact that he has to stick near water all the time, he never was really catapulted in any amazing new updates or found a place in any blockbuster remakes, although it has been talked about since the 80's.  However, people do love this felonious fish man and he does show up quite a few horror comedies or whenever a collection of classic creatures are need, Gill-man gets a call.  Anyway, this is the 2nd film in his trilogy and the only one I haven't seen, so I'm going to dive in without looking and hope that I don't get pulled down to deep in the horrors of the Gill-man.

  Joe Hayes and his buddy are traversing the Black Lagoon in search of the creature that killed a number of people a few months ago.  Although, he's been warned a number of times by the captain about the dangerous of this monster, Joe wants to capture the creature and deliver him to his employers at Ocean World and collect all the fame and prestige for capturing such a unique scientific specimen.  When they arrive, Joe goes down into the water and is attacked right away by Gill-man!  Luckily, he is rescued just in time by the captain of the boat and his friend.  However, Joe is not giving up and has his friend surround the water with dynamite charges that will render anything near the impact in the area unconscious.  Joe gives his friend the cue and he does blows ups that water something fierce and eventually Gill-man floats to the top of the water like an over sized gold fish. We got you now, you damn dirty fishman!
  Joe somehow sends a picture of their "discovery" to all the news networks and everyone in the country can see his big catch of the day.  He brings Gill-man back to Ocean World and wakes him up in his new home.  Unfortunately, Gill-man freaks out and the workers at  Ocean World have to quickly chain the monster to the bottom of their pool before he gets himself free and tries to kill everybody.  The most dangerous fish exhibit ever!
  Luckily Professor Clete Ferguson, a renowned animal psychologist and I'm assuming former hillbilly, has come down to Ocean World on his own dime to study the freaky fishman.  However that's not all he's investigating there because during the brouhaha with Gill, he meets a cute ichthyology student, Helen Dobson. So, you like fish?  They hit it off and offer their expertise to Joe Hayes and Ocean World for apparently no charge, which Ocean World happily accepts.
  Clete and Helen take over the care and study of Gill-man, using classic nurturing techniques like using an electric cattle prod on the creature if it doesn't listen and trust exercises like offering food to the fishman, then taking it away and then forgetting to feed it because Clete and Helen are going on a date.  However, as time goes by, Helen does come to realize how lonely it must be for a fishman living in the 50's.  There are no other fishman like him and certainly no fishladies for him to mate/spawn with but Helen shouldn't worry because this horny Gill-man only has eyes for one lady, which is her.  Eventually, Gill-man busts loose and makes a break for it and then tries to capture Helen's heart, as well as her whole body.  Basically, he kidnaps her.  Can Clete save his girlfriend before Gill-man gives her the ole "Humanoids for the Deep" action or is she fated for a fishy future?

  This is definitely better than the third one and on par with the first,  just because you see more of Gill-man.  I was surprised to find out that this was also shot in 3D, like the first film and was not only was this the only 3D movie released in 1955 but the only 3D sequel to be film in 3D, which is kind of cool.
  Jack Arnold, the director of many brilliant creature features like, The Incredible Shrinking Man and Tarantula, does an amazing job with the underwater camera work here and uses it extensively.  It's really unbelievable how clear and gorgeous these images look, considering the time period and how new this technology was back then.
  Also, the creature is amazing and unlike some creatures nowadays looks scary.  Although, he has a simple classic monster look to him, there is something unnerving about that masked fishy face and deadness in those fish eyes.

  This film does get into a bit of trouble and slows way down in the 2nd act after the Gill-man is caught.  It focuses too much on the relationship between Clete, played by John Agar (The Brain From Planet Arous, The Naked Monster), and Helen, played by Lori Nelson (Underwater!, Hot Rod Girl) and not nearly enough of the horrifying Gill-man, who does pop up occasionally as a creepy third wheel staring at the two lovers from the tank.
  Also there is no subtlety to the fishman, every time anyone came to the cage, he is fierce and tries to  fight his captures.  I wish that he played it a little calmer and come up with a cunning plan to lure hi captures into some sort of trap to try and escape, instead of just using brute force.  However, when he does escape it is pretty awesome.  The panic and fear in the eyes of everyone in the park is awesome and I love when he flips the car.  No automobiles can stop Gill-man!

  With that said, this is still a fun film with some horrifying but exemplary under water camera work.  It's unfortunate that film makers over the years haven't found better ways to update or spin this character and have just left him floundering as comic relief for so many other films and TV spots.  This story is okay and literally creates a fish(man) out of water scenario.  Also, there is some serious violence in this, that is surprising for a 50's film and there are some good unintentional chuckles along the way. So if you're trawling for some classic horror that lays deep in the terrifying waters, then get your hooks into this one and it will totally fish you in.


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