1/11/07

801 Revenge of the Creature

(1955, Horror, b&w)

Oh, the white-hot indifference.

Rating: **

In a nutshell:

Amusement park scientists transplant the Creature From The Black Lagoon to Florida.

Summary:

Oh, that this too, too sullied flesh would melt, thaw, and resolve itself into a dew...Fish retrieval specialist Joe has been sent from marine research facility/amusement park Ocean Harbor, Florida to the now-legendary Black Lagoon, somewhere in the Amazon Basin. His mission: find and capture the eponymous Creature (a.k.a. the Gill Man), as seen in the previous film in this series, Creature From The…well, you know.

Ignoring the concerns of his Sinatra-impersonating sidekick and the dire warnings of his goofy ethnic guide (Nestor Paiva), Joe straps about three hundred pounds of metal to his head and jumps into the lagoon. The Creature spots him immediately and kicks the stuffing out of him. He barely makes it back to the boat alive.

Undaunted, our maimed but handsome hero dons a sling and sends out his sidekick to fill the lagoon with dynamite. Upon detonation, everything in the water floats to the surface. They collect the unconscious Gill Man and head back to Florida, where they wake him up with a salt-water kiddie pool and the loudest winch they can find.

At this point the handsome, square-jawed man of action Joe hands off the film’s hero duties to the diminutive, long-winded Clete Ferguson (played by the aggressively expository John Agar), an animal behaviorist sent to study the Gill Man’s intelligence. Clete immediately recruits a perky, teenaged ichthyologist named Helen to perform lab assistant and girlfriend duties. They don tiny swimsuits and teach the Gill Man to “STOP!” when ordered by torturing him with an electrified pole. Eventually, the captive Gill Man breaks his chains and kills Joe in an unsuccessful attempt to kidnap Helen.

Our scaly antagonist escapes to stalk Helen from afar. He climbs a pier at a fancy jazz/lobster restaurant to swat down Clete and drag Helen out to sea. She remains unconscious for several hours while her abductor drags her in and out of the water, setting her down occasionally to murder random passers-by. In the meantime, Clete has been ceded full control of the local law enforcement agencies. He uses his new authority to harangue his charges about their flashlights. They eventually happen upon the Gill Man and Helen. Clete yells, “STOP!” and the Gill Man stops as conditioned, letting Helen go. The gathered cops open fire and the heartbroken Gill Man falls dead, at least until the next sequel.

Introduction:

Alien Phil, from Planet Pudding Lover.Mike, Tom, and Gypsy are sucked back into the Satellite of Love and forced to resume their corporeal forms. They encounter Crow, who got bored of being pure energy after about five minutes and returned to sit around the Satellite for approximately five hundred years. He doesn’t remember Mike. They’re currently hurtling uncontrollably through space towards a planet that looks suspiciously like Earth. Mike pulls the emergency brake, breaking the Satellite but saving them from a crash landing. Everyone screams when their call to the planet’s surface is answered by an ape in spectacles.

Host Segment One:

The apes and the Satellite crew continue to alternate screams until Mike finally stops to ask questions. They learn that it is now the year 2525, humanity has devolved, and intelligent apes rule the world. Mike does an obligatory Charleton Heston impression while the ape introduces himself as Professor Bobo, son of Coco, and heir to the lineage of Godo, Vodo, and Chim-Chim. He and his assistant, Dr. Peanut, prepare to send Mike and the ‘Bots a movie. When queried why, they respond that it is Ape Law.

Host Segment Two:

Tom descends beneath the floor panels to repair the Satellite while Mike and Crow converse. Crow still can’t remember Mike. Mike remembers Crow, but there seems to be something different about him. Mike meets the nanites, a fast-talking race of microscopic repair robots living all over the Satellite. Mike interrupts their long-winded introduction to ask them to repair the ship. They agree and get to work, jettisoning Tom into the rafters. Quoth Crow, “I should mention that their ultimate goal is to take over the universe.”

Host Segment Three:

Mike gets out of the shower to answer a call on the Hexfield Viewscreen. It’s Phil, an anthropomorphic octopus dressed like a pimp. He only speaks alien octopus-ese, but from the English half of the conversation (provided by Mike and Tom) we learn he wants Tom to return some stolen treasure, or he’ll demolecularize the Satellite. Tom grudgingly gives him the treasure—a titanium cask of french vanilla pudding.

Host Segment Four:

Mike tries to convince Crow that they already know each other, while Crow tries to welcome the “new guy” by making him a cup of espresso. The enormous espresso machine drowns out most of the conversation with earsplitting grinding noises, clouds of blue smoke, and flailing robotic arms. The resulting beverage is distressingly small.

Host Segment Five:

Searching through Earth’s genealogical databases, Crow discovers the shift in dominant species came about because all of Mike’s descendents married apes. Down on the planet, the apes welcome the Lawgiver. She turns out to be Pearl Forrester, freshly thawed from her five hundred year sleep. She lapses into a brief Heston impression and then tells her story. Apparently, she reclaimed her star baby son and vowed to raise him right this time, but never got around to it and ended up smothering him to death. Then she had herself frozen and, voila! She laughs maniacally while she vows to carry on her son’s work.

Stinger:

An underwater, tiny-shorted John Agar lunges with his electrified pole.

Thoughts:

Clint Eastwood is just offscreen.Who made John Agar a leading man? Why was it decided that he, of all people, had the charisma, the charm, the panache to pull off the role of a heroic animal behaviorist defending his fiancĂ©? Did the casting directors high-five each other during his screen test and say, “Look at that intensity! That passion! That profile! The way he delivers exposition for twenty minutes without stopping! Truly this will be the next great star of our generation!” Please. The famously deadpan Peter Graves could exposit circles around him, and still lend even the most ridiculous of speeches a measure of gravitas. Professional screen wimp Jonathan Haze was a whole lot sexier; when (and if) his character finally got the girl, he’d smooch her with far more enthusiasm. Leonard Nimoy had more personality, pointy ears, and the scenery-chewing DeForrest Kelley to back him up.

Well, okay, maybe I’m getting worked up a little early. I’m probably anticipating Mole People, the film that qualifies Mr. Agar for third place on the list of “Most Unappealing Protagonists Featured on MST3K.” While everything I mentioned in previous paragraph stands, it doesn’t necessarily mean his performance in this film is bad, merely unremarkable. Now that I think about it, I suppose I should have led off the opinion portion of this review by saying, “John Agar as Clete Ferguson in Revenge of the Creature: He Didn’t Make Me Cringe…Very Much.”

Speaking of important film star discoveries, look for an uncredited (and very young) Clint Eastwood in a brief scene near the beginning of the film. He marks his silver screen debut by pulling a live rat out of his coat pocket.

The host segments mark a number of important changes to the show. Cast-wise, Bill Corbett replaces Trace Beaulieu as the voice of Crow. Corbett’s voice is fairly similar to Beaulieu’s, so the change isn’t too distracting, and his voice performance is top-notch. Too bad he can’t work a puppet to save his life. (Don’t worry; he’ll get much better very soon.) Continuity-wise, this episode sets up the show’s move to the SciFi channel. The introduction, first and fifth host segments are all dense with exposition, explanations, and Charleton Heston impersonations. Thirdly, this episode is important because it marks a change in the overall tone of the show. Many of their sketches in the show previous had some real-world basis for their humor. Many of the segments from now on will be bizarre and non sequitur. Consider host segment three, in which an anthropomorphic octopus pimp named Phil shakes down Tom for french vanilla pudding. Makes no sense at all, but it’s funny anyway, so who cares?

The film segments here are solid. When the Creature appears for the first time, Tom says, “Esther Williams didn’t age too well.” Later, Mike notes that the creature “kind of looks like Martin Van Buren.” When Clete rescues Helen at the end with his policeman committee, Crow says, “He’s not so much a hero as a really effective administrator.” The movie drags at times (especially during the numerous torture experiments and pointless Sea World footage) but the Satellite crew keeps it moving and interesting most of the way through, and it only takes a few minutes to get used to Crow’s new voice. Plus, the host segments are decent and important to the continuity to the show. It’s an episode you need to see if you want to understand what’s going on during the show’s stay on the SciFi Channel.