The Creature Walks Among Us (1956)
The first thing I noticed about the Creature Walks Among Us, the final act in the Gill-man’s tale, is that the film was made by Universal International. Which is a bizarrely redundant name for a film company since “universal” generally supersedes “international” in terms of reach. The “International” aspect of AIP I understand, as its taking “American” films outside the country. With Universal this is just assumed.
Confusion seems to have been running rampant in Universal, as the Creature Walks Among Us features an action in its title that has already been well documented in its predecessor, Revenge of the Creature. Dr. (name) brings the mad scientist playing God archetype into the franchise by being the man who wants to capture the Gill-man, adapt its genetic structure so that it can walk, and then send it into space.
That’s right, take the Gill-man out of the water and launch him into the cosmos!
A tall order given sheer barbarity shown by the Gill-man in Revenge of the Creature. So here the protagonists have been given a healthy dose of aggressiveness to match. With Marcia (Leigh Snowden), the wife to Dr. William Barton (Jeff Morrow), the man searching for the Gill-man, keeping the series’ pattern of surprisingly strong (for the time) female leads alive. While the doctors are all below deck discussing scalpels, she’s firing a rifle at sharks.
Hollywood should mandate that all its heroines are molded after Hemingway. They could probably stand to stop using sexual assault as a character development tool though.
Let me get this straight, Jed Grant (Gregg Palmer) is onboard a ship working for a team of doctors, one of which brought along his wife. So Jed gets plastered and decides that having spoken to her twice is a clear sign that she’s interested. This whole episode boggles the mind because it bears no relevance to the plot. The implied threat to Dr. Barton’s manliness could’ve been used as a social commentary on how men are supposed to act. Having done so, the Creature Walks Among Us would’ve stayed inline with the rest of the (socially progressive) series.
Instead it becomes just another plot point, another conflict, substituting for the Gill-man while he’s in surgery. Yes, after experiencing third-degree burns all over his body while being captured, the doctors had to perform a trechiatomy on the Creature to stop him from suffocating. (His gills had been burnt closed.) As luck would have it, the Gill-man actually had lungs, bringing about the swiftest evolutionary change in the history of genetics!
The operation also adds about 100 lbs of bulk onto the Gill-man’s frame; making him look like Tor Johnson in Night of the Ghouls.
Strangely, I felt a small smidgeon of state pride when, after the Gill-man is captured, the team sails him to San Francisco. As if the filmmakers were saying that Florida isn’t capable of handling such scientific wonders. I really shouldn’t have expected anything less from Hollywood. It did, after all, transform one of its best original monsters into nothing more than a walking, suit-encased, clod.