Revenge of the Creature (1955)
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Even in a production without much life, the Gill Man still seems
powerful and mysterious, and his biological drive to mate with Ms. Nelson is interesting considering the long lineage of sympathetic monsters in love with knock-out blondes and brunettes. Sadly, the idea of the monster, the tragic beast longing for what is impossible to him (Wolf Man, King Kong, the Mummy) is a distant memory in filmdom. There was the recent DARK MAN, and Nicholson's WOLF, but these are obvious throw-backs to a time when monsters were more than scurrying guerrillas attacking from the shadows or machine-like mass murderers who cannot be killed. I won't count fluffy-haired vampires, whose allure as suave parasites is not "monstrous". A monster, in classic terms, in love with a beautiful woman, is denied her by the facts of their existence. Either because of grotesqueness or species-differences,
the monster endures pain, capture, and often death in his attempt to carry a Lori Nelson in his arms through a moonlit swamp.
In REVENGE the Gill Man is probed, prodded, and stared at by tourists, definitely the worst fate, though this allows the Creature to establish a magnetic attraction to Lori Nelson. You get a great escape, more Lori Nelson in bathing suits, a big bohunk who has an unhealthy fetish with wrestling the Gill Man hand-to-hand, and lots more Lori Nelson in a bathing suit. What you don't do is watch this movie for any reason but to see the Gill Man thrash in the water and smack
bohunks...and if you're a fan of the Creature and classic monsters, you'll understand the tragic consequences when you're a walking fish-man who's half-man enough to love a human woman, and whose tears probably would never show, in the depths of the deepest lagoons.
Getting the Gill Man trapped in the Black Lagoon the boat's crew headed by aquatic scientist Joe Hayes, John Bromfield, blast the Gill Man out of the water with high explosives.
Knocked out and helpless the Gill man is shipped back to the USA to Ocean Harbor Aquarium in Silver Springs Florida to be exhibited to the eager and curious public and examined by scores of scientists and ichthyologists. To see just what he's all about and if he's the missing link between man, before he evolved into a primate, and fish.
Put in this huge water tank and held down by a steel chain tied to his leg the Gill Man is a major curiosity piece for the thousands of tourists who visit the aquarium.
Much like in the first Gill Man film the underwater photography is breathtaking with the Gill Man trapped, swimming around in circles, and having nowhere to go. As well as when he's free in the open ocean and in the Amazon River swimming and diving like he were an Olympic Gold Medal winner.
Examined by Prof. Clete Ferguson, John Agar, and ichthyologist Helen Dobson, Lori Nelson,the Gill Man develops a crush on Helen and that drives him almost bonkers as he's just out of reach of grabbing Helen when she and Clete are studying him underwater. It doesn't take long for the Gill Man to break his chain and escape from the tank. After tearing up the aquarium, and killing a couple of people, he jumps into the Atlantic Ocean and swims away.
The Gill Man for some reason doesn't travel south to the Amazon River where he comes from but north to the St. Augustine/Jacksonville area in Florida to follow Helen who's there with Prof. Ferguson and her dog Chris.
Obviously madly in love with Helen but too shy to ask her out on a date the Gill Man spends the last half of the movie stalking her all the way up Florida's Atlantic Coast. He finally gets enough nerve to approach Helen and burst into the local Lobster House, during a Saturday night bandstand party, knocking the place, with it's tables chairs and people, over and putting a couple of drunk party goers into the hospital. Grabbing a terrified Helen the Gill Man disappeared with her into he night.
The ending was what you would have expected with the Gill Man stymied in his attempt to swim back home, to the Black Lagoon, with Helen and shot up by Prof. Furguson and an army of police and local townspeople but still making a successful getaway.
Even though the villain in the movie the Gill Man evoked far more sympathy in "The Revenge of the Creature" then he did in "the Creature from the Black Lagoon". Since he had more screen time and showed genuine sensitivity and feeling for Helen. He was also minding his own business in the safety of the Black Lagoon, when he was kid or creature-napped by a bunch of strangers, the crew of the Rita II. Who's only reasons for doing it was to glorify and enrich themselves at his, the Gill Mans, expense and freedom.
This first sequel to CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON is pretty standard stuff, although I've always preferred the look of the monster in this film even over the original. He appears darker and somehow that strikes me as better.
Other than that, it's pretty much run-of-the-mill as the Creature is captured and then escapes from a Marineland attraction. I suppose that the idea of the Creature becoming a major attraction as a sideshow exhibit is interesting, but it becomes tedious at times as we watch John Agar and Lori Nelson try to train and feed him in his new environment. Lori Nelson has some pretty dumb dialogue at times, too.
This film is not beyond enjoyment, though. When you consider that JAWS 3D (also from Universal) copied the idea of this film with disastrous results, REVENGE OF THE CREATURE looks pretty decent indeed.
Maybe it's the smug aura of John 'what is it I don't know' Agar, but this one seemed less like a horror flick and more like an inaugural presentation for Sea World. Wouldn't that have been a a great match up: Gill Man vs Shamu! This orca ain't no alligator you can snap in half.
Helen Dobson is a nice distraction from the relenting slow pace quite apparent in the film. Her expertise in ichthyology is most impressive especially in that white swimwear. Can you really blame the Gill Man for trying? Give this movie credit for the creature's special effects. Keeping in mind this was made in 1955, the articulate detail for Gilly adds this other worldy effect and it's so bizarre seeing any scene where his gills flap in and out.
Poor GM, he was just misunderstood. How would you react to repeated cattle prodding?
Jack Arnold returns as director, and he has brought Ricou Browning back as the creature. 1950s science fiction lead John Agar is also here, making this a pretty solid sequel. (And who can be opposed to a film with Clint Eastwood in it?)
I guess a lot of people harp on this film. Mike Mayo calls it "insipid" and "a joke." Howard Maxford calls it "run-down". Well, I like it better than the original. I really, truly do. I feel more happens and the plot is more developed. I would have to watch both again to make a definitive statement, but I watched them both back to back and was bored by the first compared to the second.
Admittedly the screenplay has its weak links. Depending largely on unlikely co-incidences, the storyline pays scant regard to consistency or logic, while the dialogue is not only trite and banal but seems to go out of its way to provide a persistent assault on the viewer's intelligence by explaining what we can actually see for ourselves. No-one can walk to the bathroom in this film without someone providing a running commentary. Worse, the characters prove little more than pasteboard figures which indifferent actors like Agar and Nelson struggle to bring to life. Miss Nelson is further handicapped by the large amount of make-up she was forced to wear for the 3-D cameras. True, the effect seemed not only attractive but perfectly natural when the original film was projected through a 3-D filter and then viewed through polaroid glasses. She still looks great when framed through a Marineland window, but in bright sunlight the effect now looks ridiculous.
Of course, the Creature himself seems far less menacing (and far more obviously a stuntman in an ill-fitting rubber suit) when exposed to the glare of flat, over-bright 2-D scrutiny.
Nonetheless, the skill of Jack Arnold's direction, particularly in his efforts to disguise obvious 3-D tricks and use depth to produce shock in a seemingly more realistic way, gives the movie sufficient interest and vigor to overcome all script and histrionic short-comings.
Production values benefit from location filming and it's good to see Scotty Welbourne handling all the photographic chores on this one, both underwater and main unit. Of course, in 2-D the picture looks over-lit as it was lensed with 3-D's 20% light reduction firmly in mind.