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  Revenge of the Creature Set Me Free
Year: 1955
Director: Jack Arnold
Stars: John Agar, Lori Nelson, John Bromfield, Nestor Paiva, Grandon Rhodes, Dave Willock, Robert Williams, Charles Cane
Genre: Horror, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: The Amazon River in Brazil, and there's a boat carrying two scientists who are investigating the find of a previous team: they had discovered the so-called Gill Man, a part human, part animal aquatic creature that killed a number of the party and was lost, presumed dead, but these two believe it still lives and they mean to capture it. The Captain (Nestor Paiva) is sceptical, but enquires anyway, how could an apparent dinosaur exist now, in the twentieth century? The lead scientist (Robert Williams) is happy to explain that sometimes evolution creates a dead end, a survivor from the past that represents the last of its line, and that is what he sees the Gill Man as. His colleague, Joe Hayes (John Bromfield) agrees, and is all ready to get into the water and catch it...

The Creature from the Black Lagoon was possibly the biggest new monster of the nineteen-fifties, not as enduring as Godzilla in Japan, but more iconic of his decade, despite numerous attempts to revive him in remakes and reboots that led nowhere. This sequel, if anything, was more successful than its source, in spite of being a considerable step down in quality, but that was not to say there was nothing of worth here, in fact it was a very intriguing work in light of what it said about the environment and the morality of keeping animals in cages, or sea life centres as was the case with this. That was what happened to the Creature this time around, he was stunned by charges in the water, which enabled him to be taken to Florida.

To an actual ocean centre called Marineland, where he was subjected to all sorts of indignities as our star John Agar, playing another scientist, performed experiments on him. Before what had made the Creature pathetic in the face of humanity was his attraction to Julie Adams, but she wasn't here this time around, so what his Achilles' Heel now turned out to be was how easy he was to keep stuck in this tank and given the cattle prod treatment to make sure he did not get out of line. There was a love interest, naturally, and she was another boffin, Helen Dobson, played by Lori Nelson, who was happy to go along with what amounted to torture when it meant she could increase the sum knowledge of mankind.

For some reason, Gill Man took a liking to her anyway, maybe because she wasn't the one with the electric prod thrust at him to make him understand the meaning of the word "no"; you can tell he is a savage beast right enough, but what good this is doing him, or indeed the researchers, is a major mystery. Parallels could be drawn between Revenge of the Creature and many films with an ecological bent that would turn up later, predicting the rise of the eco-horror movement which would really take hold in the seventies. But even more interesting were the similarities between this and the documentary Blackfish, which detailed the abuse of marine animals in ocean parks across the world, essentially making their denizens insane by keeping them in captivity and having them do tricks.

Not that Gill Man balanced a ball on his nose or whatever, but the captivity sending him around the bend was definitely a factor, and though he was depicted as a menace we could also have some sympathy for him because it was all the human's fault for kidnapping him in the first place that he goes off on his predictable rampage, performing a kidnap by way of "revenge" when Helen is scooped up in his arms, his signature blare of brass well to the fore on the soundtrack. Director Jack Arnold was back behind the camera after the huge hit of the original (this sequel was already in the planning stages when that was being completed, Universal taking its cue from it classic monster movies of the previous two decades), but was not able to do much with a rather basic monster on the loose screenplay other than drum up some compassion in the audience for what remained a wild animal with lovelorn tendencies, not a species of any keen intelligence. This was originally a 3D movie, in case you were wondering why things kept being pointed at the camera, though now is best remembered for Clint Eastwood's screen debut, getting outwitted by a rat.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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