Universal had a hot property in The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and they understandably wanted to cash in on it some more. That led to a lazy sequel in Revenge of the Creature, and a silly mess in today’s ’50s flick, The Creature Walks Among Us.
Coming along a year after Revenge, in 1956, The Creature Walks Among Us is the first film in the series not to be directed by Jack Arnold. He had ambitions beyond directing b-flicks, if the internet is to be believed, so bowed out of the project. Directing duties were handled by John Sherwood, from a screenplay by Arthur A. Ross.
The last anyone saw of the creature (played by Ricou Browning and Don Megowan), at the end of the previous flick, it was escaping into the Florida Everglades. Dr. William Barton (Jeff Morrow), a scientist, believes the creature is the key to rapid human evolution, or some such. He hires a charter vessel to take him and a small team of researchers to Florida to capture the beast, bring it back to California, and perform experiments.
Barton is joined on the expedition by Dr. Thomas Morgan (the incredibly-named Rex Reason), Dr. Borg (Maurice Manson), Dr. Johnson (James Rawley), expedition guide Jed Grant (Gregg Palmer), and Barton’s wife, Marcia (Leigh Snowden). Grant and the Bartons are this flick’s ham-handed attempt at a love triangle. It’s a clumsy subplot, and the film would have been better without it. But, that’s getting ahead of things.
Back in the main plot, the expedition finds the creature soon after arriving in Florida, which makes sense, as there’s only 77 minutes of running time for the plot to work with.
The capture was something of a fiery affair, leaving the creature with grievous burns and wrapped up like a mummy in the shipboard lab.
Before the capture of the creature, this film resembled its predecessors in both tone and location. There was the tropical setting, the scuba diving, and the monster swimming around and terrorizing everyone. I had thought I knew exactly where this film was going, and that was just fine. The filmmakers had yet to exhaust the ideas that made the first film work. They must not have thought so, however. Because after the creature gets captured, this turns into more of a Frankenstein flick than anything else.
As the creature heals, it sheds its fishy accoutrements and grows lungs and ears and stuff, because science. It’s not worth paying close attention to the whys of the creature’s transformation. Just know that the man-fish of the previous films is no more. In his stead is a giant lump of mud in a pair of coveralls.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with taking a film in a new direction, but taking a look at these two monsters, I’m left thinking the filmmakers were chasing a sunk cost. Here’s a before and after:
Yeesh. That after is not a good movie monster. Trust me, I’ve seen a lot of movie monsters.
The creature (dubbed Gill-man) is an iconic movie monster, and one of the surprises that I’ve had in putting together this month of the Horrorshow was in finding that there were only three movies in which it appeared (not counting The Monster Squad, from 1987). Not only that, the two sequels are little more than rushed b-flicks. Sure, so was the first one, but at least that flick had the wherewithal to be good. The two sequels are a cash grab.
What hurts this flick more than a small budget and an iffy cast, was the whiplash change in direction. They took a monster that had been working, and turned it into something rather generic. The creature, owing to Ricou Browning, had grace in the underwater scenes. It was a monster within its element, and was well thought out by creators and performer. Then the filmmakers took that away and gave audiences yet another lumbering giant.
The Creature Walks Among Us is an interesting bit of horror movie history, but it’s also shitty. There really isn’t much reason for a viewer to seek this out unless they have a strange hobby like, I don’t know, reviewing bad films on the internet that only a handful of people ever see.
It’s a middling shitty movie, splitting The Beast of Hollow Mountain and Meteor at spot #123 in the Watchability Index. I watched it so you don’t have to.