Monday, June 9, 2014

"The Creature Walks Among Us" (1956) d/ John Sherwood

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We'll wrap up the Black Lagoon trilogy reviews tonight with my least favorite of the series, the third and final chapter to date, and the only one with a 3D release not bestowed upon it. Ricou Browning handles the underwater Gill-man duties once again, which only last about thirty-five minutes or so, before Don Megowan takes over on land, not terrorizing an entirely new cast of characters that includes Jeff Morrow of This Island Earth (1955) fame, and his co-star from that movie, Rex Reason, as well as Cheesecake from Kiss Me Deadly (1955) herself, Leigh Snowden, as the hot blonde bod in a one-piece that likes to smoke cigarettes, play guitar, and shoot sharks from the side of a boat.

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"As we're ascending to the surface, you may feel a bit of a prick."
This time around, the amibitious Dr. Barton (Jeff Morrow) has assembled a team of scientists and adventurers to travel to the Florida Everglades, where the fabled Gill-Man is reported to have clawed up a fisherman, only Barton won't be satisfied simply conditioning the creature with cattle prod electricity up the ass, he wants to speed up evolution itself, and bring the homicidal amphibian up onto dry land. Dr. Morgan (Rex Reason) and the red-blooded Jed Grant (Gregg Palmer) want to help the chain smoking scientist realize his goals, except that he's brought along his frustrated young dish of a platinum blonde wife, Marcia (Leigh Snowden), for the expedition. When she's not laughingly introducing nearby sharks to hot lead death from the deck with a smoke dangling from her lip, she's diving with the boys in a sheer white bathing suit, just to get away from her hothead husband who doesn't trust her around anybody. Oh yeah, there's a Gill-Man out there scoping from the murky depths, too. And this troubled dame looks like she's right up his alley.

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"You wretched air breathers had no idea I was Hindu..."
When the Gill-Man finally attacks their night boat, he's hit with a flurry of harpoons and unwittingly sets himself on fire with a gasoline can. The men bring him back to the ship, where they cover his third degree burns with gauze bandages, only to find that underneath his badly singed gills is a layer of human flesh. He's also got a pair of air-breathing lungs that Barton kick starts with an emergency tracheotomy. Fitted up with an impromptu burlap suit, the no-longer-quite-as-gilly-man soon finds that his usual escape into the rolling surf, just won't do anymore, and nearly drowns in trying. With wife and shoddily-dressed specimen under lock and key, Barton returns to his California ranch, where the ex-gill man slam dunks a prowling cougar and breaks the fuck out like meningococcal  meningitis when the covetous doctor brains the wisecracking flesh hound Grant with a pistol butt, and tries to hide his crime in ex-gilly's caged enclosure. In the end, he chucks the scientist off a balcony to his death, and shuffles off to a nearby beach where he can forlornly gaze upon a sea he can never return to.

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"The good news, Mr. Tyson, is that the laser removed all of your facial tattoo...but there's also some bad news."
Director Sherwood would follow up his effort here with the even sillier Monolith Monsters a year later.A lot of folks dig the psychological angle this one took, away from the usual car-flipping, wake-splashing chaos that drew audiences in the previous two outings, myself included, but I just can't get around the clunky-looking terrestrial Gill-Man when all is said and done, with FX supervisor Bud Westmore only bothering to provide a head, hands, and feet this time around. It's not like Universal couldn't spring for a whole suit. Though the story is undoubtedly stronger than even the 1954 original in several instances, I find myself losing much interest the second his bandages are removed, revealing a hulking, padded oaf in rags lumbering around, like so much pedestrian horror fare of the fifties. Worth seeing, for sure, just not nearly as fun as either of the first two movies were for me, and because of that, The Creature Walks Among Us earns itself an unremarkable deuce on the scale.

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"Congrats, significantly-less-covered-with-gills-man, you've been selected by the Green Bay Packers in the first round of the 1957 NFL Draft."
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