And You Thought It Was Safe(?)


The Creature Walks Among Us (1956)
Apt Visual Metaphor Theater Presents: The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Self-Immolating.

Apt Visual Metaphor Theater Presents: The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Self-Immolating.

Of all the disappointing third acts in all the trilogies of film this is my measuring stick. Let others pitch a bitch about Ewoks, Bruce Wayne’s mysterious teleportation powers, or whatever the hell it is you hate so much about Godfather III. I always come back The  Creature Walks Among Us, a film almost as depressing as the era that created it. Made for the sole purpose of matching Revenge of the Creature‘s million dollar take, Walks Among Us isn’t the worst third act of a trilogy I’ve seen…but it is the shoddiest, the least-thought-out, and the most mind-bogglingly off-putting. The kind of movie that makes you shout, “What idiot signed off on this?” A movie that dares you to find something good about it, making the presence of a few genuinely good things almost painful. If they weren’t there I could hate the movie outright and maybe then it would stop haunting me.

Sure, 1956 was the year Godzilla first came to America, but most cinephiles choose to remember it (if at all) as the year of The King and I or The Ten Commandments. Big, loud, annoyingly long epics were the blockbusters of their day and it’d be seven years before Cleopatra finally proved their day was done. Everyone else’s budgets shrank to accommodate their excesses and Universal’s monster movies were no exception. The studio that basically built Horror as a genre now contented itself releasing stuff like The Mole People…and this. Demonstrating they’d learned nothing from the 1940s.

Once again: a rushed production plus a reduced budget equals a bad movies. A string of bad movies equals a franchise no one remembers, save as a punchline. The problem’s exasperated when your title character is so one-note, even compared to his elder brothers in the Universal stable. Dracula usually wanted blood. Werewolves usually want cures. Mummys usually want some artifact or the reincarnation of their dead girlfriend. Frankenstein’s monster just wants to be left alone…something he and the Gillman have in common. All of Gilly’s movies hinge on invasions of his domain by hairy man-animals and their hot girlfriends…but unlike Frankenstein’s monster, you can’t keep bringing the Gillman back to life. Continue reading

Advertisements


Thunderball (1965)

“Well…can’t win them all.”

With special guest star: Dr. Peyton Westlake! (I wish.)

With special guest star: Dr. Peyton Westlake! (I wish. Wouldn’t *that* crossover be awesome?)

Way back in my Halloween 4 review I half-joked that, in the vast multiverse of franchise films, only Star Trek and Godzilla have managed to field strong fourth entries. I was immediately “well, actually”-ed by friend of the site David Lee Ingersoll‘s contention that Thunderball “isn’t bad.” Shopping this critique around, I realized Thunderball divides quite a few Bond fans…though nowhere near as much as some Roger Moore movies I could, and will eventually, mention.

I should’ve expected this. Now that we’re on Film Number Four, we can see the full scope of Bond’s world. From this point on, we’ll have plenty of time to consider all its wonderfully disparate elements and decide which we’d prefer to see…as opposed to what we’re actually watching. Because what we’re watching will increasingly serve to remind us of other, better, James Bond films. And why shouldn’t it? Goldfinger made a ton of money, so why not give the people  more of that? Making this film and knowing in their guts that it would be a hit must’ve felt like a license to supply heroin to William S. Burroughs. Especially since the bones of this script were already four years old by the time cameras rolled. Continue reading



Revenge of the Creature (1955)
Does this bug you? I'm not touching you.

Does this bug you? I’m not touching you.

Lest you think there was ever some magical time when sequels were automatically good, I submit this film as evidence you’re even more deluded than I am. They can’t all be Bride of Frankenstein, and I wouldn’t dare ask it of them. All I ask is that they not be dull. Too much to ask of Universal in 1955, that’s for sure. Am I being unfair? Probably. But when I get bored, I get even surlier.

I don’t know what happened in the time between this and its predecessor. Nearly everyone behind the camera returns for this second go-round. I don’t want to blame director Jack Arnold, who did competent work on an undoubtedly tight schedule. I’m tempted to blame screenwriter Martin (Green Grass of Wyoming) Berkeley, but I’m sure an army of Bronies will trample me to the dust if I say an unkind word about anyone involved with the Flicka series. So I’m forced to blame producer William Alland, who gets “story” credit on this, even though he heard the man-fish legend from cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa back in the 40s. So who really deserves “story” credit for these movies? No, honestly, I’m asking you. I’m just gonna be over here, reviewing this movie while you think up your response.

The “story” picks up a year after the events of Creature from the Black Lagoon, with Capt. Lucas (Nestor Paiva) once again steaming a pair of gringo scientists up “A TRIBUTARY IN THE UPPER AMAZON” (as the location card says). This year’s gringos are Joe Hayes (John Bromfield) and George Johnson (Robert Williams), self-proclaimed expert fish trappers from the (fictional) marine institute/theme park (or “Oceanarium,” as they insist on calling it) at Ocean Harbor, Florida. They’ve come to the titular lagoon to capture the titular creature. After some initial setbacks they take a page from the Redneck Dynamite Fisher’s Handbook and succeed, knocking the Creature unconscious with the concussive blast from multiple cases of high explosives. Continue reading