#31 in my ranking of the Classic Universal Monster movies.
Whose bright idea was it to change the design of the Gill Man to *checks notes* remove the gills? Seriously, I can understand the half-baked ideas about science taking shortcuts around Nature, the uninteresting love triangle thing that barely exists, or even the meandering story. All of that is pretty standard B-movie effort, but the Gill Man costume was one of the best things about this entire franchise, and they shaved him down to just a big, hulking man-thing with big lips. That’s just wrong. I know Universal wasn’t sending their best at these B-movies, but was the talent really this clueless? I guess so.
A scientific team is headed down to the Everglades in Florida to find the Gill Man (Don Megowan on land and Ricou Browning in water) after he was brought to America in Revenge of the Creature. This team is led by Dr. William Barton (Jeff Morrow), a surgeon, who brings along his pretty, young, blonde wife Marcia (Leigh Snowden) for reasons. On the boat they meet Dr. Thomas Morgan (Rex Reason), and it’s obvious that Marcia shouldn’t be in love with her husband, she should be in love with Morgan. Why? Because poorly written B-movie, that’s why.
They interview a man who fought and barely survived an encounter with the Gill Man, and there are immediately on the Gill Man’s tail. Using some new-fangled technology called sonar (which we get a tedious explanation of), they track down something that could be it, and they send down two men, including Morgan, to search around to try and capture the Gill Man. Oh, and Marcia tags along because she’s bored of being on the ship. I mean…okay? That’s dumb. Oh, and we get an explanation of what happens when you go too deep too quickly, that it feels like you get drunk. Marcia never gets drunk, though, so you know exactly what’s going to happen. She’s going to get drunk from the pressure. Drunk from the pressure she does get, and she starts swimming around in vertical circles, attracting the Gill Man because he loves blondes, I guess.
The Gill Man gets away, there’s a further pursuit that goes up a river, ending with a faceoff with the creature where he gets horribly burned. This becomes incredibly important you see, because fake science dictates that if you burn off his outer scales of the Gill Man, it changes his metabolism which activates dormant lungs which allow him to breathe air. I guess this is supposed to create an added level of terror for the Gill Man. “He can attack out of water now!” Except it works against the one main strength of the Gill Man that has endured through the first two films. The redesign of the Gill Man robs him of all of his distinctive features, and he ends up resembling the creature from The Thing From Another World more than the Gill Man himself. He’s just a hulking beast, now.
Even worse, though, is that the Gill Man ends up passive. He just lays around for the second half of the film becoming increasingly unthreatening. Instead of monster action (even watered down, generic monster action), we get generic love triangle stuff. You see, instead of pure science man against pure business man of the first film, we get pure science man versus mad science man in this one. You see Morgan wants to just study the Gill Man, but Dr. Barton wants to turn the Gill Man into a creature that can survive…*checks note*…outer space. Oh, dear lord… In the middle is Marcia who doesn’t love the mad Dr. Barton, her husband, instead she’s attracted to the younger Morgan. Whatever.
They bring the Gill Man to, is that San Francisco? And they decide to study it, but the Gill Man is still passive so the love triangle has to play out, ending with Dr. Barton killing one of the hands from the expedition, Jed (Gregg Palmer), who had been aggressively hitting on Marcia through the whole thing, and trying to frame the Gill Man for the murder. I mean…dumb.
This movie is awful. It is probably the worst movie in the entirety of the Universal Monster collection. It has nothing to recommend it with one exception. The underwater filming is excellent, probably the best of the three Creature from the Black Lagoon films. It’s just too bad that the movie abandons it for the dull out of water stuff that follows.