#22 in my ranking of the Classic Universal Monster movies.
The first Creature from the Black Lagoon was something of a hodgepodge of quality with a central monster that seemed accidentally sympathetic. I wasn’t expecting that kind of happy accident in the sequel. What I got was a more standard monster movie with more boring characters, more implausible coincidences, and a title that doesn’t really match the story. I mean, it’s somewhat competent at what it does, but what it does just isn’t that interesting.
We get what amounts to a prologue involving characters that largely disappear from the film where Lucas (Nestor Paiva) leads two scientists back to the Black Lagoon to capture the Gill Man (Tom Hennessey on land and Ricou Browning underwater). They ignite some dynamite on the surface, knock him into a coma, and bring him back. There, the main scientist that is concerned with determining a way to communicate with the Gill Man is Professor Clete Furguson (John Agar) (oh my gosh! Is that Clint Eastwood as his assistant! OMG! OMG! Oh, he’s gone now from the movie forever…probably for the best).
After some physical therapy that brings the Gill Man back to consciousness, he’s placed in an aquarium tank, and…the movie just starts dragging. The monster being locked in one place is just not that interesting, and instead of monster action we get Clete starting a little romance with an ichthyology student, Helen (Lori Nelson). She’s there to study the Gill Man, and they do some meaningless experiments to try to figure out stuff about the Gill Man. It’s uninteresting and takes a solid half hour as the two humans have a safe little romance without any conflict or tension.
Eventually, the Gill Man escapes and walks his way to the water, complete with crowds running away in fear, and everyone loses track of him. So, where does he go? Does he try to find a similar, remote place for him to live? Does he try to find his way back home to the Amazon? No, he immediately tracks down Helen and Clete, killing Helen’s dog at their hotel before tracking them down again to a crowded restaurant in Jacksonville, Florida and kidnapping Helen. I get it. The Gill Man likes blondes, but does he like them so much that he’s got geolocator abilities on this one?
There’s a search up and down the coast that implausibly gets resolved with David right there because of course, and we get our abrupt ending as has been the norm of this entire franchise.
Alright, I’ve been pretty dismissive of this, but is it really that bad? Well, it’s certainly not good. I did have some mild good times with it, though. The monster suit is still good with those moving gills in certain out of water shots. The underwater action is clearly filmed and well done. The acting is fine. It’s biggest problems are twofold. The first is the long slog of dull character stuff that dominates the first half. The second is the implausibility of the action in the second half combined with the monster’s opaque motivations.
The film is called Revenge of the Creature, but at no point do I get any sense that it’s revenging anything in particular. This raises the question of what the monster is and what it wants. I think part of the overall appeal of the Universal Monster universe was that the monsters were more than just killing machines let loose upon hapless victims. Frankenstein’s monster was thematically weighty. Dracula was stylish as he killed. The Invisible Man was insane. The Wolf Man was at war with himself. But the Gill Man? In the first film, he was an innocent invaded and protecting himself (sort of) like King Kong. Here? He’s essentially just a monster. That there’s no effort to give the Gill Man personality here tells me that Jack Arnold, the director of both films, had literally no idea he was making the Gill Man sympathetic in the first film. He gets captured, escapes, and then just rampages. Why does he focus on Helen? No idea. Because we don’t know why he would focus on Helen, the logical leaps of him trying to track her down become silly and obvious instead of something we may wave away in a lesser but still worthwhile monster mash.
Still, it was neat seeing Clint Eastwood in his first role, having completely forgotten that he was in it when I turned it on.
8 thoughts on “Revenge of the Creature”
I’ve found that John Agar in your movie is a sign of anti-quality. He couldn’t drag down ‘Sands of Iwo Jima’ or ‘She Wore a yellow Ribbon’, luckily.
Yeah, this is smack dab into the monster movie machine, no real attempt at quality, just churn it out.
Clint Eastwood does mean this movie will never completely disappear from history, for better or worse.
I had forgotten Clint Eastwood’s presence until his scene, so it was a wonderful little surprise. It made me wish I was going to do Eastwood next instead of Peckinpah, but I’d already dedicated myself to my course of action. Would have been a neat segway.
But yeah, I’m not going to say bottom of the barrel, though. At least they kept the design of the Gill Man in this one, which I can’t say for the final film in this whole effort.
Eastwood was also in “Tarantula” from Jack Arnold. You don’t get to see his face but his voice is unmistakable.
This one was actually on MST3K, I don’t think it was one of there more memorable episodes.
It’s funny how unique his voice has always been.