The first sequel to Creature from the Black Lagoon sees the Gill-Man captured in a fish tank and prodded for “science”. Little is done with the interesting premise, and the thin script devolves into a routine monster-on-the-loose affair. 4/10
Revenge of the Creature. 1955, USA. Directed by Jack Arnold. Written by William Alland & Martin Berkeley. Starring: John Agar, Lori Nelson, John Bromfield, Nestor Paiva, Ricou Browning, Ginger Stanley, Tom Hennessy, Clint Eastwood. Produced by William Alland.
In 1954 Universal hit the jackpot with the 3D monster movie Creature from the Black Lagoon (review). And it went without saying that their new monster baby needed a sequel. In fact it got two, in short succession. The first was the one we are reviewing today. Revenge of the Creature, from 1955, and in 1956 it was joined by The Creature Walks Among Us.
Revenge of the Creature picks up almost where the previous picture ended, and the Creature, the Gill-Man, slipped away into the depths of the Amazon lagoon after being shot by Richard Carlson and his friends. Now a new team of scientists set forth from Florida and this time manage to capture the monster, and bring it back to an aquarium for study. Chained to the bottom of a tank, the creature is indeed “studied” by cognitive behavioural zoologist Clete Ferguson (John Agar) and ichthyologist Helen Dobson (Lori Nelson). This ”study” consists of prodding the creature with an electric bull prod, teaching it to obey the word ”stop”. This is not the language course the Gill-Man signed up for, so he breaks loose, kills a couple of aquarium workers, topples over a car and escapes to the sea. Instead of searching for the creature, Clete and Helen decide to go out for a romantic jazz concert by the beach, which ends badly, when the aquaman feels left out, and snatches Helen from her boyfriend. Now Clete springs into action and gathers a posse to look for the creature and Helen along a riverbank, leading up to yet another confrontation.
After the classic monster movie franchise collapsed in the mid-forties, Universal studios had been floundering without a line of movies they could make for a fairly short buck, and would be sure to draw a big juvenile audience. Science fiction had exploded onto the scene in the early fifties, but by 1953 the vast majority of the SF films being churned out were cheap exploitation fare by Poverty Row studios or made by independent productions. Initially the big studios weren’t quite sure how to handle this new age of space explorations, flying saucers and visitors from other planets. Twentieth Century-Fox made the big-budget splash The Day the Earth Stood Still (review) in 1951, but then stayed away from SF. Paramount was one of the standard-bearers for the genre with George Pal’s expensive colour epics, but Universal, a ”minor major studio” didn’t have the muscle to compete with such movies. But then in 1952 two things happened. One: Arch Oboler released the first 3D movie, Bwana Devil, with enormous success. Two: RKO re-released King Kong (1933, review), and swept the floor at the box office. For Universal this was an epiphany: people wanted monsters again, and if Universal could give it to them in 3D, they would have a winner on their hands.
Universal’s first tentative steps in this new science fiction genre came in 1953 when they combined producer William Alland, director Jack Arnold and lead actor Richard Carlson along with the studio’s famous makeup and special effects teams. The result was the surprise hit It Came from Outer Space (review), an almost poetic movie based on a script by Ray Bradbury. The success of the film proved that Universal were right to focus on SF and 3D, but they still needed their iconic monster. That came in 1954, when Alland, reportedly inspired by a an Amazonian folk tale, dreamed up Creature from the Black Lagoon (review). Once again the project was helmed by Alland, Arnold, Bud Westmore’s makeup department and Carlson. The movie became a phenomenon, and Universal knew it had found its new Frankenstein. Wise from the past days of monster movies, the studio knew that if it had worked once, it would work again, and a sequel was inevitable. Filmed during the summer of 1954, Revenge of the Creature was released in March 1955, with a smaller budget than the first movie, but to even greater financial success. The film spawned yet a third sequel, The Creature Walks Among Us, on an even smaller budget, in 1956.
The sequel was yet again made by Alland and Arnold, with much of the same team behind the camera as in the original movie. Richard Carlson was replaced by John Agar, and the movie would forever inform his career, as he became one of the most prolific leading men in SF of the fifties and sixties. Missing from Revenge of the Creature was Arthur Ross, who had put together the admittedly clunky, but sweaty and claustrophobic script of Creature from the Black Lagoon. Instead the studio made due with Martin Berkeley, who later went on to some cult fame as the writer of Tarantula (1955) and The Deadly Mantis (1957).
Kudos should be given to the filmmakers for trying something different – that is to bring the creature to civilisation. However, they don’t do much with the premise. The film, boringly, repeats the story from the original. Scientists catch the creature, it escapes, kidnaps a damsel in distress, gets shot and slides back to the sea. Yes, it’s a spoiler, but we all know the creature returns for a third film.
The main problem with the plot is that there isn’t much of it. The first 15 minutes ar a lackluster rehash of the original movie, and the next half hour alternates between the underwater ”conditioning” of the creature and the tepid romance between Clete and Helen. There are some exciting underwater scenes, but nothing that really drives the movie forward. Once the creature escapes, instead of an action-packed horror flick, we get even more slow-moving romance. The film finally gets going in the last 15 minutes, but even the nocturnal hunt for the creature, though beautifully shot, doesn’t quite evoke the same tingling sensation of suspense as the original film.
William Alland has confirmed for film historian Tom Weaver that Revenge of the Creature was a continuation of his ”remake” of King Kong, that he started with Creature from the Black Lagoon. And the similarities are clear: Revenge … is the second part of King Kong, where the protagonists have managed to catch the big gorilla and bring it to New York, where it breaks loose and wreaks havoc on the city. The only problem is that the makers of Revenge … didn’t have the time or money to have the creature run loose in Florida, and the logistics would make it difficult, since it can only survive for a few minutes at a time outside of the water. So they instead have it scare a few visitors at the aquarium, turn over a car, frighten a few jazz cats and then simply kidnap the girl.
In the first film the creature was a mystery. We were fascinated by it, we learned more about it from watching it swim around, as itself was fascinated by the newcomers in its home, especially by the beautiful female scientist, played by Julie Andrews above water and Ginger Stanley below the surface (Stanley returns for underwater shots in Revenge). The film had that iconic sequence of the mirror-image aquatic ballet between the woman and the creature, brilliantly carried out by Stanley and the creature actor Ricou Browning. Arnold even tries to copy the shot in Revenge of the Creature, but it is so obvious that it turns banal. In Revenge of the Creature we never learn anything new about the Gill-man, as he is now christened for the first time, and therefore our interest wanes. From the moment he escapes he is simply treated as a monster on the loose.
That is not to say that there aren’t good stretches in the film. Visually there are flourishes of genius such as a short scene where the creature stalks Helen, watching her undress in her bungalow from the outside. Like a voyeur, a Peeping Tom, the creature stands outside a glass door, watching Helen on the inside. We, the viewer, watch from behind the creature, over its shoulder so to speak. At least the male part of the audience is just as tingled by the idea of watching Helen undress as the creature is. But we also want to know what the creature will do. We become both co-conspirators with the creature, and voyeurs of the voyeur. But these beautifully constructed Jack Arnold images are too few and far between to save the film.
The underwater filming is still extremely impressive from a technical point of view, again carried out by Scotty Welbourne. Ricou Browning reprises his role as the underwater Gill-man, and his swimming lends the creature a beauty, grace and naturalism that made it such a fascinating figure in the first movie. As one reviewer pointed out, Browning’s fluid motions make us believe that the creature is real, not a man in a suit, because the swimming looks so natural; yes, that is the way this being would swim.
The only characters in the movie that have any sort of importance are Clete and Helen (apart from the creature, of course). There’s a stumbling attempt at creating some rivalry for Helen’s affections with a jock character called Joe Hayes, played by John Bromfield, but nothing comes of this, as he is promptly killed off as soon as the creature escapes. The only respite from the doldrum of watching these blandly written characters played by bland actors is Nestor Paiva, reprising his role as the colourful ship’s captain from the original movie.
While we don’t have any official numbers of the budget of the Creature trilogy, I have seen one book entry claiming the first movie cost 650,000 dollars, which would put it right in mid-range between an expensive B movie and a cheap A movie. 650,000 was quite a lot for a science fiction or horror film in those days, when genre pictures were mostly cranked out as cheap programmers. Revenge of the Creature reportedly had a substantially lower budget, but considering the cost of the first one, my guess is that it would still have been around 400,000 dollars, with cost-cutting done mainly on eliminating the second unit, minimising the need for set-building and shortening the shooting schedule. Big studio pictures would always be more expensive to make than independent movies, what with employing a large staff and paying overhead costs, and so forth.
The film doesn’t look cheap, but the lack of special effects, impressive scenery and the small scope of the script betray the film’s modest budget. The premise provides a number of interesting themes to explore, but the scriptwriters simply don’t know what to do with these, and instead fill out the picture with the tiresome “must-haves” of the fifties SF movies: an uninspired and pointless romantic subplot and a tepid discussion on women scientists. The actual plot is thin enough to have been told as a 30-minute TV segment, but Universal has blown it up to 87 minutes.
The movie was filmed in 3D, but only got a very limited screening in 3D, as the fad for the format had worn off just in less than three years from its conception. The main reason for this was that movie projectionists struggled with syncing the two film reels containing the differently tinted versions of the film. If they were even a couple of frames off, people would start getting headaches and strained their eyes. Five or six frames off, and the image was visibly out of sync, which made the films almost unwatchable. But despite the flat release, the flat reviews and the flat story, it made Universal even more money that the first film. It actually grossed a bit less, but there was a bigger margin because of the lower budget – which meant there had to be yet another sequel … but that’s for another time.
Revenge of the Creature was panned by critics at its release. H.H.T. at the New York Times did praise the “sharp nocturnal photography” and the “low-keyed unpretentiousness in the earlier scenes at the Marine Studio”, but ultimately felt that it was a “waterlogged exercise” and an”entirely routine little offering”; “In his own place, the bottom of the Amazon, Gill is strictly okay”. Variety wrote: “Considering that this is the first 3-D picture to reach the public in over a year, it’s unfortunate that it’s not a better one”. The paper called it a “routine shocker”, and wrote: “There’s an unusual volume of dialogue that serves mostly to bridge the gaps between the action sequences that audiences presumably came to see. There are too few of those, but some of them are staged with sock effect, with or without 3-D.”
Today the film has a 5.7/10 score by audiences on IMDb and a 3.3/10 score on Rotten Tomatoes by critics. It was one of the many movies mocked in MST3K in 1997. AllMovie gives Revenge of the Creature 2/5 star, with Craig Butler writing: “Revenge of the Creature is a minor effort, and much less valuable than its predecessor, but aficionados will want to make sure they catch it. […] Overall, though, there’s not much that’s original or engaging here, and while Jack Arnold’s direction is solid, it’s atypically uninspired.” TV Guide dryly notes that the picture “doesn’t have quite the wallop of the original”. And Steve Simels at Entertainment Weekly gives the movie a C+ (5/10) rating, calling it “a monsters-have-feelings-too bummer”.
Universal’s horror sequels tend to be much better liked by monster movie fans than by muggle critics, and online critics specialised in genre films go a little easier in Revenge of the Creature, but all recognise its shortcomings. Even while placing himself apart from the “genre fans” that he writes often hold Revenge of the Creature in high regard, Richard Scheib at Moria does give the film a solid 3/5 star rating, although he does write that it is “the least interesting of the trilogy thematically” and a “more routine monster movie, lacking in any of the rich subtext that the other films in the trilogy, and indeed the rest of Jack Arnold’s work, does”. Gary Loggins at Cracked Rear Viewer calls the picture “a good-not-great sequel”, and “solid entry in the saga”. Robert Ring at Classic Horror writes: “For all it has against it, however, this film will definitely be enjoyed by devoted fans of 1950’s horror/sci-fi. It has everything associated with the concept […] but objectively speaking, it’s just not that good.” And the DVD Savant, Glenn Erickson, in yet another great article, writes: “Revenge is numbingly predictable, with the Gill Man reduced to a goldfish in a bowl getting poked by an electric prod, which incidentally would almost certainly shock everything else in the water too. There’s about eight minutes of classy rampage action and the rest is scientific doubletalk, travelog filler, and abortive suspense scenes with the creature turning Peeping Tom to spy on Lori Nelson in her bathroom. Some scenes, like the one where the Creature swims ‘with’ Lori and tickles her heel, cover the same ground as the original.”
Revenge of the Creature does hold up from a technical point of view. The photography is great, and there are flourishes of Jack Arnold’s magic scattered throughout. Ricou Browning and Ginger Stanley continue to provide wonderful underwater choreography, and the creature itself, now with minor alterations, still looks great. The cast, while capable, lacks the punch and personality of the original film. Both Richard Carlson and Richard Denning were at their best electrifying leading men on their own, Julie Adams was a strong and magnetic performer, Nestor Paiva lighted up the screen with his colourful portrayal and Whit Bissell rounded out the cast with his professional, low-key support. And while John Agar and Lori Nelson are both capable actors, they lack the support and the script to raise their characters up from the pages. The main problem with Revenge is that it is based on a premise that it never delivers on. There’s a good instinct in making the creature a captured test animal, exploring themes of human cruelty and our attitudes toward that which we consider inferior. One could have drawn parallels to animal testing, or the treatment in history of African slaves, indigenous people and the disabled — eugenics, forced sterilisation, “racial hygiene”, etc. It is a classic setup for exploring our fear and loathing of the Other, the dehumanisation of those which are different. Halfway through, the film still bears the unmistakable signs that this was where Arnold and the screenwriters would have liked to take the movie. But of course, this was not what the studio wanted — it wanted a monster hunt that would please teenage audiences. So around halfway through, all the buildup is thrown out the window, the monster is let loose on a rampage and kidnaps the girl, for the hero to save the day. In short: the film lacks soul. The studio wanted a cheap sequel to cash in on the monster’s fame, and that is what Jack Arnold ultimately delivered.
I have covered most of the crew involved in the movie at some length in my post about Creature from the Black Lagoon, so head over to that review for more information on William Alland, Jack Arnold, Nestor Paiva, Ricou Browning, Ginger Stanley and more. There’s also a detailed account of the conception of the franchise and the design and manufacturing of the Gill-Man. One of the changes is that Scotty Welbourne, who handled the underwater photography on the original film, has been promoted to director of photography. Since most of the film was shot in the Marinelands water park and aquarium i Florida, the team didn’t need a separate unit for underwater photography. Welbourne was primarily a still photographer, and shot most of the great stars of Hollywood from the thirties through the fifties. He is probably also the reason as to why there are so many great behind-the-scenes photos from the Creature franchise. Once again, Welbourne did most of the practical directing in the underwater scenes, as Arnold wasn’t keen on getting into a wet-suit.
Supervising art director on the film was Russian-born Alexander Golitzen, who won three Oscars and was nominated for about 100 more. But one suspects that the actual work was done by the much less celebrated Alfred Sweeney. Golitzen served as supervising art director on most of Universal’s sci-fi films between 1955 and 1960, as well as Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970) and Slaughterhouse-Five (1972).
Editor was Paul Weatherwax, who had won an Oscar for The Naked City (1949) and would go on to win one for Around the World in Eighty Days (1957). He also edited It Came from Outer Space. Much of the score from the previous movie was re-used, including the sharp creature cue by Hans Salter, once again beaten to death by over-use, as well as some of he more ethereal work by Henry Mancini for underwater scenes. Canned music was also pulled from other composers, and Herman Stein and William Lava wrote some new scores for the film. Makeup department head Bud Westmore once again gets sole credit for the makeup, although we know numerous people were involved (see the Milicent Patrick controversy in my article about the previous film). This time Jack Kevan gets sole credit for the creature design, even though no more than cosmetic changes have been done to the original Gill-man suit. One frequent complaint about the new suit by fans is the eyes, which were depressed in the original suit, but have been changed into rather wacky-looking, protruding google-eyes in this one. The head is also flatter and the lips more distinctive, giving the creature something of a cartoonish frog-look. The suit is still a masterpiece for its time, compare for example with the clunky rubber suit for Gojira (1954, review). The main difference is that in the first film the suit was often obscured by darkness, while we almost constantly see it in broad daylight here.
What this film is probably best known for today is providing a 25-year old Clint Eastwood with his very first film role. Eastwood appears on-screen for just about 30 seconds as ”lab assistant Jenkins” in a humorous exchange where he claims a cat in the lab has eaten one of the rats in the cage, only to find the missing rat in his coat pocket. Eastwood is still a few acting classes away from stardom, acting stiff and reading his lines almost like he was reading them from the script page. Furthermore, the role almost didn’t happen, according to The Telegraph. According to the paper, Eastwood was cast by Alland to do the comedy skit, but when he turned up on set, director Arnold started shouting at his producer, saying he didn’t want to shoot the particular scene. Alland liked the scene, though, and convinced Arnold to shoot it. Says Eastwood: ”It was a hell of a way to start your acting career: walk on set and you know that the director hates the scene. Therefore you know he hates you.” At the time Eastwood was a contract player at Universal, and had a few bit-parts in the studio’s B movies. However, Universal was unimpressed with his stiff acting and the way he delivered his lines through gritted teeth, and let him go in 1956. Eastwood went back to acting school, did odd bit-parts here and there, mainly on TV, and through a sheer coincidence landed a role as second lead in the hugely successful western series Rawhide (1959-1965), as the boyish Rowdy Yates. In an attempt to rid himself of his good-boy image, he took a leap of faith when the show had a shooting break in 1964, and travelled to Spain to star in a spaghetti western directed by a virtually unknown Italian director called Sergio Leone. And the rest is history. Better known for his westerns than for his science fiction roles, he still had the chance to do another brief bit part in a sci-fi classic while at Universal. It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him appearance, but he also appeared in Tarantula. There’s also a rumour that Eastwood would at some point have donned the creature costume, but Ricou Browning has denied this.
But poor John Agar. This was when he still harboured dreams of becoming a real movie star. And looking at his resumé, this would have been a completely natural progression for him. Entering Hollywood with a bang in 1944, when the 23-year old US army physical fitness instructor met his sister’s 16-year old classmate, none other than child star Shirley Temple, and the two fell madly in love, and married the next year. About the same time Agar was approached by Temple’s boss, movie producer David O. Selznick, who was impressed by his rugged good looks, and offered him a 5-year contract including acting lessons. He made his movie debut in 1948 in a small role in Fort Apache, starring John Wayne, Henry Fonda and Shirley Temple, and the next year he found himself playing second banana to none other than John Wayne in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and the hugely successful Sands of Iwo Jima. In 1951 he again played second lead, this time to Kirk Douglas in Along the Great Divide, and got his first male lead doing multiple roles opposite comedienne Lucille Ball in The Magic Carpet (1951). However, in 1951 his marriage to Temple also fell apart, his contract with Selznick ran out, and the press turned against him. Although previously popular with the public, he was never considered much of an actor, getting along with his good looks and innate charm rather than with acting chops. For a few years he slummed in minor parts before getting cast in the lead of the B horror film The Golden Mistress (1954), after which he was offered a seven-year contract with Universal.
Revenge of the Creature was Agar’s first role for Universal, and he hoped that his contract would finally give him his big breakthrough. However, he was relegated to playing B movies, and William Alland especially liked him in his science fiction films. Agar played the lead in Tarantula, and later in The Mole Men (1957), a film Agar thought was so bad, that he would rather tear up his contract than appear in another one as lousy. He saw his contract with Universal going nowhere, especially as Universal was grooming leading men like Rock Hudson, Tony Curtis and George Nader. What really bugged him was that Hudson one day turned up on the set for The Mole Men, and jokingly asked Agar how on Earth he had gotten himself into such a lousy movie. After that film Agar walked up to Universal’s vice president and told him that he could see that the studio was grooming other actors for lead roles, that he didn’t want to do more science fiction, and would rather quit.
However, his roles didn’t necessarily get better, and for better or worse, his stint at Universal had left him typecast as a sci-fi leading man. Straight out of Universal he found himself starring the horror film Daughter of Dr. Jekyll. This was followed by films like The Brain from Planet Arous (1957), Attack of the Puppet People (1958), Invisible Invaders (1959), Hand of Death (1962), Journey to the Seventh Planet (1962), Women of the Prehistoric Planet (1966) and Night Fright (1967). In the late sixties his roles became more sporadic, and he partly withdrew from motion pictures, but happily took on smaller roles when they were offered. He appeared in bits parts in his old friend John Wayne’s movies. He had a small role in the 1976 version of King Kong, and in Ricou Browning’s directorial effort, the odd action exploitation movie Mr. No Legs (1979). He played a murder victim in Clive Barker’s horror movie Nightbreed (1990), and appeared alongside a number of old sci-fi veterans in the bizarre fan fiction movie The Naked Monster, originally filmed in 1988, but partly re-shot in 2004, when much of the cast had died, and released in 2005. In the sixties he also did three TV movies for director Larry Buchanan, including Zontar: The Thing from Venus (1966) and Curse of the Swamp Creature (1966), both considered among some of the worst movies ever made. Agar passed away in 2002.
In later years Agar, like so many other B sci-fi actors, embraced his cult legacy, stating: ”I don’t resent being identified with B science fiction movies at all. Why should I? Even though they were not considered top of the line, for those people that like sci-fi, I guess they were fun. My whole feeling about working as an actor is, if I give anybody any enjoyment, I’m doing my job, and that’s what counts.
About Larry Buchanan he said: ”Larry, God bless him, is a nice guy but he was really not a director . . . he didn’t even know not to “cross the line”, which is one of the simplest things there is in directing . . . ”
However, he had nothing but good things to say about Jack Arnold, calling him a knowledgeable director who did all he could to make his films, sometimes with below-average scripts and very little money, good.
Agar sometimes gets a really bad rap by movie critics, and has even appeared on lists of ”worst actors in history”. In truth, Agar wasn’t really that bad an actor, even if few people would blame him for being a good actor either. He does come off quite stiff and bland in Revenge of the Creature, but to be honest, few actors could have breathed life into the tepid dialogue he had to recite, and it didn’t help that he apparently had no chemistry whatsoever with Lori Nelson. Agar had the looks and the charm that were required for fronting the kind of B science fiction movies where the characters were cardboard cutouts and the dialogue didn’t matter much. And although I haven’t seen the movies, one would imagine that in his early days he might have come out as rather an animated actor opposite old stoneface John Wayne. But competing for roles against people like James Dean, Kirk Douglas, Rock Hudson, Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, Tony Curtis, Gregory Peck et.al., he really never had a shot at A-class stardom.
Nelson, on her part, feels just as miscast as an ichthyologist as Agar feels as a behavioural scientist. Her role in the mid-part of the film is explaining science to journalists, and she comes across as a school kid reading her science homework to the class. But once again, one can’t really blame her for the blandness of her character, since her lines really are some of the worst ever spoken in movies. Nelson was a former child and teen beauty pageant and worked as a photo model in her teens, and her winning a pageant at 17 caught the eye of Universal, who groomed her as a B movie glamour girl. She carved out a rather nice acting career, appearing mostly in B films, with the odd supporting role in higher-profiled movies. Her last actual film role came in 1998, although she did ”reprise” her role as ichthyologist Helen Benson opposite Agar in The Naked Monster. She played the female lead opposite Richard Denning in Roger Corman’s Day the World Ended (1955). Lori Nelson passed away almost exactly a year ago, on August, 24, 2020, aged 87. An obit in the Hollywood Reporter quotes her as saying: “It’s so funny, Universal had to twist my arm a little to be in a monster movie. But if I knew then how popular they would remain, I would have twisted their arm to be in a couple more.”
Playing the love rival of Agar was John Bromfield, a real hunk brought in because he looked good in a swim-trunk. Bromfield’s acting career lasted about as long as his good looks, from the late forties to the early sixties. After Revenge of the Creature he even got a few year as leading man in B pictures, including Curt Siodmak’s directorial effort Curucu, Beast of the Amazon (1956). He found some TV fame as leading man in two western series, The Sheriff of Chochise (1956-1958) and U.S. Marshal (1958-1960). One of the main directors of the latter was a young Robert Altman.
There are three billed actors playing the characters ”Jackson Foster”, ”Lou Gibson” and ”George Johnson”, but I can’t remember any of these characters, despite me having seen the film twice recently for this blog. Actor Dave Willock had a track record with sci-fi, appearing in Black Friday (1940), The Mad Doctor of Market Street (1942) and It Came from Outer Space. He also pops up in Queen of Outer Space (1958), The Nutty Professor (1963) and Now You See Him, Now You Don’t (1972). Robert Williams went on to This Island Earth (1955, review), The Giant Claw (1957) and Teenagers from Outer Space. Grandon Rhodes was in Them! (1943, review), Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956) and The 27th Day (1957). All of these were seasoned and prolific character actors, as was Charles Cane in his rather memorable role as the chief of police in the final segment of the movie. Cane also appeared in The Lady and the Monster (1944, review) and Invaders from Mars (1953, review).
In a minor bit-part we see Brett Halsey, an actor of some note, with a long and industrious career. With some exceptions, like The Godfather III (1990), Halsey stayed true to his B movie origins throughout his life. He should be known to genre fans as Vincent Price’s brother in the second lead in Return of the Fly (1959), for playing one of the leading roles in The Atomic Submarine (1959), and for teaming up with Price again in Twice-Told Tales (1963). In 1995 he had a small role in the video game film Expect No Mercy. Despite having been in the business for ten years, he received a Golden Globe as ”Most promising newcomer” in 1960. In the sixties and seventies Halsey followed Clint Eastwood’s example and settled into Italian cinema, where his dark beefcake looks and piercing eyes made Halsey a fixture of both sword-and-sandal pictures and spaghetti westerns. In the seventies he moved into working primarily in TV in Hollywood. At 83, he is still around in 2016, he had a major supporting role in the 2015 picture Risk Factor.
As noted, Ricou Browning returned to the role as the underwater Gill-Man, but that wasn’t always the plan. For one reason or the other, the studio had decided to use a man called John Lamb for the underwater sequenced of the creature, a bizarre decision, as it was Browning’s swimming that made the creature so great. And it didn’t take Jack Arnold very long to realise this, as Lamb’s swimming just didn’t cut the muster, and they called Browning back.
However, Ben Chapman, who has become something of a celebrity for playing the Gill-Man out of water in the first movie, had been let go by Universal. Instead they went for a guy called Tom Hennessy, a former football player turned bit-part actor and stuntman. Interviewed in Tom Weaver’s book It Came from Horrorwood, he seem to have had quite an ordeal on the film, shooting for countless hours in the water tank, wrestling with other actors, trying not to drown when they took the wrestling a bit too seriously. At one time he nearly lost his life.
In the scene where the Gill-Man has kidnapped Helen and swims out to a buoy with her, they had a long break setting up the camera while Hennessy and Ginger Stanley were floating in the water. Suddenly a strong current swept them away, and not even Stanley, a champion swimmer, was able to fight back. Only Ricou Browning realised what happened, jumped in the water and was able to bring back Stanley. But apparently everyone forgot that there was a big guy (presumably in a Gill-man suit) being dragged away by a current somewhere in the Atlantic. Finally, just as his strength was about to fail, he was picked up by a boat. When he returned to the location, he found director Jack Arnold having a barbecue party with the local girls. Angry as a bee, Hennessy reminded him that he and Alland were in charge of the shoot, that they should have had safety divers or even a single life-guard, and that he was drifting away without anyone taking notice. The rest of the crew were just as mad at Arnold, and refused to work for the rest of the day.
Revenge of the Creature. 1955, USA. Directed by Jack Arnold. Written by William Alland and Martin Berkeley. Starring: John Agar, Lori Nelson, John Bromfield, Nestor Paiva, Grandon Rhodes, Dave Willock, Robert Williams, Charles Cane, Ricou Browning, Ginger Stanley, Tom Hennessy, Clint Eastwood, Brett Halsey. Music: William Lava, Herman Stein, Henry Mancini, Hans J. Salter. Cinematography: Scotty Welbourne. Editing: Paul Weatherwax. Art direction: Alexander Golitzen, Alfred Sweeney. Costume design (gowns): Jay A. Morley Jr. Makeup supervisor: Bud Westmore. Sound: Jack A. Bolger Jr., Leslie I. Carey. Creature re-design: Jack Kevan. Produced by William Alland for Universal International Pictures.