Creature From The Haunted Sea:
A notorious cheapie knocked out almost as a freebie after Roger Corman had finished two other films in the tropics, Creature From The Haunted Sea shows its roots like a two-month-old-bleach-job. Folks, this is what two locations, some free time in Puerto Rico, and three bucks worth of green yarn will get you! It's really just gravy that the movie's actually quite fun to watch.
We're in Cuba, just after the Castro revolution, and some top Batista officials want to sneak a little loot back to the states for safe keeping. Their goofball soldiers lift a footlocker full of gold - the Cuban Treasury - out of a VW microbus and drop it in the trunk of a Ford Falcon and hop on the hood and trunk of the car, shooting while it speeds wildly through the palms. It's nice to know International Diplomacy hasn't changed much in 50 years.
Renzo Capetto (a seemingly constantly drunk Antony Carbone) endeavors to wrest control of the booty with a mad scheme about a fake sea monster, and three of the silliest accomplices you can imagine. Little does Renzo know that A) his crew's been infiltrated by secret agent XK150 (a pseudonymous Robert Towne having a bit of fun) and B) there's actually a real monster dispatching Cubans for him. Lazy, giggling, impromptu fun ensues, melding smart and juvenile humor in such an unselfconscious way you can't help but get into it. Theoretically, Corman actually wanted to generate a little fear with his monster, but his misfire just adds to the slapdash silliness.
I'm not quite sure what makes Creature such hot, bad gold, when near-constant contemporary bad-movie spoofs fail so miserably. Perhaps it's because Corman and crew weren't trying to make a bad movie. They were hardly even trying to make a movie, yet everyone involved has undeniable talent, just talent set on autopilot and in service of a three-day screenplay (I'm guessing a few rum-filled evenings helped things along, too). Loony plot aside, Rat Pack influenced writing shines. Screenwriter Charles B. Griffith gives the lion's share of sharp dialog (not to mention the most interesting character) to mol Mary-Belle Monahan (nailed by Betsy Jones-Moreland). When XK150 tries convincing soon-to-be-flush Mary-Belle to get out while the getting's good, she drawls incredulously "are you unwell? The gettin' is great!" Even if she doesn't score the gold, she's got it covered; seen (but not focused on) loading dice early on, later she's constantly playing craps with the Cuban crew in the background.
Each coolly clever bit is balanced by flat-out stupid stuff like Capeto's right-hand-man, who communicates mostly through animal calls, or the truly brain-dead man-child Happy Jack. Even he gets good laughs though. When coming back from the city with a shady lady, his friends question him; "you found this woman in San Juan?" "Well yes," he says, "she was living in a kind of sorority house down by the dock! She's awful friendly!" But then everyone gets attacked by a creature with ping-pong ball accented tennis ball eyes and visible scuba flippers - a stumbling, laughable thing cobbled together with probably twenty bucks worth of costuming - and Corman and friends' off-the-cuff genius for junk shines anew.
Legend Films 1.33:1 fullscreen transfer of Creature From The Haunted Sea comes in either a colorized or restored original black and white version. In general it looks pretty good for what's generally seen as an old public domain cheapie. Some film damage and a couple of skips are really the only problems with this nice sharp image. The transfer is tight and compression artifacts aren't a problem. I'm not a big fan of colorization, but you can't deny that Legend's recent efforts are much better than what most people think of when they think about colorizing. It makes the image pop and it's fun to see the creature in green.
2.0 Mono Audio is just about adequate. It's probably down to the source, which was seemingly unable to be cleaned up I guess, but dialog is often somewhat muffled and a tad difficult to catch without cranking the volume. Whatever the case, it isn't terribly fun to listen to, and in all other aspects is basic and unimpressive.
Extras are limited to Trailers for five other Legend Films releases.
Movies don't get much cheaper than Roger Corman's Creature From The Haunted Sea - and of course I mean that as high compliment. Shot in five days from a three-day script, Creature makes no bones about being a knock-off, instead concentrating on packing lots of light, simplistic fun in 60 minutes. The jokes are smart, the jokes are stupid, and sometimes it's unclear what's even meant to be a joke - this is a movie about a murderous sea monster, after all. For these reasons, and unfathomable others, Creature From The Haunted Sea is Recommended.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com