Written by Martin Berkeley
Directed by Jack Arnold
Starring John Agar, Lori Nelson, John Bromfield, Nestor Paiva
US Release March 29, 1955
RT 82 min.
Home Video Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Classic Horrors rating = 7 (out of 10)
Unless there were two of them, the Gill-man survived being shot at the end of Creature from the Black Lagoon and returned for a sequel a year later in Revenge of the Creature (1955). He probably wouldn’t have returned if he’d been left alone; however, a new crew returns to the upper Amazon to finish what the previous one could not. One of the men boasts, “If there really is a Gill-man, we’ll catch him!”
It’s the same captain on the boat, Lucas (Nestor Paiva), and he judiciously recaps the last movie for those who might be challenged by its complexity: five men died on the previous expedition. While the new crew discusses the Gill-man being “captured in time,” having skipped an evolutionary step, Lucas adds, “Inside it is a demon dragging it through the centuries.”
It’s a demon that they’re able to put into a coma by placing explosives on the surface of the water; however, it’s also a demon that they’re able to revive after “walking” him through the water several times in a tank at the Ocean Harbor Oceanarium in Florida. This science is explained by Helen Dobson (Lori Nelson) as she winks at the hunky “walker,” Joe Hayes (John Bromfield), from a walkway above.
She’s just a flirt, though, because by the end of the movie, she’s met, gone on a date, and become engaged to Professor Clete Ferguson (John Agar). I’m pretty sure I missed that last development, but a radio announcer tracking the escaped Gill-man’s movements along the beach says it’s Ferguson’s fiancée that he’s carrying with him.
Yes, of course the Gill-man escapes. He even gets to flip over a car on his subsequent rampage. In this new setting in and around Jacksonville, there’s a lot more action in Revenge of the Creature than in the first movie. In that sense, it’s a tighter, faster-moving and more entertaining movie. Besides, it’s more fun to see crowds run from a monster than one person swim away from one.
As I watched all the Universal Monster classics chronologically, I noticed little things that I think are milestones in the making of horror movies… more things they started getting away with. Here, it’s not only that the Gill-man commits the most unforgiveable cinematic crime of all: killing a dog, but it’s also that we see the body of the dead dog lying in the bushes, I could swear with blood on its neck.
Jack Arnold directs again and I’ll be darned if he doesn’t attempt a jump scare or two. First, a young couple making out in their car is startled when a policeman approaches the window. Second, a hand reaches out to touch Helen on the shoulder, but it’s not the Gill-man, it’s just good ol’ Clete. This may be just another Universal Monsters sequel, but it’s also an early experiment with tropes of the horror genre that remain with us today.