‘Terror is loose in the city!’
Revenge of the Creature is the first sequel to Creature from the Black Lagoon. The science-fiction horror movie was released on May 11, 1955, in the United States and was followed by a second sequel in 1956, The Creature Walks Among Us.
Directed by the helmer of the Black Lagoon, Jack Arnold, Revenge of the Creature sees the unlucky Gill Man again being pestered in the remote lagoon in the Amazon (an unconvincing Florida) whilst minding his own business. Found and knocked (shot) unconscious, Gill Man is taken to an oceanarium in Florida (handy) where he is both studied and exhibited to sensation-hungry crowds.
Magnet for monstrous disaster, John Agar (Tarantula, The Mole People, Attack of the Puppet People) playing Professor Clete Ferguson and pretty love interest Helen Dobson (Lori Nelson) split their time between careful study and 1950s slushy romance, taking their eye off the ball and allowing Gilly to break free of his chains and go on the rampage.
The Creature has – naturally – also taken a liking to Helen and after escaping to the sea, soon returns looking for his human fancy piece. Eventually kidnapping her at a rockin’ lobster house, the action turns to the perennial match-up of man versus monster.
After the underrated Creature from the Black Lagoon, the sequel of the following year has far more of a B-movie feel, losing the tightness of the plot and the creepiness of the monster. The main failing is the stop/start jolts of action and absolutely NOTHING that bug the proceedings from the off – this even continues towards the climax, the film stifled by the monster only being able to be on land for a few minutes at a time.
Much of the action featuring the creature is terrific, if for no other reason than to marvel how the water-bound actor playing Gillman (Ricoh Browning) managed to swim and move so gracefully, as well as holding his breath for often what seems like an age, whilst lugging such a huge suit along with him. Indeed, he came close to real tragedy, leaping off a pier with Nelson, only to land amongst a smack of jellyfish. Dragged further down by his suit, he had to be rescued by two boys watching the action from a nearby boat.
Sadly, the film has achieved more fame for the first screen appearance of Clint Eastwood than for any other reason. Sporting a wafting quiff, he has a completely duff few lines about a missing lab rat which he then finds in his pocket. Rather than finishing his career, as it would with most others, Mr Eastwood went on to star in a few westerns and ended up as a director of some note. His other forays into horror-themed territory are as an uncredited fighter pilot bombing the giant Tarantula, as the DJ in psycho-thriller Play Misty for Me (1971), as a masochistic cop tracking a serial killer in Tightrope and as ‘Dirty’ Harry Callaghan investigating multiple murders based around a horror movie director in The Dead Pool.
There are some very obviously ‘filmed for 3D’ scenes with various objects looming out at the viewer but these do not disrupt the flow too much. The underwater sequences are breathtaking (literally) with many close-ups of the Gillman so we can admire the superb costume. The 1950s setting is to the film’s detriment; the early Universal efforts of the 1930s and 1940s have an almost timeless quality, whereas the ‘gee-whizz’ acting style and canoodling teens bring a safety and sheen to the film which cuts against any potential threat or suspense, though there are a couple of neat ‘false jump’ scenes that pre-empt the monster’s appearance.
Unintentional humour appears when the monster escapes, a tannoy announcer declaring ‘Get out everybody, get away from the Gillman!’; so much for calmly head towards the exits…The terror is rammed home by a spinning newspaper headline – ‘Prehistoric monster on the loose!’
Universal is oddly uncaring to its horror sequels; though most have received a release of some sort, they lack the reverential attention paid to the first wave, which is very unfortunate as there is so much to enjoy.
Though on a very different plateau to then original, Revenge of the Creature is good fun and shows off one of cinemas most iconic monsters in a pleasingly kitsch setting.
Daz Lawrence, MOVIES and MANIA
Clip with Clint Eastwood’s first appearance: