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Thursday, May 11, 2006


I just caught "The Creature Walks Among Us" (1956), the third and final film in Universal-International's "Creature From the Black Lagoon" series. Fans are virtually unanimous in calling this the weakest of the triumvirate, and not unreasonably so.

I saw it once when I was a kid, and misremembered a key plot detail. I always thought the scientists conducted a series of surgeries on the Creature to "humanize" him. Actually, though the one scientist bankrolling the mission has a mad scheme to speed up man's evolution for eventual adaptation to outer space, the Creature only undergoes a glorified tracheotomy, in the process becoming an air-breather. (The reason the Creature LOOKS more humanoid is that his top layer of skin -- make that scales -- gets burnt off by flaming gasoline during an action sequence. That, and the spiffy pajamas.)

Of course, there ARE things for monster geeks to like about "The Creature Walks Among Us."

There's Leigh Snowden, third-billed as a no-nonsense blonde unwilling to play wallflower to her powerful, controlling husband. It's a rare You-Go-Girl role in a decade infamous for sexism. Leigh seems to be wearing the very shorts that The Royal Teens would sing about two years later. When all of the men on the expedition drool over Leigh, the viewer doesn't question their motivation.

The underwater Creature sequences are gorgeous -- albeit, leftovers from the first "Creature" film. Ricou Browning, the man doing the backstroke in the suit, is positively balletic.

And "Walks Among Us" has an ending that one can either consider anti-climactic or daring.

Monsters always die in old-fashioned horror films, and their deaths typically take place in the final moments of the film before "THE END" fills the frame. These deaths often involve explosions, fires, wooden stakes through the heart, falling from high places, tumbling into bubbling sulpher pits, etc. At the end of "The Creature Walks Among Us," the forelorn Creature merely ambles into the sea to certain death (he no longer breathes underwater), like Fredric March in "A Star is Born." The submersion even occurs off-camera. Like I said, anti-climactic . . . or DARING?


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