Revenge of the Creature (1955)
By: Mr Intolerance on April 7, 2009  | 
Umbrella (Australia). All Regions, NTSC. 4:3. English DD 2.0 Mono. English (FHI), Spanish, French Subtitles. 78 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Jack Arnold
Starring: John Agar, Lori Nelson, John Bromfield, Nestor Paiva
Screenplay: Martin Berkeley
Country: USA
External Links
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The Creature from the Black Lagoon is an iconic horror film and character. The first film was originally released in 3D (although it wasn't shot as such) to give it a gimmick/novelty value that it didn't need to sell it – the awesome costume of the Gill Man was enough to do that, if the Lovecraftian storyline had bypassed the easily bewildered and terminally confused. The movie was a hit, and given the fifties monster movie craze a sequel was a no-brainer. Again, 3D was used to sell the film, but this time that added spice was maybe a little more...well, not so much necessary, as maybe warranted. Sequels are rarely equals.

So, with the original director Jack Arnold back on board (usually a good sign for a franchise, if they can finagle the first director back for a sophmore effort), we head back to a tributary of the upper Amazon to capture us a fish-man. A staple of the old Universal films is the locals telling the local legends to the invariably modern American gents who've happened upon, or in this case have been drawn to because of scientific curiosity/filthy lucre, the Olde Worlde and its customs. In the fifties there was always time for egg-head/boffin expository dialogue, and that's what we get here. Two professors on the hunt for the Gill Man sail down the Amazon and hunker down with their ship's pilot to discuss the missing link's history. Stagey and hammy it is, but it certainly fills in the gaps for an audience who haven't necessarily seen the original film. It also gives the film the chance to state it's main theme: that some things in nature should be left alone if they don't harm folks, and not be chained-up to be gawked at by slack-jawed yokels. Dignity should be accorded to things we view as inferiors as much as to ourselves – an early Hollywood attempt at promoting racial tolerance, albeit in a rather crude and primitive, bordering on the offensive, fashion? Could be.

From an early point of the film I was wondering how much of the under-water footage was half-inched from the original film – there were some very familiar shots of the Gill-Man present. Regardless, the initial underwater fight-scene between the Creature and the square-jawed hero professor is pretty darned impressive, especially when you consider that the guy in the monster suit had very little air to breathe. That struggle had me gasping for air, in my spacious and airy living room.

The scientists use dynamite to stun the Creature, which is then sent to an "Oceanarium" in Florida for revival and study. During another scene of expository dialogue, I was treated to an early performance by none other than that God-Among-Mortal-Men Clint motherfuckin' Eastwood! Woo-hoo! The Creature From The Black Lagoon and Dirty Harry in the same film? Imagine if they made The Creature From The Black Lagoon Versus Dirty Harry – now that'd be a film I'd go to see. Anyway, the creature is comatose, and has been since its rather indelicate kidnapping, and hot young marine biology Masters student Helen Dobson (Lori Nelson) is just the gal to bring him out of it. The Creature rather disturbingly always reacts well to fine forms of female flesh, just like the Humanoids From The Deep, albeit in a slightly less lurid fashion – nevertheless, that scrofulous, tatty old amphibian rapist can't wait to get his freak on with a saucy young lass. The razor-clawed aquatic sex-bomb is revived, rather stupidly, in an easily escaped from holding tank - you just know that badness is likely to ensue.

The Creature nearly escapes but is recaptured and put into a more appropriate environment, after having mauled a few folks. Oddly enough there's a bit of Cloverfield deja-vu going on here – dumb mother-fuckers just standing around and watching, taking photos while the Creature runs amok – clever people like me would have been heading for the hills tout-de-fucking-suite. Cowardice might not be a very admirable character trait, but it's certainly one that ensures a longer life-span.

Anyhoo, the Gill-Man is thought to be safely chained up, morality of such an act be damned, and put on show at the Oceanarium. Dignity? Bollocks – we can jaw down popcorn and point and laugh at what we perceive to be freaks. The Creature won't eat the fish that swim around him in the tank – asserting his kinship with things aquatic? - and has to be fed fish that are already dead, and those who get in the tank to feed him get the added bonus of being attacked by a six foot-plus tall homicidal marine molester.

You've really got to wonder who the arsehole really is, as the two scientists vying for the lovely young Helen's attention are a fuck's sight more predatory than the Gill-Man, and are two of the most repellent characters around, talking about her in her presence like she's some kind of object, to be passed from one to the other. The monster ends up looking like a much better catch, in some regards – at least he seems to be faithful.

Trying to teach the Creature seems to involve shocking him repeatedly with a highly-electrified cattle-prod. You can understand why he might find that annoying, and also why it doesn't curb his homicidal and lecherous ways. Building resentment against his captors? Oh yes, I think so. And he still has an eye for Helen, remember, and his tolerance for rivals in that regard, well...

There are some sadly funny moments of the movie when the 1950s mindset becomes predominant, and when Helen laments her chosen career as an icthyologist in contrast to her friends and classmates who've already raised families. Not exactly putting the cause of feminism very far... I guess in that regard, as in many others, the film is a product of its time, and needs to be judged as such, as opposed to the post-modern way I'm seeing it today. And mainstream horror films are pretty darned conservative, when it comes down to it – preachy morality, adherence to social values and mores, and poetic justice usually are the order of the day – especially in Universal's canon.

An experiment with the Gill-Man goes horribly wrong, and that chain he was attached to, well, it was never going to last. The revenge the creature tries to wreak is not really all that carnage-strewn given that we live in a post-August Underground world, but it's certainly appropriate for its time. You'll have to seek it out yourself to see, however – probably worth your while, if you're a fan of old horror films. I'll say no more about the plot for fear of spoilers.

The acting here is even more rudimantary than the original film, really way too hammy for a modern audience to take, extremely melodramatic, bordering on the soap-opera-ish; that's definitely a downer. I'm not too sure what Jack Arnold's brief must have been, but if the phrase "make the acors look like complete dickheads" was part of it, then mission accomplished.
For a black and white movie that's over 50 years old, the picture is pretty damned good – as a matter of fact, to be totally honest, it's crystalline; razor sharp.
Brought to you in glorious mono, this sounds a little flat, but is clear. Can't have everything, I guess.
Extra Features
There's a neat commentary track with Lori Nelson and a couple of film historians, Tom Weaver and Bob Burns, and the original theatrical trailer. Besides that, nada.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
As sequels go it isn't a bad one. Yeah it's no The Empire Strikes Back or The Wrath of Khan, but you'll get some good popcorn fun from The Revenge of the Creature. It's exactly what you'd expect from a bit of fifties horror/monster-movie kitsch. Enjoyable, but not essential.

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