Revenge of the Creature (1955) [31 Days of American Horror Review]

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Director: Jack Arnold
Starring:  John Agar, Lori Nelson, John Brookfield, Ricou Browning, Tom Hennessey

Making a sequel to a classic isn’t easy. When you get it so, so right the first time, you’ve automatically given yourself a hard act to follow.

The previous year, Jack Arnold’s The Creature From The Black Lagoon was that perfect film where everything clicked, but could he capture lightning in a bottle again?

No, not quite. But he could capture the Gill-Man in an aquarium.

In many ways, the diversity of the Creature series is its biggest strength. It’s no repetitive Mummy saga, as each one tries to do something different with the concept.  Rather than another retread round the Black Lagoon, Arnold transplants the story into the human jungle, for a literal fish out of water story and in doing so gives us a different kind of film.

Saying that, he still has a (googly) eye for the ladies.

Yes, it’s King Kong with gills.

Last seen sinking to the bottom of the Black Lagoon with several bullet holes in him, the Gill-Man has survived his apparent death, but is subsequently captured and taken to the Ocean Harbor Oceanarium in Florida, where he is studied by animal psychologist Professor Clete Ferguson (John Agar) and ichthyology student Helen Dobson (Lori Nelson).

Taking an interest in the latter, the Gill-Man escapes his captivity, killing his keeper Joe Hayes (John Brookfield) in the process and making for the open ocean.

His attraction to Helen brings him back though and he returns to land to claim his mate…

There’s not a huge amount to the plot of this one, but to be honest, there wasn’t a massive amount the last time round either. The difference was the atmospheric setting made up for any thin plotting. This time round, the sparse aquarium doesn’t really have the same mystique.

Don’t get me wrong, this is still a massively enjoyable film, it’s just slightly in the shadow of its predecessor. It doesn’t drop the ball very often, though the addition of a pair of googly eyes to Millicent Patrick’s flawless design is one of the great ‘what were they thinking?’ moments in horror cinema.

The ideas on show here are decent and as the storyline admittedly apes King Kong (sorry), you feel more even more sympathy for the poor creature this time around. He’s not just had his territory invaded, he’s been shot, blown up, chained and turned into a tourist attraction in the name of science. Creature From The Blackfish Lagoon, anyone?

Out of the ensemble cast it’s John Brookfield as the unpleasant aquarium-keeper Joe Hayes that makes the most impression. He’s a nasty, sleazy piece of work and it another one with his eyes on Kay. As the object of pretty much everyone’s affections, Lori Nelson allows you to buy into it enough. She’s beautiful, smart and not a wilting damsel, at last until she’s being carried to the sea by an actual monster who plans on having his Lovecraftian way with her. That would make anyone wilt.

Oh and there’s a cute little scene with a lab assistant that’s worth paying attention to as it’s the first screen appearance of a certain Clint Eastwood.

When our aquatic Romeo finally goes on his rampage, it’s pretty thrilling too. Turning up to be the worst third wheel imaginable on Clete and Helen’s date, he carries her off towards the sea. It’s not exactly clear what his plan is (apart from the obvious), but it does give him the opportunity to massacre some textbook ‘50s teenagers and some good Samaritans who notice the unconscious ichthyologist but miss the prehistoric reptile throwback behind them. Great stuff.

Revenge Of The Creature was never going to compete with its predecessor, but I’m not just being content for another expedition down the Black Lagoon, it tries to do something different and it succeeds at that.

Sure the plot is thin, but there’s still enough here for this to be a hugely enjoyable film in its own right.

Rating: 4/5.

JULESAVThe Writer of this piece was: Jules Boyle
Jules tweets from @Captain_Howdy

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  1. The Creature Walks Among Us (1956) [31 Days of American Horror Review] – BIG COMIC PAGE

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