In some ways I’ve been dreading reviewing this one, because the only time I’ve seen it before Mike Nelson and his robot pals were heckling it on Mystery Science Theater 3000, and that may have clouded my perception of it. After a second viewing I’d say it’s not a bad film, but it’s certainly not a great one either. It’s kind of like the second Jurassic Park movie, which really didn’t work for me either. It’s about finding an excuse to get your monster to civilization so it can wreak havoc on a grander scale, but when you really get right down to it, it’s just more of the same.
The man versus nature theme worked so much better in Creature From the Black Lagoon. In that one, you could make the argument that the Gill Man is a sort of protector of his little part of the world that has remained untouched by humanity, even if he does have an inexplicable interest in human females. In this sequel he simply becomes a savage beast in captivity that turns on his captors. One tiny line about his DNA being closer to man than fish is about all the film does to further his saga, it may offer an explanation for his pursuit of the film’s blonde bombshell, and it might even set up events for the third movie, but apart from that it quickly becomes a rather generic monster movie.
Another sad fact about this sequel was the filmmaker’s need to tweak what was already a great costume. In my Black Lagoon review I talked about the near believability of the costume design, but here the eyes look a bit more rubbery and bubbles from the back of the Gill Man’s head betray the suit’s breathing apparatus.
But my biggest problem with Revenge is John Agar. I just find him so unappealing. In other entries I’ve talked about the forced romances in the old horror and sci-fi films, and I think this one has the most forced of all. Lori Nelson even seems to play the earliest scenes of romance as if Agar’s advances are unwelcome, yet they’re still engaged before the film’s last act. Their paring could not have been any less believable had Agar said, “We seem to be the two leads in this picture, we may as well be a couple.”
I’ve got one more film to go in the Gill Man’s saga, but based on this one, it’s hard to place high hopes on it, especially since I’ve already seen pictures of what becomes of his look in that one. Hopefully, I’m wrong and the script will make up for it.
This week’s supporting features:
Tom and Jerry in Puss Gets the Boot (1940)
The Our Gang short Free Eats (1932) featuring the debut of George “Spanky” McFarland
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) starring Lon Chaney, Patsy Ruth Miller, and Norman Kerry