To stand in the 21st Century and look back in time, the 1950s seem like they were a strange time. For everything to seem so pristine perfect, there was a high level of paranoia with the Cold War, the Red Scare and flying saucers. Robots, aliens and various other monsters dominated the horror and science fiction landscapes. From this frenzy emerged Gill-man, The Creature from the Black Lagoon. He didn’t come from outer space, neither was he science run amok (yet) or a secret weapon for the Commies. He was a holdover from prehistory, and since his first movie did so well, he was bound to have sequels.
In the first film, Gill-man was on the receiving end of several bullets. As a financial incentive to Universal Pictures, he survived. A new expedition, working off the findings of the crew from the previous film, with the same captain in tow, are determined to capture the creature. After some astonishing underwater shots (a highlight of the film series), Clete Ferguson, Helen Dobson and their fellow scientific adventurers are able to subdue and apprehend the creature to bring him back to the Ocean Harbor Oceanarium in Florida.
The creature comes out of sedation and is retained for study— read that as held captive by chains tethering him to a swimming pool and subject of both professorial and touristy curiosity. It’s enough to make any of us go bonkers.
Lest we fear he is to be dissected, poked and prodded, the creature escapes and goes on a rampage on his way to the ocean. A funny thing happens, though, as Gill-man is infatuated with Helen. He soon kidnaps her and a massive manhunt ensues. I think the overall story of the Creature trilogy is Gill-man is lonely (can’t be easy to be the last of your species) and he just wants a girlfriend.
Until I watched them for this Halloween countdown, I had never seen any of the Creature movies. Much like a lot of horror fans, I’ve seen all the Jason and Freddy movies, all the Michael Myers ones and all the Hellraiser films. Additionally, I’ve watched I don’t know how many other movies (horror or not) and their sequels (Rocky, Rambo, Missing In Action, Aliens and the list goes on and on). Sequels have a tendency to be of lesser quality, a lot of times, than the originals— not always mind you (The Godfather Part II is a crowning achievement; Part III…well…). Revenge of the Creature sustains the quality production values of the first, but the story has trouble with the dive into the deep end.
The mistakes it makes do not— I repeat, do not— take away from the fun factor of Revenge of the Creature. It has that sunny Gill-man action I loved in the first one and the big lug has an enduring quality to him. He’s just trying to live his life and all these science a-holes keep pestering him. He’d be okay if everybody would just leave him alone. How can we not sympathize?