Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961)

Author: Brett H.
Submitted by: Brett H.   Date : 2008-11-11 12:23

Directed by: Roger Corman
Written by: Charles B. Griffith
Starring: Antony Carbone, Betsy Jones-Moreland, Robert Towne & Beach Dickerson

Reviewed by: Brett H.

ďIt was dusk. I could tell because the sun was going down.Ē

It is said that legendary filmmaker Orson Welles once commented on Ted Turnerís plot to colorize his landmark film, Citizen Kane, by saying the billionaire should Ēkeep his goddamn Crayolas away from my movieĒ. Unfortunately, all films canít be rosebuds, and drive-in auteur Roger Corman took full advantage of on-the-cheap schlock filmmaking in the late fifties through to the drive-in theatre tragically crumbling to the ground and continuing to this day. Although most well known for bringing lost Paramount gems to DVD, Legend Films also has a fancy for taking old black and white public domain ďtreasuresĒ and spicing them up via an impressive colorization process. Proving you can have your cake and eat it too, Legend also offers the classic black and white presentation for all the purists out there. Although using the term Ďpuristí with a film like Cormanís satirical Creature from the Haunted Sea is, well, baffling.

Sparks Moran (Robert Towne) is also known as Agent XK150, an American spy who is out to foil the plot of three dim witted criminals and their sexy female acquaintance. Itís not going to be easy, the four are ruthless murderers who will stop at nothing to take gold from the Cuban people who are desperate to keep their riches in order to soon rebuild what newfound leader Castro will certainly destroy. In an attempt to swindle the gold for themselves, the cigarette puffing Renzo (Antony Carbone) plans to knock off all the Cuban forces and their General by killing them and blaming it on a sea monster. Plans backfire when bodies inexplicably start piling up and allies become foes when a creature lurking in the depths decides to occasionally come up for a little airÖ and bloodshed.

Creature from the Haunted Sea is cheap, even for Roger Corman. Rather than having just a straightforward drive-in extravaganza, the film spoofs inane crime dramas of the era and brings in the standard hairy cucumber monster for a few cheap pops. Those familiar with only the Poe pictures of Cormanís directorial canon will be stunned at the sub-par quality of the script and the shoddy monster costume, but thereís some fun to be had if you go into the film with a little Attack of the Giant Leeches-type experience under your belt. For what itís worth, the main appeal Iíve always found in the really low budget drive-in films is just letting myself become entranced at the sheer awfulness of the monster costumes they entail. These monstrous garbs are always great for entertainment, if only to ogle the plain badness of trash bags and astro-turf or if youíre lucky, some charming mediocrity. The monster in Creature from the Haunted Sea is a green hodgepodge of cloth and string accompanied by some claws that are strangely similar to Freddyís Krueger gloves. His rubber blades bend incredibly obviously during strangulation scenes, and I must say it suits the silliness and tomfoolery of the film perfectly.

The goal of Creature from the Haunted Sea is not to scare, but to make you laugh. The problem is the satire only works in small doses and one character in particular is overly annoying due to his love of mimicking the sounds of all sorts of wild animals. Youíll laugh at the film during the first impression (which is spot on, by the way, they used the real sounds of the animals in question), but soon it just wears down on you. The American spy hoping to take down the goons is amusing enough during his imbecilic narrations and there are plenty of quips from the characters that will inspire you to chuckle. But, even at a mere 60 minutes, the film grows old, at least until the cucumber demon from the sea decides to go on the hunt. In all its awfulness, the film still has a slight charm that will please only the most devoted of drive-in fans or a small child. You would never guess the man behind The Pit and the Pendulum, released in the same year, directed this.

As a veteran of public domain DVD releases, Creature from the Haunted Sea (along with the similarly titled Corman production, Beast from the Haunted Cave) has somehow eluded me and I was overjoyed when Legend announced they would be colorizing this dollar-store title. The film isnít atmospheric in the least, and I actually found myself enjoying the colorized version better than the original black and white. A good portion of the flick takes place in the tropics, and itís great to admire the scenery in full color. The disc itself looks pretty good, thereís a bit of grain, age and rare image problems on its full-frame transfer while the audio is mostly distinct. Both the audio and video are by no means crisp, but this is Creature from the Haunted Sea; it doesnít really matter. Rounding out the disc are trailers for other Legend releases, and donít forget, the original black and white presentation is also present. Iíve heard a previous release of Creature was in non-anamorphic widescreen, but again, it doesnít really matter. Itís admirable that Legend would give such a low-regarded film a nice colorized treatment considering that even in color, the film would never attract any modern fans. Iíve been hooked on this drive-in junk ever since I stumbled upon my first Killer Creature Double Feature Madacy disc and Creature from the Haunted Sea didnít completely disappoint in stunning ineptness, but everyone should tread into this Sea with extreme caution. Legend has ended my hunt for Cormanís Creature and I can only hope someday they do the same for that dreaded Beast from the Haunted Cave that I never seem to run across. Lovingly, Trash it!

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