Revenge of the Creature

∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗

(4/10) The creature from the Black Lagoon returns in Universal’s inferior sequel to the 1954 hit movie. Producer Alland and director Arnold also return, but they are unable to create magic with a crappy script and a small budget. Cult actor John Agar does his first of many sci-fi leading roles, a bland actor playing a bland character opposite a bland Lori Nelson. The creature still looks awesome, there are good action scenes and moments of visual brilliance, but the film has too much padding and too little plot. It is best known today for a 30-second appearance by Clint Eastwood in his first film role.

Lori Nelson struggles in the grip of the creature from the Black Lagoon.

Lori Nelson struggles in the grip of the creature from the Black Lagoon.

Revenge of the Creature (1955, USA). Directed by Jack Arnold. Written by William Alland and Martin Berkeley. Starring: John Agar, Lori Nelson, John Bromfield, Nestor Paiva, Ricou Browning, Ginger Stanley, Tom Hennessy, Clint Eastwood. Produced by William Alland for Universal International Pictures.
IMDb rating: 5.5/10. Tomatometer: 25% Rotten. Metascore: N/A.

Poster.

Poster.

After the classic monster movie franchise collapsed in the mid-forties, Universal studios had sort of been floundering a bit without a line of movies they could make for a fairly short buck, and would be sure to draw a big juvenile audience and make for great advertising. Science fiction had exploded onto the scene in the early fifties, but by 1953 the vast majority of the sci-fi films were being churned out as cheap exploitation fare by Poverty Row studios or as independent productions. Initially the big studios weren’t quite sure how to handle this new age of space explorations, flying saucers and visitors from other planets. Twentieth Century-Fox made the big-budget splash The Day the Earth Stood Still (review) in 1951, but then stayed away from sci-fi. Paramount was one of the standard-bearers for the genre with George Pal’s expensive colour epics, but Universal, a ”minor major studio” didn’t have the muscle to compete with such movies. But then in 1952 two things happened. One: Arch Oboler released the first 3D movie, Bwana Devil with enormous success. Two: RKO re-released King Kong (1933, review), and swept the floor with all major studios. For Universal this was an epiphany: people wanted monsters again, and if Universal could give it to them in 3D, they would have a winner on their hands.

William Alland.

William Alland.

Universal’s first tentative steps in this new science fiction subgenre came in 1953 when they combined producer William Alland, director Jack Arnold and lead actor Richard Carlson along with the studio’s famous makeup and special effects teams. The result was the surprise hit It Came from Outer Space (review), an almost poetic movie based on a script by Ray Bradbury. The success of the film proved that Universal were right to focus on sci-fi and 3D, but they still needed their iconic monster. That came along in 1954, when Alland, reportedly inspired by a an Amazonian folk tale, dreamed up Creature from the Black Lagoon (review). Once again the project was helmed by Alland, Arnold, Bud Westmore’s makeup department and Carlson. The movie became a phenomenon, and Universal knew it had found its new Frankenstein. Wise from the past days of monster movies, the studio knew that if it had worked once, it would work again, and a sequel was inevitable. Filmed during the summer of 1954, Revenge of the Creature was released in March 1955, with a smaller budget than the first movie, but to even greater financial success. The film spawned yet a third sequel, The Creature Walks Among Us, on an even smaller budget, in 1956.

John Agar as Clete Ferguson, Lori Nelson as Helen Benson and Ricou Browning as the Gill-Man.

John Agar as Clete Ferguson, Lori Nelson as Helen Benson and Ricou Browning as the Gill-Man.

The sequel was yet again made by Alland and Arnold, with much of the same team behind the camera as in the original movie. Richard Carlson was replaced by John Agar, and the movie would forever inform his career, as he became one of the most prolific sci-fi leading men of the fifties and sixties. Unfortunately the missing link on this picture was Arthur Ross, who had put together the admittedly clunky, but sweaty and claustrophobic script of Creature from the Black Lagoon. Instead the studio made due with Martin Berkeley, who later went on to some cult fame as the writer of Tarantula (1955, review) and The Deadly Mantis (1957).

The new expedition to capture the creature.

The new expedition to capture the creature.

So little happens in this movie, that it won’t take me long to describe the plot. 1. A new team of ”scientists” travel to the Black Lagoon intent on capturing the monster, which they do, and bring him to an aquarium in Florida. 2. Here the creature is lowered into a tank, chained to the floor and ”studied” by cognitive behavioural zoologist Clete Ferguson (John Agar) and ichthyologist Helen Dobson (Lori Nelson). This ”study” consists of prodding the creature with an electric bull prod, teaching it to obey the word ”stop”. 3. The most romantic subplot ever seen in a film. Imagine John Agar citing poetry. 4. The creature doesn’t like to be poked, so it breaks loose, kills a couple of aquarium workers, topples over a car and escapes to the sea. 5. Clete and Helen have some more romance, the creature snatches away Helen during a jazz concert and escapes to the sea. 6. A posse is assembled to look for the creature and Helen along a riverbank. Action ensues.

Lori Nelson and Tom Hennessy in the suit.

Lori Nelson and Tom Hennessy in the suit.

Kudos should be given to the filmmakers for trying something different – that is to bring the creature to civilisation. However, they don’t do much with the premise. Instead of having it wreak havoc in an urban environment, it just returns to nature, and the final showdown could almost as easily have taken place by the original Black Lagoon. The basically also repeat the story from the first film. Scientists catch the creature, it escapes, kidnaps a damsel in distress, gets shot and slides back to the sea. Yes, it’s a spoiler, but we all know the thing returns for a third film.

But the main problem with the plot is that there isn’t much of it. The first 15 minutes of the film is a lackluster rehash of the original movie, and the next half hour alternates between the underwater ”conditioning” of the creature and the tepid romance between Clete and Helen. There are some exciting underwater scenes, but nothing that really drives the movie forward. Once the creature escapes, instead of turning the movie into an action-packed horror flick, we instead get even more slow-moving romantic drama. Then at the last fifteen minutes the film finally gets going, but even the nocturnal hunt for the creature, though beautifully shot, doesn’t quite evoke the same tingling sensation of suspense as the original film.

Ginger Stanley, stunt diver and swimming champion.

Ginger Stanley, stunt diver and swimming champion.

The film wants us to feel sympathy for the creature, as it is dragged from its home to be tortured and tested by the scientists. And we do, at least for a while when it is helplessly flailing around in the fish bowl. But the problem is that the script never carries this theme any further. In the first film the creature was a mystery. We were fascinated by it, we learned more about it from watching it swim around, as itself was fascinated by the newcomers in its home, especially by the beautiful female scientist, played by Julie Andrews above water and Ginger Stanley below the surface. The film had that iconic sequence of the mirror-image aquatic ballet between the woman and the creature, brilliantly carried out by Stanley and the creature actor Ricou Browning. Arnold even tries to copy the shot in Revenge of the Creature, but it is so obvious that it turns banal. In Revenge of the Creature we never learn anything new about the Gill-man, as he is now christened for the first time, and therefore our interest wanes. From the moment he escapes he is simply treated as a monster on the loose.

That is not to say that there aren’t good stretches in the film. Visually there are flourishes of genius such as a short scene where the creature stalks Helen, watching her undress in her bungalow from the outside. Like a voyeur, a Peeping Tom, the creature stands outside a glass door, watching Helen on the inside. We, the viewer, watch from behind the creature, over its shoulder so to speak. At least the male part of the audience is just as tingled by the idea of watching Helen undress as the creature is. But we also want to know what the creature will do. We become both co-conspirators with the creature, and voyeurs of the voyeur. But these beautifully constructed Jack Arnold images are too few and far between to save the film, as it did with Creature from the Black Lagoon.

The creature stalking Helen.

The creature stalking Helen.

The underwater filming is still extremely impressive from a technical point of view, again carried out by Scotty Welbourne. Ricou Browning reprises his role as the underwater Gill-man, and his swimming lends the creature a beauty, grace and naturalism that made it such a fascinating figure in the first movie. As one reviewer pointed out, Browning’s fluid motions make us believe that the creature is real, not a man in a suit, because the swimming looks so natural; yes, that is the way this being would swim.

Tom Hennessy crashing cars.

Tom Hennessy crashing cars.

William Alland has confirmed for film historian Tom Weaver that Revenge of the Creature was a continuation of his ”remake” of King Kong, that he started with Creature from the Black Lagoon. And the similarities are clear: Revenge … is the second part of King Kong, where the protagonists have managed to catch the big gorilla and bring it to New York, where it breaks loose and wreaks havoc on the city. The only problem is that the makers of Revenge … didn’t have the time or money to have the creature run loose in Florida, and the logistics would make it difficult, since it can only survive for a few minutes at a time outside of the water. So they instead have it scare a few visitors at the aquarium, turn over a car, frighten a few jazz cats and then simply kidnap the girl.

John Bromfield.

John Bromfield.

Furthermore, the whole moral question is never delved at any depth. There’s one point where Helen says she ”almost feels sorry for it”, which is quite an understatement. We, the audience, are completely on the side of the creature all the way through, but not because the film portrays it in an especially sympathetic light, but simply because it is the only character in the film that is in any way believable, probably because it doesn’t have any lines. The only characters in the movie that have any sort of importance are Clete and Helen. There’s a stumbling attempt at creating some rivalry for Helen’s affections with a jock character called Joe Hayes, played by John Bromfield, but nothing comes of this, as he is promptly killed off as soon as the creature escapes. The best character, apart from the creature, is the boat captain Lucas, who takes the expedition to the Amazon in the beginning of the film. Nestor Paiva had played the same character in the original movie, and proved so popular that he was brought back for the sequel. Unfortunately he only appears in the first fifteen minutes of the film.

I have covered most of the crew involved in the movie at some length in my post about Creature from the Black Lagoon, so head over to that review for more information on William Alland, Jack Arnold, Nestor Paiva, Ricou Browning, Ginger Stanley and more. There’s also a detailed account of the conception of the franchise and the design and manufacturing of the Gill-Man. One of the changes is that Scotty Welbourne, who handled the underwater photography on the original film, has been promoted to director of photography. Since most of the film was shot in the Marinelands water park and aquarium i Florida, the team didn’t need a separate unit for underwater photography. Welbourne was primarily a still photographer, and shot most of the great stars of Hollywood from the thirties through the fifties. He is probably also the reason as to why there are so many great behind-the-scenes photos from the Creature franchise. Once again, Welbourne did most of the practical directing in the underwater scenes, as Arnold wasn’t keen on getting into a wet-suit.

Tom Hennessy grabbing Lori Nelson at a jazz club.

Tom Hennessy grabbing Lori Nelson at a jazz club.

Supervising art director on the film was Russian-born Alexander Golitzen, who won three Oscars and was nominated for about 100 more. But one suspects that the actual work was done by the much less celebrated Alfred Sweeney. Golitzen served as supervising art director on most of Universal’s sci-fi films between 1955 and 1960, as well as Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970) and Slaughterhouse-Five (1972).

John Bromfield and Tom Hennessy in a publicity photo.

John Bromfield and Tom Hennessy in a publicity photo.

Editor was Paul Weatherwax, who had won an Oscar for The Naked City (1949) and would go on to win one for Around the World in Eighty Days (1957). He also edited It Came from Outer Space. Much of the score from the previous movie was re-used, including the sharp creature cue by Hans Salter, once again beaten to death by over-use, as well as some of he more ethereal work by Henry Mancini for underwater scenes. Canned music was also pulled from other composers, and Herman Stein and William Lava wrote some new scores for the film. Makeup department head Bud Westmore once again gets sole credit for the makeup, although we know numerous people were involved (see the Milicent Patrick controversy in my article about the previous film). This time Jack Kevan gets sole credit for the creature design, even though no more than cosmetic changes have been done to the original Gill-man suit. One frequent complaint about the new suit by fans is the eyes, which were depressed in the original suit, but have been changed into rather wacky-looking, protruding google-eyes in this one. The head is also flatter and the lips more distinctive, giving the creature something of a cartoonish frog-look. The suit is still a masterpiece for its time, compare for example with the clunky rubber suit for Gojira (1954, review). The main difference is that in the first film the suit was often obscured by darkness, while we almost constantly see it in broad daylight here.

Clint Eastwood in his film debut.

Clint Eastwood in his film debut.

As mentioned, the only two characters the film even tries to make us care about are Clete (but then why give him that name?) and Helen. This doesn’t mean there aren’t other actors of note than John Agar and Lori Nelson in the movie. What this film is probably best known for today is providing a 25-year old Clint Eastwood with his very first film role. Eastwood appears on-screen for just about 30 seconds as ”lab assistant Jenkins” in a humorous exchange where he claims a cat in the lab has eaten one of the rats in the cage, only to find the missing rat in his coat pocket. Eastwood is still a few acting classes away from stardom, acting stiff and reading his lines almost like he was reading them from the script page. Furthermore, the role almost didn’t happen, according to The Telegraph. According to the paper, Eastwood was cast by Alland to do the comedy skit, but when he turned up on set, director Arnold started shouting at his producer, saying he didn’t want to shoot the particular scene. Alland liked the scene, though, and convinced Arnold to shoot it. Says Eastwood: ”It was a hell of a way to start your acting career: walk on set and you know that the director hates the scene. Therefore you know he hates you.” At the time Eastwood was a contract player at Universal, and had a few bit-parts in the studio’s B movies. However, Universal was unimpressed with his stiff acting and the way he delivered his lines through gritted teeth, and let him go in 1956. Eastwood went back to acting school, did odd bit-parts here and there, mainly on TV, and through a sheer coincidence landed a role as second lead in the hugely successful western series Rawhide (1959-1965), as the boyish Rowdy Yates. In an attempt to rid himself of his good-boy image, he took a leap of faith when the show had a shooting break in 1964, and travelled to Spain to star in a spaghetti western directed by a virtually unknown Italian director called Sergio Leone. And the rest is history. Better known for his westerns than for his science fiction roles, he still had the chance to do another brief bit part in a sci-fi classic while at Univeral. It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him appearance, but he also appeared in Tarantula. There’s also a rumour that Eastwood would at some point have donned the creature costume, but Ricou Browning has denied this.

Lori Nelson and John Agar.

Lori Nelson and John Agar.

But poor John Agar, bless his soul. This was when he still harboured dreams of becoming a real movie star. And looking at his resumé, this would have been a completely natural progression for him. Entering Hollywood with a bang in 1944, when the 23-year old US army physical fitness instructor met his sister’s 16-year old classmate, none other than child star Shirley Temple, and the two fell madly in love, and married the next year. About the same time Agar was approached by Temple’s boss, movie producer David O. Selznick, who was impressed by his rugged good looks, and offered him a 5-year contract includning acting lessons. He made his movie debut in 1948 in a small role in Fort Apache, starring John Wayne, Henry Fonda and Shirley Temple, and the next year he found himself playing second banana to none other than John Wayne in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and the hugely successful Sands of Iwo Jima. In 1951 he again played second lead, this time to Kirk Douglas in Along the Great Divide, and got his first male lead doing multiple roles opposite comedienne Lucille Ball in The Magic Carpet (1951). However, in 1951 his marriage to Temple also fell apart, his contract with Selznick ran out, and the press turned against him. Although previously popular with the public, he was never considered much of an actor, getting along with his good looks and innate charm rather than with acting chops. For a few years he slummed in minor parts before getting cast in the lead of the B horror film The Golden Mistress (1954), after which he was offered a seven-year contract with Universal.

John Agar and Shirley Temple in 1945.

John Agar and Shirley Temple in 1945.

Revenge of the Creature was Agar’s first role for Universal, and he hoped that his contract would finally give him his big breakthrough. However, he was relegated to playing B movies, and William Alland especially liked him in his science fiction films. Agar played the lead in Tarantula, and later in The Mole Men (1957), a film Agar thought was so bad, that he would rather tear up his contract than appear in another one as lousy. He saw his contract with Universal going nowhere, especially as Universal was grooming leading men like Rock Hudson, Tony Curtis and George Nader. What really bugged him was that Hudson one day turned up on the set for The Mole Men, and jokingly asked Agar how on Earth he had gotten himself into such a lousy movie. After that film Agar walked up to Universal’s vice president and told him that he could see that the studio was grooming other actors for lead roles, that he didn’t want to do more science fiction, and would rather quit.

Lori Nelson and John Agar.

Lori Nelson and John Agar.

However, his roles didn’t necessarily get better, and for better or worse, his stint at Universal had left him typecast as a sci-fi leading man. Straight out of Universal he found himself starring the horror film Daughter of Dr. Jekyll. This was followed by films like The Brain from Planet Arous (1957), Attack of the Puppet People (1958), Invisible Invaders (1959), Hand of Death (1962), Journey to the Seventh Planet (1962), Women of the Prehistoric Planet (1966) and Night Fright (1967). In the late sixties his roles became more sporadic, and he partly withdrew from motion pictures, but happily took on smaller roles when they were offered. He appeared in bits parts in his old friend John Wayne’s movies. He had a small role in the 1976 version of King Kong, and in Ricou Browning’s directorial effort, the odd action exploitation movie Mr. No Legs (1979). He played a murder victim in Clive Barker’s horror movie Nightbreed (1990), and appeared alongside a number of old sci-fi veterans in the bizarre fan fiction movie The Naked Monster, originally filmed in 1988, but partly re-shot in 2004, when much of the cast had died, and released in 2005. In the sixties he also did three TV movies for director Larry Buchanan, including Zontar: The Thing from Venus (1966) and Curse of the Swamp Creature (1966), both considered among some of the worst movies ever made. Agar passed away in 2002.

In later years Agar, like so many other B sci-fi actors, embraced his cult legacy, stating: ”I don’t resent being identified with B science fiction movies at all. Why should I? Even though they were not considered top of the line, for those people that like sci-fi, I guess they were fun. My whole feeling about working as an actor is, if I give anybody any enjoyment, I’m doing my job, and that’s what counts.”

John Agar.

John Agar.

About Larry Buchanan he said: ”Larry, God bless him, is a nice guy but he was really not a director . . . he didn’t even know not to “cross the line”, which is one of the simplest things there is in directing . . . ”

However, he had nothing but good things to say about Jack Arnold, calling him a knowledgeable director who did all he could to make his films, sometimes with below-average scripts and very little money, good.

Agar sometimes gets a really bad rap by movie critics, and has even appeared on lists of ”worst actors in history”. In truth, Agar wasn’t really that bad an actor, even if few people would blame him for being a good actor either. He does come off quite stiff and bland in Revenge of the Creature, but to be honest, few actors could have breathed life into the tepid dialogue he had to recite, and it didn’t help that he apparently had no chemistry whatsoever with Lori Nelson. Agar had the looks and the charm that were required for fronting the kind of B science fiction movies where the characters were cardboard cutouts and the dialogue didn’t matter much. And although I haven’t seen the movies, one would imagine that in his early days he might have come out as rather an animated actor opposite old stoneface John Wayne. But competing for roles against people like James Dean, Kirk Douglas, Rock Hudson, Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, Tony Curtis, Gregory Peck et.al., he really never had a shot at A-class stardom.

Lori Nelson.

Lori Nelson.

Nelson, on her part, feels just as miscast as an ichthyologist as Agar feels as a behavioural scientist. Her role in the mid-part of the film is explaining science to journalists, and she comes across as a school kid reading her science homework to the class. But once again, one can’t really blame her for the blandness of her character, since her lines really are some of the worst ever spoken in movies. Nelson was a former child and teen beauty pageant and worked as a photo model in her teens, and her winning a pageant at 17 caught the eye of Universal, who groomed her as a B movie glamour girl. She carved out a rather nice acting career, appearing mostly in B films, with the odd supporting role in higher-profiled movies. Her last actual film role came in 1998, although she did ”reprise” her role as ichthyologist Helen Benson opposite Agar in The Naked Monster. She played the female lead opposite Richard Denning in Roger Corman’s Day the World Ended (1955, review). As of 2016, she is still alive and kicking at 83.

Playing the love rival of Agar was John Bromfield, a real hunk brought in because he looked good in a swim-trunk. Bromfield’s acting career lasted about as long as his good looks, from the late forties to the early sixties. After Revenge of the Creature he even got a few year as leading man in B pictures, including Curt Siodmak’s directorial effort Curucu, Beast of the Amazon (1956). He found some TV fame as leading man in two western series, The Sheriff of Chochise (1956-1958) and U.S. Marshal (1958-1960). One of the main directors of the latter was a young Robert Altman.

Robert Williams at the right, Nestor Paiva at the left, the guy in the middle might be John Bromfield.

Robert Williams at the right, Nestor Paiva at the left, the guy in the middle might be John Bromfield.

There are three billed actors playing the characters ”Jackson Foster”, ”Lou Gibson” and ”George Johnson”, but I can’t remember any of these characters, despite me having seen the film twice recently for this blog. Actor Dave Willock had a track record with sci-fi, appearing in Black Friday (1940), The Mad Doctor of Market Street (1942) and It Came from Outer Space. He also pops up in Queen of Outer Space (1958), The Nutty Professor (1963) and Now You See Him, Now You Don’t (1972). Robert Williams went on to This Island Earth (1955, review), The Giant Claw (1957) and Teenagers from Outer Space. Grandon Rhodes was in Them! (1943, review), Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956) and The 27th Day (1957). All of these were seasoned and prolific character actors, as was Charles Cane in his rather memorable role as the chief of police in the final segment of the movie. Cane also appeared in The Lady and the Monster (1944, review) and Invaders from Mars (1953, review).

A young Brett Halsey.

A young Brett Halsey.

In a minor bit-part we see Brett Halsey, an actor of some note, with a long and industrious career. With some exceptions, like The Godfather III (1990), Halsey stayed true to his B movie origins throughout his life. He should be known to genre fans as Vincent Price’s brother in the second lead in Return of the Fly (1959), for playing one of the leading roles in The Atomic Submarine (1959), and for teaming up with Price again in Twice-Told Tales (1963). In 1995 he had a small role in the video game film Expect No Mercy. Despite having been in the business for ten years, he received a Golden Globe as ”Most promising newcomer” in 1960. In the sixties and seventies Halsey followed Clint Eastwood’s example and settled into Italian cinema, where his dark beefcake looks and piercing eyes made Halsey a fixture of both sword-and-sandal pictures and spaghetti westerns. In the seventies he moved into working primarily in TV in Hollywood.  At 83, he is still around in 2016, he had a major supporting role in the 2015 picture Risk Factor.

As noted, Ricou Browning returned to the role as the underwater Gill-Man, but that wasn’t always the plan. For one reason or the other, the studio had decided to use a man called John Lamb for the underwater sequenced of the creature, a bizarre decision, as it was Browning’s swimming that made the creature so great. And it didn’t take Jack Arnold very long to realise this, as Lamb’s swimming just didn’t cut the mustard, and they called Browning back.

Tom Hennessy.

Tom Hennessy.

However, Ben Chapman, who has become something of a celebrity for playing the Gill-Man out of water in the first movie, had been let go by Universal. Instead they went for a guy called Tom Hennessy, a former football player turned bit-part actor and stuntman. Interviewed in Tom Weaver’s book It Came from Horrorwood, he seem to have had quite an ordeal on the film, shooting for countless hours in the water tank, wrestling with other actors, trying not to drown when they took the wrestling a bit too seriously. At one time he nearly lost his life.

In the scene where the Gill-Man has kidnapped Helen and swims out to a buoy with her, they had a long break setting up the camera while Hennessy and Ginger Stanley were floating in the water. Suddenly a strong current swept them away, and not even Stanley, a champion swimmer, was able to fight back. Only Ricou Browning realised what happened, jumped in the water and was able to bring back Stanley. But apparently everyone forgot that there was a big guy (presumably in a Gill-man suit) being dragged away by a current somewhere in the Atlantic. Finally, just as his strength was about to fail, he was picked up by a boat. When he returned to the location, he found director Jack Arnold having a barbecue party with the local girls. Angry as a bee, Hennessy reminded him that he and Alland were in charge of the shoot, that they should have had safety divers or even a single life-guard, and that he was drifting away without anyone taking notice. The rest of the crew were just as mad at Arnold, and refused to work for the rest of the day.

John Agar and Lori Nelson.

John Agar and Lori Nelson.

While we don’t have any official numbers of the budget of the Creature trilogy, I have seen one book entry claiming the first movie cost 650 000 dollars, which would put it right in mid-range between an expensive B movie and a cheap A movie. 650 000 was quite a lot for a science fiction or horror film in those days, when genre pictures were mostly cranked out as cheap programmers. Revenge of the Creature reportedly had a substantially lower budget, but considering the cost of the first one, my guess is that it would still have been around 400 000 dollars, with cost-cutting done mainly on eliminating the second unit, minimising the need for set-building and shortening the shooting schedule. Big studio pictures would always be more expensive to make than independent movies, what with employing a large staff and paying overhead costs, and so forth.

The iconic scream from he film.

The iconic scream from he film.

Compared to the real cheapos put out by independent companies at the time, the film doesn’t look cheap, but the lack of special effects, impressive scenery and a feeling of ”smallness” regarding the script betray the film’s modest budget, and add to the sense of dullness. The movie’s premise provides for a number of interesting themes to explore, but the scriptwriters simply don’t know what to do with these, so instead they fill the film with all sorts of meaningless padding. Instead of focusing of the scientists’ relationship with the creature, they try to scrape together a lifeless romantic subplot and even add some tiresome dialogue about female scientists vs. family duties, but don’t even dare to be progressive about the matter. Anyway, the conversation is completely out of place in the film, as the issue never comes up anywhere else than in one bar talk.

I’m not, at this time, giving this film any extra credit for the good-looking creature costume, or the clever conception of the ideas around the creature. This was done for the first film, and since nothing new is added in this movie, it is simply a rehash of old ideas. The basic premise of the film is a solid one, but ruined by bad screenwriting. Bland actors play bland characters. The action scenes are well executed, but lack imagination. There’s waaaay too much padding for an 87 minute film. The basic story could easily have been told in a 30 minute TV segment, and any discernible subplot is there simply to eat minutes. The films isn’t nearly as scary, suspenseful, beautiful or poetic as the first movie. It is a mediocre sequel done for the sole reason of cashing in on the first movie’s fame, in simple terms it lacks any sort of soul.

Just out walking the monster...

Just out walking the monster…

The movie was filmed in 3D, but only got a very limited screening in 3D, as the fad for the format had worn off just in less than three years from its conception. The main reason for this was that movie projectionists had a very hard time syncing the two film reels, and if it was even a couple of frames off, people would start getting headaches and strained their eyes. Five or six frames off, and the image was visibly out of sync, which made the films almost unwatchable.But despite this, and despite the lesser artistic quality, it made Universal even more money that the first film. It actually grossed a bit less, but there was a bigger margin because of the lower budget – which meant there had to be yet another sequel … but that’s for another time.

Janne Wass

Revenge of the Creature (1955, USA). Directed by Jack Arnold. Written by William Alland and Martin Berkeley. Starring: John Agar, Lori Nelson, John Bromfield, Nestor Paiva, Grandon Rhodes, Dave Willock, Robert Williams, Charles Cane, Ricou Browning, Ginger Stanley, Tom Hennessy, Clint Eastwood, Brett Halsey. Music: William Lava, Herman Stein, Henry Mancini, Hans J. Salter. Cinematography: Scotty Welbourne. Editing: Paul Weatherwax. Art direction: Alexander Golitzen, Alfred Sweeney. Costume design (gowns): Jay A. Morley Jr. Makeup supervisor: Bud Westmore. Sound: Jack A. Bolger Jr., Leslie I. Carey. Creature re-design: Jack Kevan. Produced by William Alland for Universal International Pictures.

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