Revenge of the Creature (1955) (NTSC)
Theatrical Trailer-Original 2D trailer (2:30) : matted 1.33:1
Audio Commentary-Feature length (2004) : Lori Nelson and two film historians
|Year Of Production||1955|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Jack Arnold|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||
English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||480i (NTSC)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.00:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
One of the most successful sci-fi films of the fifties was Universal International's Creature from the Black Lagoon - note that there is no initial "the". After the success of that initial film, released in Australia on DVD by Universal in 2002, there were two sequels featuring "The Gill Man", Revenge of the Creature (1955) and The Creature Walks Among Us (1956). The complete trilogy is available in the US in a two-disc set released by Universal, but locally the two follow-up films have been licensed to Umbrella Entertainment. As one of the two separate titles, Revenge has some added interest as it, like the creature's first outing, was filmed in 3D, a process which has re-emerged in cinemas and surely will find its way to DVD. I am ignoring those awful recent DVD releases, such as the Region 1 Journey to the Centre of the Earth, which use red and blue tints for the separate images, instead of the polaroid process. In the 50s the red and blue tints were used only for 3D comic books.
After the 1952 mega sensation of the first commercial feature in 3D, Bwana Devil, Hollywood studios, without exception, jumped onto the 3D bandwagon. One of the most eager studios was Universal International, their second 3D release being Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). So sure was the studio of its box office potential, that a sequel, ultimately entitled Revenge of the Creature was in production, also in 3D, before the first creature feature was released. The initial entry was a world sensation, including in Australia where it was screened in 3D in its captal city opening engagements, and then 'flat' for general suburban release. By the time the second film was released in Australia audiences were tiring of 3D. The often badly made glasses were uncomfortable, and a number of the early 3D movies were poorly made and rushed into theatres to cash in on the craze. There were a few first-rate 3D films, such as MGM's superlative musical Kiss Me Kate, shown in that format in the capital city Metro flagships - in Sydney at The Liberty in Pitt Street. Despite excellent polarized glasses, magnificent wide screen, and Perspecta Stereophonic Sound, audiences were tiring of the latest Hollywood craze for depth, while the studios found the wider image of CinemaScope (1953) more acceptable to the public, and cheaper for exhibitors. Revenge of the Creature was never released in Australia in 3D, and the third and final outing, The Creature Walks Among Us, was filmed flat.
In the 30s and 40s Universal, later Universal International, was THE studio for monsters such as Dracula, The Frankenstein Monster and The Wolfman, to name a few. In the 50s the studio introduced a new monster, The Gill Man, who terrified audiences of the day, whether in two or three dimensions. This "monster" was an original creation by producer William Alland, from a story by Maurice Zimm developed into a screenplay by Martin Berkeley. Though the aquatic being himself was original, his story heavily borrowed from King Kong, a fact acknowledged by Alland. As in Kong, the aberrant beast is captured and taken from his natural environment, transported to civilization where he is exhibited and abused, while at the same time being drawn to the beauty of one of these human creatures. As was the fate of King Kong, The Gill Man was originally to die at the end of the first film, but Alland shrewdly suspected that his film would be a hit at the box office and rewrote the ending to allow his creature to swim again ... and again.
The screenplay instantly places us on "a tributary of the upper Amazon" where we join a small party on the boat of Captain Lucas, a character from the original feature again played by Nestor Paiva. Financed by an aquatic research facility in Florida, this is an expedition to return to The Black Lagoon in order to seek, find and capture the dreaded creature. The intention is to bring the strange being back to Florida for research and exhibition. The chief hunter is Joe Hayes (John Bromfield) who is attacked while aqualunging in search of the beast. Using explosives, the brave humans stun The Gill Man, who is then transported, senseless, back to Florida. There we encounter scientists Professor Clete Ferguson (John Agar) and icthyologist Helen Dobson (Lori Nelson). There is some friendly rivalry between Clete and Joe over the beautiful Helen, and in the person of Lori Nelson, twenty-three and a gorgeously pretty blonde, who could blame them? The creature is chained to the bottom of a tank, where, through portholes, he is observed by the curious public as they watch the program of reward and punishment executed by the captors. Through these same portholes the creature, who considers Joe to be his rival for Helen, catches glimpses of the lovely blonde he longs for. Through it all our sympathies are, as was the case with King Kong, with the creature, not with his tormentors. Of course he escapes, and terrorizes the local area - popping up in amazing places, considering his watery habitat - and there are a few scary moments before the predictable ending, the final shot recycling the close of Creature from the Black Lagoon. Do you reckon he's really dead this time?
The story moves along at a cracking pace, coming in at less than eighty-two minutes, even after Alland added one scene prior to release. Every sci-fi or monster movie of the period had a talky expository scene at the beginning, and Alland felt that the action here began far too quickly. After the film had been completed studio director Joseph Pevney (Man of a Thousand Faces) was asked to add a five minute dialogue exchange between Captain Luca, George (Robert B. William) and Joe. Note that in this scene John Bromfield's hair is totally different from the rest of the film. There is a great deal of Florida location work, with some locals recruited as extras, their inexperience adding extra enjoyment to some scenes. Especially entertaining are the dancing couples "living it up" in a local nitery. Photography is efficient, though unremarkable, except for the odd 3D manoeuvre, such as when Bromfield puts his boot up on the edge of the boat almost stepping straight into the lens.
Performances are surprisingly solid and effective from the very personable trio of principals. John Agar had a promising beginning in films, and seemed to be overcoming the tag of being "Shirley Temple's husband". He featured strongly in a couple of outstanding John Ford / John Wayne films, Fort Apache (1948) and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), but then marital and personal problems contributed to a fall from grace with the public. Here he makes a very acceptable scientist hero, attractive and convincing. Lori Nelson (Bend of the River) had been with the studio since her teens, and here has developed into an extremely lovely young woman, with the added advantage of being a warm, natural actress - even if "icthyology" does not trip prettily on her tongue. Also, her diving may not be Olympic standard but at least she actually does it. On the other hand, the two male stars look quite comfortable in their swimming and diving action scenes. Thankfully the screenplay does not turn "the other man" into the stereotypical baddie. Joe, though rebuffed by Helen, remains a nice guy, and John Bromfield makes a handsome and athletic reject. Bromfield has the great distinction of being the only actor who has swum with the screen's two greatest aquatic stars, The Gill Man and Esther Williams, whom he partnered in MGM's Easy to Love (1953). In one short scene we also have the pleasure of witnessing the screen debut of twenty-five year old Clint Eastwood while Brett Halsey (Return to Peyton Place) also features as a young man who, as we near the climax, feels the fatal wrath of the rampaging creature.
Of course the real "star" of the film is "The Creature" himself. Although a number of actors, and stunt-men, played the man in the rubber suit, it is olympic swimmer Ricou Browning who is responsible for almost all of the underwater scenes. The powerful and graceful alternating sweep of the arms was the creature's trademark movement, and re-enacted by pubescent males in 1950s public swimming baths far and wide. Browning is still a wonder to behold in these scenes. No CGI, just a man in a rubber suit, which makes it that more impressive.The suit itself was a wonderful creation, detailed and convincing. From the first film to this sequel there were changes made to the headpiece, noticeable if you compare the new footage with the few interpolated shots from the original. Compared to what is created on screen today this is simple stuff, but The Gill Man has remained unforgettable for over fifty years.
In the 1950s, sci-fi and monster features were automatically considered "B" films. When the rare sci-fi film with an "A" cast surprisingly appeared, such as Robert Wise's Fox classic The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), the public was nonplussed. The three movies featuring The Gill Man certainly did not have "A" casts, but they were made with the economic expertise and polish for which Universal International was renowned. Revenge of the Creature remains brisk entertaining fun, with a few scares, an attractive more than competent cast and one of the best screen "monsters" of all time.
There are two audio streams: Dolby Digital 2.0 mono encoded at 192 Kbps;
Audio Commentary track which is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono encoded at 192 Kbps.
Both tracks were auditioned in their entirety.
The overall sound quality was that of excellent dated mono, clean and sharp.
Dialogue was perfectly clear and easy to understand. There was a great deal of post-recording or looping involved in this production, probably because of the extensive location work. This does create a sense of unreality at times, with the voices too prominent and even, combined with a total absence of ambient sound. There is one short section which may have been very slightly out of sync (36:00), but this could have been due primarily to the looping. The commentary contributes the fact that contract actor John Saxon (Portrait in Black) dubbed the couple of lines of a sailor played by an unknown actor, while Lori Nelson has a couple of lines in a shower scene that are delivered in a register suspiciously deeper than usual (58:40). No mention of this in the commentary, though.
There were no instances of crackle, no pops and no dropouts.
The music is very nicely reproduced, with the piercing orchestral blasts which accompany the creature's appearances still quite shattering. With musical supervision by the non-composing head of Universal's music department Joseph Gershenson, there is an uncredited contribution from an unbilled Henry Mancini, as well as borrowings from Universal's library catalogue, raiding the scores of a Francis movie and Ghost of Frankenstein amongst others.
|Surround Channel Use|
The disc is light on extras, with only the original trailer plus the feature length commentary. The commentary is, however, one of the very best.
Presented in the ratio of 1.33:1, the menu is very basic using a black and white still from the film with audio of underwater noises, plus an occasional "growl" from the creature.
Options presented are :
Scenes : A separate screen, without audio, offers eighteen chapters on three screens with thumbnails.
Bonus Materials : A separate screen using another still and the same audio as the main menu, offers the extras detailed below.
Languages : A separate screen with black and white artwork, without audio, offers:
Spoken Language : English (Only one language is offered, and it made no difference whether or not this was "clicked".)
Audio Commentary with actress / star Lori Nelson, and film historians Tom Weaver and Bob Burns.
Captioned for the Hearing Impaired (English)
Subtitles : English / French / None
Audio Commentary by actress Lori Nelson and film historians Tom Weaver and Bob Burns : On / Off (More details are given below.)
Bonus Materials :
Audio Commentary :
Recorded in 2004, this is a feature length commentary by actress and star Lori Nelson with questions and contributions from film historians Tom Weaver and Bob Burns. These two gentlemen have an incredible knowledge of this film, and everything and everyone even remotely connected to it. They are amazing. I can't speak for those who have no nostalgia for the fifties, but for me this was an unexpectedly entertaining and delightful commentary. Lori Nelson was never a "star", meaning no one ever went to see "a Lori Nelson movie". She just happened to be the obligatory young female interest in the latest entry in the Francis or Ma and Pa Kettle series we went to see, or maybe the female decoration in a Technicolor adventure or western starring one of Universal's beefcake stars, such as Rock Hudson or Tony Curtis. In this commentary we have Lori Nelson, fifty years on, sounding at seventy-one much the same as she did way back then, reminiscing about her creature feature, as well as her other Hollywood experiences. There is a mountain of loving information here, some very trivial, about the film and Universal during the final days of the contract system. The trio discuss Miss Nelson's introduction to Hollywood, the studio training, her friends within the studio, the making of this film and her co-stars, the contributions of the performers who donned The Gill Man's suit - one man on land, another in the water for this sequel - location work in Florida and her quitting the studio, partly because she had been given this demeaning role in a sci-fi picture, thus automatically considered a "ghetto" or " B" picture. Some of the detail is mind boggling:
Friday July 30, 1954 : One day's work, morning and afternoon, by a young actor in his very first film. One scene with dialogue playing a lab assistant - Clint Eastwood.
A bit player in the role of a sailor has a couple of lines, actually dubbed by John Saxon in his first year under contract. Music for the lobster restaurant scene was composed by an uncredited Henry Mancini.There are also some interesting statements regarding 3D and its demise.
It is very welcome to have this information, as well as the trivia and nostalgia, related to a studio not so well documented as, say MGM, Fox or Warner Brothers.
Original Theatrical Trailer : 02:30)
Presented at approximately 1.30:1, matted, this is not the 3D trailer, with promises of the thrills and terrors provided by the added dimension. As the film was never shown in 3D in Australia, this would have been the only trailer issued here. There is some slight flecking, and the image is not quite up to the standard of the feature, but the audio is again excellent mono. There is a nice little special piece created for the trailer, with the creature making three slashes across the screen, each slash revealing one line of the title :
|DVD||Onkyo-SP500, using Component output|
|Display||Philips Plasma 42FD9954/69c. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.|
|Speakers||VAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)|