Sunday, October 4, 2009

One of the better 'bad monster movies' you'll ever laugh at

Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961)
Starring: Anthony Carbone, Robert Towne, and Betsy Jones-Moreland
Director: Roger Corman
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

When a general flees Castro's revolution with most of the Cuban treasury, he hires notorious gangster Renzo Capetto (Carbone) to bring him and his aides to safety. Capetto intends to kill his charges and keep the gold for himself, but his plans go awry thanks to a tough-talking U.S. government agent who has infiltrated his gang (Towne), persistant bearded agents of Castro, and a sea-creature that starts killing before Capetto can get around to it.

I came to this movie without any idea of what to expect other than a made-on-the-cheap monster movie. But even before the pre-credit sequence--where a man having his tennis shoes shined and then is chased by killer beatnicks with murderous intent--I knew I was in for something strange. When the tough-talking, film-noir narrator introduced hims as having infiltrated Capetto's gang undercover, but assured us that his "real name is Agent XK150" I realized that I was in for a comedy ala "Little Shope of Horrors" or "A Bucket of Blood."

"The Creature from the Haunted Sea" is a strange, nonsensical litle movie that is performed by a collection of decent to average no-name actors who spout bizarre lines with great conviction and zeal. The movie spoofs monster flicks, spy flicks, pirate movies, gangster movies, and probably one or two genres I missed. The film is very disjoined, and I'm not sure this is intentional at times, but I loved the sort of freewheeling nature of the film and the way it kept getting stranger and stranger as it progressed. (It could have done with a few more appearances by the title creature--despite the utterly awful and giggle-inspiring design)and by the hot chicks living on the island where our cast of weirdos get stranded, though.)

This is by no means a great movie, but it has a certain charm about it. It is included in a wide range of different DVD multi-packs, and its presence should be at least partly a reason to pick one up. It's a strange little film that brighten the proceedings at any Bad Movie Party.

I've placed a link to an edition that includes both the original film and a colorized version, because I am increasingly fascinated by the way films are changed--usually not for the better--when the colorization process is applied. Don't get me wrong, I am NOT some purist that will rattle on about the integrity of a director's vision--I will put good money on many directors during the 1950s and 1960s shooting in black and white because their budgets didn't allow for color film--but most directors and their cinematographers understood how to make the most out of the black and white medium and their scenes are lit and filmed to make the most of it. In the vast majority of cases, colorization drains visual excitement from a film rather than adding to it.

Then again, I'm a guy who enjoys black and white movies so I could be biased. Anyone else have thoughts on the matter? Especially if you've seen the colorzied version of "Creature from the Haunted Sea"?)

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