John Sherwood, 1956
Starring: Jeff Morrow, Rex Reason, Leigh Snowden, Gregg Palmer
Though I watched Creature from the Black Lagoon several times growing up, I didn’t get a chance to see either of its sequels, Revenge of the Creature or The Creature Walks Among Us, until I was in my late teens/early twenties. I knew about them (and their reputations) from reading horror movie books in my early teens and for whatever reason, my kid brain decided that The Creature Walks Among Us was one of my favorite Universal horror titles. Whatever movie I fantasizes this was, the actual Creature Walks Among Us sadly pales in comparison, though there are some interesting ideas at play.
Though he was shot and killed in both Creature from the Black Lagoon and Revenge of the Creature (they really couldn’t have thought of a better second ending?), the Gill-man returns for a third time and, also for a third time, scientists are desperate to capture and study him. Dr. William Barton leads a team through the Everglades, where the Gill-man is hiding out after the events of the second film. Accompanied by a guide, Jed Grant, some other scientists, and his adventurous young wife, Marcia, Barton manages to capture the Gill-man by setting him on fire. Yes, you read that right. They set him on fire, despite the fact that he is battling them in the water. He suffers from some severe, life threatening burns and, to the scientists’ surprise, begins shedding his gills and exhibits the use of a secret, secondary set of lungs. Barton wants to transform him into a more human creature, attempts to tame him, and gives him clothing, despite his obvious misery at being on land.
Meanwhile, Barton is having some trouble with his wife, Marcia, whom he believes to be cheating on him with their guide, Jed. Though Barton is abusive and smothers Marcia, he doesn’t realize that she is innocent and Jed is aggressively pursuing her against her wishes. Overcome with jealousy, Barton kills Jed and blames it on the Gill-man. Conscious of what is happening to Marcia and what he is being blamed for, the Gill-man goes on an insane rampage, destroys everything, and kills Barton. Dejectedly, he walks into the ocean, even though his gills no longer function and he won’t be able to breathe underwater.
As I said, there are some interesting ideas at work here, but unfortunately the film is mostly filler either related to the subplot with Barton and his wife or to Barton’s lengthy conversations about the meanings of science and evolution. There is pitifully little action, though the Gill-man’s giant tantrum at the end of the film is pretty impressive. I was also surprised by the depressing, hopeless ending. It’s a shame the rest of the film didn’t take this tone as well, though proceedings are fairly mean-spirited between the treatment of Marcia and the Gill-man by just about everyone else involved.
The sociopathic Barton is played by Jeff Morrow (This Island Earth) who would have been a lot better with a more interesting script. Rex Reason (also This Island Earth) is the most sympathetic figure as Morrow’s fellow scientist Dr. Morgan, but is also left with precious little to go on from the script. Leigh Snowden, who plays Marcia, has the most complex storyline, but is sadly the least charismatic of all the blonde scream queens in the Creature trilogy.
I don’t know if I can recommend this film, but fans of Creature from the Black Lagoon or ‘50s creature feature horror should definitely check it out, simply because it’s such an odd little film. For some reason The Creature Walks Among Us was not filmed in 3-D, as its two predecessors were. This is available as part of the Creature from the Black Lagoon: The Legacy Collection DVD set.