“Revenge of the Creature” released in 1955 and marked the second to last installment in Universal’s monster movies featuring the Gill-Man. Directed by Jack Arnold, Revenge took on a story of love, environmentalism, and horror.
The Gill-Man was truly one of the last of the Universal Monsters. Appearing in the 50’s, twenty plus years after Tod Browning’s Dracula, Creature from the Black Lagoon was an exciting success for a studio making its way in a time where science-fiction monsters were entertaining audiences as opposed to the more supernatural and classic bent ones. After Creature from the Black Lagoon released in 1954, a sequel was fast tracked with the original director, Jack Arnold, and writer, William Alland. Opening in wide release on May 13, 1955, Revenge of the Creature would provide an entertaining feature for audiences to enjoy, but one not as clever or smart as the original. This would be Creature from the Black Lagoon by way of Universal’s later Mummy films.
Revenge of the Creature plays out very similarly to a Jaws or Jurassic Park sequel. Earlier, we took a look at the original and of how in many ways that film was the grandfather to science-fiction/horror that we enjoy today. The idea behind the follow-up to Creature from the Black Lagoon is quite simple really. Universal had a hit with Gill-Man; audiences responded to the creature; the love story aspect to the film gave the picture a heart. Martin Berkeley’s screenplay, based off of William Alland’s story, revisits the Amazon and brings the Gill-Man to an oceanarium in Florida. While attempts to recondition the evolutionary challenged fish/man known as Gill-Man fail, his humanity is revealed yet again as he falls for Helen Dobson (Lori Nelson). As Universal would have it, Gill-Man breaks free, stalks Helen, and is eventually overcome by man at the end of the fast-paced 82 minute film.
There are a few similarities to King Kong and producer/writer William Alland did state that the plot was inspired by the classic Merian C. Cooper monster. With this in mind, the story of Creature from the Black Lagoon and Revenge of the Creature work better if you watch as one whole film. The attraction to Helen even plays better as one could consider that Gill-Man still longs for Kay and is merely attracted to her because of his past encounter with Julie Adams’ iconic character. It’s an idea I haven’t seen fully explored before and it is one worth thinking about.
While Creature from the Black Lagoon explores ideas of environmentalism, Revenge of the Creature explores ideas of habitat and evolution, but not quite as well as the 1954 classic. Revenge, in many ways, is a quick follow up and broad retread of the same plot. However, Revenge does offer a few actual thrills and shocks, just as the poster suggests. In one part of the film, the Gill-Man kills a dog and the sight of the dead animal is quite shocking. The movie is, quite literally, very dark and much of that is credited to Charles S. Welbourne. The cinematography, especially for the underwater scenes, are amazing to watch and Revenge of the Creature stands out among many of the 50’s sci-fi/horror films.
Revenge of the Creature is a film well worth watching, especially if you’re a fan of the Gill-Man and the Universal Monsters. It’s surprising to learn that many have overlooked Revenge and other sequels to the original classic monsters films because all of them are very important to the Universal legacy. While Revenge of the Creature isn’t as good as the 1954 original and no where on the level of Universal’s best sequel, The Bride of Frankenstein, it is still quite enjoyable.
Something to watch out for? Clint Eastwood as a lab technician.
As a sidenote, there happens to be a scene in Revenge of the Creature that is quite hilarious and unforgettable. Here it is, in GIF form, below:
While the Gill-Man’s love was never truly reciprocated on screen, there’s a lot of love for him here at Universal Monsters Universe and among the fans. Stay tuned for more of Gill-Man goodness as UMU’s “Creature Week” continues!
(Steven Biscotti – @reggiemantleIII)