Even though he’s proudly lumped in with his other horror contemporaries as a fully paid up member of the Universal Monsters gang, it’s easy to forget that the Gill-Man didn’t make his first appearance until after all the other franchises had bottomed out. Where Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Mummy, The Wolf Man and The Invisible Man all were classic creatures who crawled, loped and stalked into cinema in the 30’s, the Gill-Man dragged itself ashore as part of the monster movie craze of the 1950’s and the original film was a superior entry in a genre full of rubbery costumes and histrionics about communism and nuclear power.
Of course, Universal back then wasn’t a studio to hold back on its laurels and before you knew it, they rapidly fired out a couple of sequels for the dishy goof with the first entry being Revenge Of The Creature.
A second expedition heads into the Amazon in order to try and locate the Gill-Man whose talents apparently also includes surviving the climactic hail of bullets he endured at the end of the first film. Conveniently finding the aquatic creature almost immediately the moment they arrive in the Black Lagoon, the crew manage to capture the missing link between man and fish by scientifically blowing him the fuck up with explosives and hauling his comatose ass all the way to Florida to “heroically” perform experiments on him.
Professor Clete Ferguson and student Helen Dobson are in charge or studying the Gill-Man and have a long line of tests scheduled that mostly involves blasting the poor scaley bastard with an underwater cattle prod while he’s chained to the bottom of a giant fish tank.
Inevitably, the creature finally escapes its captivity and gives the people of Florida something else to worry about other than freakish news reports about meth addicts, but after his initial rampage the Gill-Man starts reverting to his old habits and starts stalking the very blonde and buxom Helen by leering through her hotel window or bursting into a romantic meal with her and Clete and carrying her off – which only proves to be a little bit less bearable than the endless stream of patronising remarks that enimates from Clete’s speech-hole.
Soon the local police move in to try and bring the creature down and try and rescue Helen from his clammy claws, but will the Gill-Man go down without a fight?
The original movie is a stone cold classic of its type that presented us with a genuinely intriguing antagonist that managed to be as three dimensional as some of his monstrous peers such as fellow blonde-lover King Kong; and while Revenge Of The Creature may fall noticably short of its predecessor, it still includes enough Gill-Man goodness to be an entertaining – if frequently perplexing – time.
The best thing about the movie is – unsurprisingly – the Gill-Man himself who still remains a fascinating creation due to both the outstanding work used to bring him to life and the fact he remains an empathetic being primarily because human beings won’t stop insisting with fucking with him when all he wants to do is lazily swim around in his lagoon. It’s this particular plot point that Revenge sinks its webbed claws into and refuses to let go and during its first half it heaps almost as much brutality and torture onto its titular creature that’s almost comparable to a watery Passion Of The Christ. Obviously nowadays we rightfully frown on needless experimentation on animals and the constant imprisonment mixed with frequent cattle prodding goes a long way to making the Gill-Man a justified anti-hero but you have to wonder how it played back in the 50’s when people wasn’t quite so considerate about the rights of anything that wasn’t human. These days, however, it all manages to make our leads look like callous, sadistic pieces of shit, something that isn’t helped any further by John Agar’s lead being insufferingly smug, even by 50’s monster movie standards.
However, at the mid-point, after the Creature’s initial revenge involves killing a couple of people and tripping a car over, the Gill-Man goes from being a pitiable underdog to going hard into full blown stalker mode as his weakness for blondes has him peeking into windows and killing Hannah’s dog – something that could have been easily avoided if the leads simply could have moved twenty minutes inland. It’s this part of the movie that feels kinda loose and it ironically feels like the movie is treading water with damsel in distress stuff and random murders until we get to the Gill-Man’s inevitable date with yet another hail of bullets.
Weirdly enough, when watching the more engrossing first half, I couldn’t help but notice how similar Revenge Of The Creature is to Jaws 3 as the two share a hell of a lot in common when it comes to story beats. Behold how a dangerous aquatic creature with a previous history of mauling humans gets itself locked in a Floria water park for the entertainment for slack jawed tourists and finally breaks out to wreak vengence – although Jaws 3’s second half disappointingly doesn’t feature a 35-foot shark stalking Dennis Quaid mid-date in a seaside themed restaurant.
As added bonuses we still get treated to some impressive underwater photography as a hapless stuntman glides through the brine while entombed in that iconic monster suit and there’s even an uncredited bit part for an alarmingly young looking Clint Eastwood playing a confused scientist – not too many egg heads on big Clint’s resume after that…
A noticable step down from the towering original, Revenge Of The Creature still has enough fun stuff going on to make it an entertaining monster mash that offers us an entertaining gill-ride.