30 November 2004 | Poseidon-3
At least it's better than Kevin Costner's "Revenge".
After the success of "Creature from the Black Lagoon", Universal Studios figured audiences would want to take another dip with the Gill Man and they were right. This time, marine biologist Bromfield hires the same boat captain that took the first set of scientists to the lagoon and sets out to capture the creature. After bombing the place (and killing all the fish....apparently ecology was but a thing of the future!), he captures the comatose creature and ships him to Florida to be an attraction and an experiment at an aqua park. He is joined by researcher Agar and student Nelson (looking and sounding far more mature than her 22 years!) who attempt to train the creature to respond to human commands. When the Gill Man has had enough of being chained to the floor of a huge aquarium and being prodded and tormented by his captors, he breaks loose, nabs Nelson and leads the police on a massive chase along the Florida coastline. This second entry (with one more sequel to come) doesn't have the same creepy atmosphere of the original, but it more than makes up for it in campy, unintentionally humorous ways. Agar gives a very routine performance, smiling idiotically at various points, then reverting to stoicism. Nelson runs hot and cold, too. In her first scene, when she witnesses a man being attacked by the creature, her expression is along the same lines as discovering that her soufflé fell while she was gabbing on the phone. She improves as it goes along, but is given some goofy things to say and do. She is hardly a match for the divine Julie Adams in the original, though her dress at the end is lovely and she gets to do what had to be a partial inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock's shower scene in "Psycho". Bromfield, not long after having frolicked with Esther Williams in "Easy to Love", has a more difficult swimming partner this time as he continuously wrangles the Gill Man. His tan, beefy looks fill out his teeny swim trunks beautifully, though his role eventually becomes a bit of a throwaway. (Fortunately, the baggy shorts the men wore in the first movie have been replaced by dinky, tight speedo-like ones here.) Future stars Eastwood and Halsey appear in bit parts. Eastwood has the most lamentable role as a sort of backward lab technician who can't keep track of the four mice he's been placed in charge of. Halsey has it better as a college student who has a run-in with the creature. The film is chock full of dry, now-hilarious moments of drama and bizarre plot details that make little or no sense. Nelson befriends a dog that roams into the aqua park and then has it living in her hotel room? The creature can track Nelson on land from the ocean? A police dispatcher feels it necessary to announce that she's a "pretty" student when detailing her kidnapping. When the monster goes on his rampage, a woman blithely lets go of her daughter who then falls at the feet of the creature. Miraculously, though he has mauled and killed men beforehand, he lets the mother kneel down and protect the child. In this film, more than in the original, audience sympathy leans towards the creature. After all, he was dragged form his home and then placed on display. The "training" sequences are remarkably cruel. Nelson places a box of food near him and as he reaches for it, Agar stabs him with a bull prod! Nice! Then she does the same thing with a ball. She entices him to play with it and then here comes the prod again! (Incidentally, the whole prod issue seems unlikely to work the way it is shown.) It does, however, turn a bit funny when the Gill Man retreats and sits on a rusty anchor. As in the original, there's an underwater swimming sequence, this time with Agar and Nelson canoodling while the creature lurks. Gill Man could have easily snatched her and gone off, but then there'd be no film. Even amongst all the goofiness, a modicum of suspense makes its way into the movie. Again, the monster gets some surprising mobility and speed underwater and is pretty threatening. This film draws from past classics ("King Kong"), yet inspired future movies as well ("Jaws 3-D", "Orca".) Far from a true classic, it entertains in spite of itself.