Revenge of the Creature (1955)
Revenge of the Creature might be the most brilliant sequel ever created for a monster movie. Creature from the Black Lagoon had a team of scientists visiting the Amazon to establish whether he existed. In its sequel, a new team of scientists return to the Amazon, only this time they’re ready to capture the Gill-man.
The above is a sequence my father once told me about. In a bizarre moment of communication, he explained to me that he had once seen the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and remembered seeing a bird on a log, when the Gill-man rises up and snatches it. To my father’s credit, it is a nice sequence; completely setting the tone for the new film.
The Gill-man is
back, uh, still around, and he’s not taking kindly to people encroaching on his property. He even has some help in this regard, a loud blaring air horn that blasts whenever he’s about to take action. Serving both as an audible shock to the audience members, and as a head’s up to easily distracted reviewers. (Hey look, an interview with “the Body“!)
10 minutes into the Gill-man’s 2nd chance in the spotlight, and he’s already eaten a bird that would leave a lasting impression on young men, and throttled a diver who foolishly thought he could set up a net in the Gill-man’s lagoon without encountering resistance.
I’m seriously hoping that the Gill-man can ride this good luck streak straight through till the ending.
Everything’s bigger (Gill-man is prominent in his shots now), faster (nearly two kills in the first 10 minutes), louder (sirens/horns), and more vicious this time around. Gill-man drags the diver to the bottom and then circles around back up to slash the diver’s airhose! The humans respond by planting mines around the lagoon and exploding Gill-man’s home. Then they collect his unconscious body and ship him to Florida.
“Ichthyology? Wow, that’s a $10 word!”
Revenge of the Creature even has bad, vaguely sexist (by way of who they’re directed to) puns! Right before the Gill-man leaps out of his (surprisingly) small holding tank and starts mauling people!
20 minutes in and I can’t imagine anything that could stop me from recommending this film to everyone.
Not even the inclusion of Flippy, Flipper’s chintzy Ocean Harbor substitute.
It’s not all high savagery fun in the sun though, there’s also a very stealthy, dual domestication subtext at play. Professor Clete Ferguson (John Agar) and Helen (Lori Nelson), the ichthyology student, try to domesticate the Gill-man by getting him to recognize the “Stop” command using electric shock reinforcement. (I really don’t know if their electric shocker sticks actually exist, but if they do, I doubt using one in a holding tank full of water would be a good idea. Apparently ichthyologists study fish, but remain ignorant to water’s inherent conductivity.)
Also, if Clete shocks the Gill-man while the Gill-man is holding Helen, Helen by all rights should also be electrocuted.
Meanwhile Clete is also trying to domesticate Helen, the younger, impressionable Grad student. There’s one rather telling beach scene where Clete does his best to be as sensitive as the ’50s would allow a man to be by informing Helen that it is really her decision on whether she wants to capsize her budding academic career by having children.
A career or children, lady, who would believe a woman could have, or even want, both? I’ll even allow you the decision to choose, provided I’m allowed to continue playing the all-knowing protector role.
The best part of this feature is how it truly is the Creature’s revenge. He rampages through the aquarium, escapes, and then terrorizes the countryside. Never once showing even a smidgeon of remorse, and, more importantly, the authorities never come close to recapturing him.
Even the ending, where the bullet-punctured corpse of the Gill Man sinks to the bottom of the Ocean’s floor, seems like an afterthought. “Oh wait, we need the good guys to win…” After all the bullet-punctures are never shown, just implied. Setting up the final film in the series while keeping the Gill-man supercharged.