The Creature Walks Among Us (1956)
By: Mr Intolerance on April 14, 2009  | 
DVD
Umbrella (Australia). All Regions, NTSC. 4:3. English DD 2.0 Mono. English (FHI), Spanish, French Subtitles. 81 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: John Sherwood
Starring: Jeff Morrow, Rex Reason, Leigh Snowden, Gregg Palmer, Maurice Manson
Screenplay: Arthur Ross
Country: USA
External Links
Purchase IMDB YouTube
Yet another team of scienticists are in pursuit of the Creature From The Black Lagoon. Their purpose? Ahem – believe it or not, to use the Gill-Man's ability to breathe underwater to help with the space program. These egg-heads seem a bit more well-equipped than the parties in the previous two films, but in this third and decidedly inferior entry into the cycle, that still just ain't cutting the mustard.

The script has a whole mess of problems, and not just the more than vaguely ridiculous premise; the dialogue right from the word go is stodgy and stiff – not helped from the outset by the characters' constantly referring to each other as "Doctor" so-and-so. It kept reminding me of the flight crew in Flying High and the scene where they're all introduced to each other, which tended to undermine any kind of willing suspension of disbelief. The stiff formality and the over-reliance on exposition (show me, don't tell me, you fools – it's a movie, after all) do not make for an engaging movie experience.

The Gill-Man has obviously decided that he's over the whole Amazonian lagoon thing, and has possibly come to the conclusion that it's time to hang up his fins and wait out the clock in Florida, specifically in the Everglades. Unfortunately, the rather nutty Dr Barton wants to force the Gill-Man to evolve, to create a new species. Of course, the 50s fear of science and the whole post-the Bomb distrust of scientists and their more than occasional lapses in morality is laid on with a trowel. And, as with Revenge of the Creature, I was left wondering if any of the under-water footage of the Gill-Man had been re-used from the first film. In the initial hunt for the creature, I would swear that there are two different suit designs, and the colour of the suit changes between shots, although I guess that could just be the lighting.

So anyway, the hunt goes kaput when Dr Barton's annoying (yet still rather attractive) wife Marcia goes a bit loopy from deep-sea diving, and has to be taken back to the quite high-tech boat Barton's had kitted out with all the mod cons. And the creature, who has been literally swimming circles around the scientists, now knows where to find them. Book-smarts does not equal common sense, as these boffins are quickly proving. Barton, apart from wanting to play either god or Nature, is a very jealous husband, and between Morgan, the handsome geneticist, and blunt object Grant in hisrather too-tight white t-shirts, he perceives his wife to be maybe at risk of forgetting her vows, and threatens her to stay faithful or else.

Night-time in the great outdoors is not a welcoming thing; the boat heads upstream, but whether our crew of scientists are hunting the Creature, or it's the other way around, well, I guess that's just a matter of perspective. However, the cunning little fella has drawn the gang away from the boat and it would certainly appear that things are being done according to his terms. Until, that is, he gets set alight – however, it's at this point that we get some notion of the physical brute force of the Creature; watch as he toppples a boat with five fully grown men and a shitload of equipment on board – he's one strong motherfucker. But the trauma from the flames was too much, and suffering third degree burns, he's captured and operated on – seems the Gill-Man has lungs as well as gills and, as his gills have been almost totally destroyed by the fire, he's given a tracheotomy to save his life.

Changing the Gill-Man's method of breathing seems to change his entire physicality, and he mutates almost immediately – this to me is a point when the film loses some of its credibility. The original Gill-Man suit was a pretty darned amazing bit of special effects for its day. The burns-victim/post-op Gill-Man outfit? Not so much. Plus, it's not a full body prosthesis, as to add insult to injury, the poor fella has to get around in a really dodgy pair of pyjamas. The original Gill-Man evoked sympathy due to his situation, not his look, which here only really engenders a rather degrading pity. Y'know what it reminded me of? Jack Nicholson's character in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest – at the end of the film after the lobotomy and he's become basically a shell of what he was and the Chief smothers him as an act of human kindness and to give him back his dignity? Yeah, well, that's how I feel about the Creature here. He's had his individuality stolen from him, and while in the same process he's had his life saved, he's living as a broken and more than slightly pathetic being, neither one thing nor the other. Quality of life and quantity of life are not the same thing.

Barton, with his typical hubris, seems to think that he's created a new form of life, whereas Morgan is uneasy wondering if what they have altered will have the best or the worst of its own intrinsic nature; that environment, extrinsic nurture, is what shapes us and makes us the people we are. The other doctors are non-committal, hedging their bets.

The Creature makes a bid for freedom, but hasn't realised how ill-equipped for survival in the water he now is, not having his gills and all, and Morgan tries to rescue him. Remember what I said before? Just because you can do something doesn't necessarily mean you should do it. Saving the Creature's life has almost killed him – after all, the only life he's known is under the sea - take him out of that and what does he have? A pen, like the kind you keep cattle in, on Barton's ranch in California.

Barton reasons that the Creature is forgetting his primordial ways and becoming more human; Morgan still believes that the Creature is acting according to how he's treated. Barton can't believe that, as his relationship with Marcia prevents him from being able to do so. He seems to think he's treating her well (he's not), and that he's being repaid for his kindness with bitterness and frigidity (well, he doesn't say the latter explicitly, but it's pretty gosh-darned implicit). Morgan, with true 50s restraint and repression doesn't want to discuss that situation, but continues with his oh-so-noble platitudes about equality and so forth – I shouldn't be so sarcastic, really, as I agree with him 100%. However, he has kind of compromised himself by being party to the degradation of the Creature, albeit with the best of intentions. I guess that looking at the film now, you could almost see Morgan as the kind of scientist who worked on the Manhattan Project deluding themselves that they were working for the good and the advancement of mankind, even despite the fact that what they were doing was sealing the fate of the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The post-Bomb US guilt and general mentality towards science and morality is quite strong in his various monologues. He should practically be wearing a hairshirt, fer crissakes.

The Creature kills a mountain lion that was attacking the sheep in the pen adjacent to him, and everyone starts getting a little antsy about being close to 300 pounds of skin-scaly potential homicide – the wonder of human nature, kids: suspect the worst about everybody and it's knee-jerk reactions for one and all! Barton's relationship with Marcia deteriorates even further, as does his general mental state, and well, we all know the way that our atavistic formerly-aquatic chum reacts towards violence of any kind, whether it's directed against him or not. The final act won't hold any surprises for you if you're a fan of 50s sci-fi horror/monster movies, but entertainment will be in your immediate future, especially if you like to watch huge pyjama-clad amphibian-human mutants go nuts and wreak havoc. That's possibly a bit of a niche market, however...
Video
A crystal clear print, if in 4:3. Someone amazingly took a lot of time re-mastering this film.
Audio
A little flat, but adequate to the task at hand. It's Dolby Digital Mono, what do you expect?
Extra Features
An audio commentary with film historians Tom Weaver and Bob Burns and the theatrical trailer. Besides that, fuck all, y'all.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Like Cannibal Holocaust, here's a film that goes over that old chestnut of, "Who's really the monster?" with the kind of rote familiarity and moral high-handedness you come to expect from horror films trying to pass themselves off as being something more than the acceptable freak shows they so truly are. I said at the start of this review that this entry into the franchise (the one that effectively killed it stone cold dead) was a "decidedly inferior" one, well – I'm starting to reconsider that statement. It's not without its merits, and I must say that a lot of my judgement does get down to the creature suit and the monster's general appearance, which is lack-lustre to say the least. In terms of the issues it raises, The Creature Walks Among Us actually isn't too bad – it's intelligent, if slow-paced over its 78 minute run-time, and shows a kind of cod-Humanist philosophy that is naïve and idealistic in the extreme, but that can be kind of endearing at the same time. We really ought to hope for the best, after all. Still, it's the least of the series, and a film that probably was a little unnecessary, when all's said and done. There are plenty of far superior 50s monster movies out there that make the same points a hell of a lot more effectively. That said, it's probably worth re-visiting if you haven't seen it in a while – you may be pleasantly surprised. Or you may vomit blood from your eyeballs. Hey, it's a movie that divides folks – and a kind of lack-lustre end to a franchise that began so spectacularly.

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