Revenge of the Creature (1955)

Author: Wes R.
Submitted by: Wes R.   Date : 2008-06-29 00:02

Directed by: Jack Arnold
Written by: Martin Berkeley
Starring: John Agar, Lori Nelson, and John Bromfield

Reviewed by: Wes R.

“You think maybe that is it? Oh no, the thing you are looking for can break that in two. You know, sometimes I think all North Americanos are crazy. If he is dead, you waste your money. If he’s alive, maybe you be sorry you find him.”

Many people think that sequels were a product of the excessive 80s, but in actuality, the horror genre encountered the sequel many years before thanks to Universal. Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Wolf Man all had multiple entries in their respective franchises. Creature from the Black Lagoon was no different. Though, it only had two sequels, the Gill Man did prove to have a long-lasting career as a fan favorite creation of the 50s horror and sci-fi era. For Universal, the Gill Man provided a second wind as the genre of their choice had grown much different in the years since their original horror stars’ franchises had grown stagnant. How would the Gill Man’s first sequel turn out?

Another expedition has been sent by the Ocean Harbor Oceanarium to obtain the Gill Man for an exhibit. After a struggle, the expedition is a success and he is taken to Florida. While at Ocean Harbor, he becomes the most popular exhibit. Chained to the bottom of his cage, he is also subjected to a number of tests by a Helen, lovely Ichthyologist, and Clete, a square-jawed scientist. After a test goes awry, the Gill Man breaks from his chain and escapes into the ocean. Soon, he finds and abducts Helen from her home and takes her with him on his way back to the Amazon. Will the Gill Man make it back to his home in the Black Lagoon? What does he want with Helen? Will our hero find her before its too late?

I really liked Revenge of the Creature. Like most sequels, it does pale in comparison to the original, but it’s very well made and entertaining in its own right. For one thing, you get a lot more Gill Man action this time around, and pretty much right from the very beginning. The opening of the film is much more in line with the first film. You have another expedition in the Black Lagoon. Once the creature is captured, we say goodbye to what we’re used to in a Creature movie and instead welcome the atmosphere of the tourist-filled sidewalks of Ocean Harbor (a Sea-World type park). This time around, the filmmakers decide to have a little more fun with Gill Man. It’s not campy, necessarily, but it’s fun. For example, while on the loose and looking for Helen, Gill Man happens upon a couple making out in a car. This no doubt spooked drive-in patrons who were watching the movie and possibly making out while inside their own cars. It also serves as a modest commentary on the nature of zoos and parks like Sea World. Sure, the scientists seem to mean well, but they just don’t understand that this creature is far too dangerous for captivity. He harmed zero people in his home at the Black Lagoon, but how many people has he injured and killed since being taken to Ocean Harbor?

I like how they treated the Gill Man as an animal instead of as a monster. In order to revive him from the initial capture, one of the scientists ‘walks’ him through the water as they do sharks and other large fish that are unconscious, so that water will go through the gills. Like in the original, you feel sorry for the Gill Man, and wish that they’d left him in the Amazon where he belongs. I know most horror fans often root for the villain or monster in movies like this, but I was especially drawn to the side of Gill Man, thanks to sympathetic performances by the actors portraying him on land and in water. He seems a lot more agitated and violent this time around than he was in the original film. Of course if you had been poked with a bull prod, you probably wouldn’t be too happy either. Speaking of that shocking stick… how can they shock Gill Man in the water, and have it not shock the other fish in the tank as well (or even themselves?) Kind of loopy logic there, but hey, it was a 50s movie. Audiences back then just watched films for entertainment and didn’t nit-pick them to death for realism. It’s also worth noting that a steady stream of bubbles seems to escape from the top of Gill Man’s head throughout most of the water scenes. I didn’t notice this as much in the first movie, so there must have been some type of modification made to the costume to help the actor breathe a bit better underwater. The result, though, makes the creature look more like a costume, and less like a living, breathing creature. One interesting aspect of the Gill Man that I’ve not touched upon is his fascination with females. In the first film, Julie Adams struck his fancy. Here, Lori Nelson provides Gill Man’s human crush. It’s never really made clear why he fancies these ladies, but I suppose we can draw parallels to King Kong. Both films are likewise about animals that are misunderstood by humans and taken out of their original elements.

I didn’t care for the main cast members in this one as much as I did in the first film. They were good, but definitely over-dramatic in the typical 50s fashion. It was good seeing the character of Lucas return at the main beginning with the Rita II boat. Like in the first movie, he helps to set an ominous tone with his warnings of the dangers that the Gill Man poses. Again in the water Gill Man suit was Ricou Browning. On land, he’s played by stuntman Tom Hennesy, this time around. A surprise to many is the presence of legendary Hollywood actor and director, Clint Eastwood, in a very small role as a lab technician. It was Eastwood’s first of many roles in a very accomplished career. He would later return to the world of Jack Arnold with another uncredited role in the director’s creature feature, Tarantula.

The memorable musical score of the first by Henry Mancini, Hans J. Salter, and Herman Stein is utilized again here to great effect. The plot takes us through numerous locations, signaling that the plot was a great deal larger this time around. The initial film took place mainly on a boat and in the middle of a swampy lagoon. Here, we’re treated to the same lagoon for a bit, then to a Sea World-ish amusement park, a motel, a beach, a laboratory, and even a secluded make-out spot for teenagers in love. Jack Arnold gives us a solid monster movie, with plenty of scenes involving the Gill Man and plenty of attacks to keep us in fear of him. The film may be lacking that spooky feeling that the Black Lagoon gave us in the original, but by this time, most really probably don’t fear Gill Man, and instead cheer him on. Arnold gives fans plenty of moments in which to cheer Gill Man on. He lets us not take the material as seriously this time around, and instead gives us plenty of fun. One of my favorite campy moments in the film is during an attack on two guys at the beach. Gill Man picks one of them up and hurls him toward a nearby palm tree. The man stays airborne for what seems like an eternity before finally slamming into the tree. It's not quite as eye-poppingly cheesy as Godzilla's infamous drop kick in Godzilla vs. Megalon but it gave me a good chuckle.

Revenge of the Creature isn’t revolutionary by any means but a heck of a lot of fun. A double feature made up of Creature from the Black Lagoon followed by this film would make for the perfect evening of great popcorn drive-in fun. For fans of the Gill Man, it provides us one last complete film where he has his classic appearance (his look would alter drastically halfway through the series’ last entry, The Creature Walks Among Us). If you like good 50s sci-fi/horror monster movies, this one is definitely a keeper. It may not be the remembered classic that the original is, but it stands on its own as a solid follow-up and probably one of the all-time best horror movie sequels ever made. Buy it!

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