Monday, October 8, 2012

Psychobabble's 150 Essential Horror Movies: Addition 8

Every day this October, I'll be adding a film to Psychobabble's 120 Essential Horror Movies to bring the list up to 150. Today’s addition is:

43. Revenge of the Creature (1955- dir. Jack Arnold)

Just when the Universal horror tradition seemed dead in the ground after ten years of spoofy, schlocky sequels and monster rallies (albeit absurdly fun spoofy, schlocky sequels and monster rallies), a new monster came lurching from the depths to give it a last gasp. The Creature from the Black Lagoon was so successful because it conflated the horror tropes of old (sympathetic, romantic, iconic monster doomed by small-minded, selfish humans) with the new brand of sci-fi (non-Gothic setting; non-supernatural explanation for the creature’s existence). Because the Gill Man is so much worthier of our care than all the aliens and giant bugs of his generation, audiences wanted to reconnect with him after his— no hyperbole here— tragic death at the end of Black Lagoon. Of course, no bankable monster is ever really dead, and just one year later we learned the Gill Man had survived his first adventure and was now ready to star in his second. Coupled with its predecessor, Revenge of the Creature plays a bit like a remake of King Kong. Black Lagoon updates Kong’s Skull Island sequence; Revenge puts a new twist on the amok-in-Manhattan portion. The Gill Man wouldn’t have much to do in the big city, so he is relocated from his Amazonian home to a Florida marine park instead. There he is shackled, gawked at, and zapped with an electrified prodder to keep him in line. Like Kong, the Gill Man makes off with the human object of his desire (Lori Nelson subbing for Julia Adams) and meets his (temporary) end in time for the final credits. Along with the chance to spend more time with one of our favorite monsters, Revenge of the Creature provides the pleasure of seeing him raise hell in a totally new environment. ‘50s movie goers got the additional thrill of seeing him do his thing in 3-D, though the picture is probably a lot more enjoyable without having to endure the eye strain and headaches that come with that format. A few decades later, Revenge of the Creature would basically be remade as Jaws 3-D, highlighting the importance of a charismatic monster.  

See this piece in context as part of Psychobabble’s Essential Horror Movies of the 1950s here.
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