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Made in 1956, The Sea Creature tells the story of Dr Carlo Lombardi, a sinister hypnotist who keeps his beautiful assistant under his thrall and frequently reverts her back to one of her distant past lives, whereupon her soul departs and she re-emerges from the sea as a hideous prehistoric humanoid monster to carry out her master's bidding.
Basically the film is a rehashing of Frankenstein, and suffers from a dull, dry narrative with little action and some poor acting to boot. Chester Morris is quite convincing as the shadowy showman, but glamourous co-star Marla English doesnt get to do a great deal as she spends most of the film in a trance-like state whilst her prehistoric alter-ego is out causing (mostly offscreen) mayhem. It's Lance Fuller who really drags the film down however as psychic investigator Dr Tom Erickson. Fuller's character is the film's central good-guy protagonist, convinced that Dr Lombardi is somehow to blame for the mysterious killings, but his character boils down to a standard, workmanlike gumshoe detective and is played badly, with Fuller substituting looks of mild confusion and mumbling delivery for actual emoting and expression.
The film is ultimately extremely cheap looking, with no real special effects besides the monster suit and some decent superimposed 'ghost' effects here and there, and there is one particularly laughable scene in which Dr Erickson gets a group of policement to open fire on the monster which, at that point only he (and not the cops nor the audience) can see.
On the plus side the rubber suit monster itself is pretty good, lumbering about menacingly and bringing an element of Lovecraftian horror to the proceedings every time it emerges from the sea, although the inclusion of huge, reptilian breasts is a bit strange. The original promotional poster is great as well, recreated here on the cover of the dvd, but sadly the film doesnt relly live up to it's creepy promise. One for 50s B movie die-hards only.
Chester Morris as Dr. Carlo Lombardi
Marla English as Andrea Talbott
Tom Conway as Timothy Chappel
This Science Fiction offering from 1956 combines some of my favourite 'bad film' elements: evil moustachioed stage hypnotist, female half-human-half-monster, a really poor 'reincarnation' premise, terrible wooden acting, and lovely seaside location (Malibu in this case). It has a pretty good bad-film pedigree, having been directed by Edward L Kahn who gave us such 50's gems as 'Invasion of the Saucer Men', 'Creature with the Atom Brain', and what is actually one of my fave more 'serious' 50's Sci-Fi films, 'It: The Terror From Beyond Space', which I've heard is believed to have been the inspiration for the later blockbuster movie 'Alien'.
Dr Carlo Lombardi, stage hypnotist and possessor of a superbly sinister moustache (together with such oily slicked-back hair that it positively radiates), strolls along the beach late at night impeccably dressed in suit, tie and hat. After frightening off a yapping stray dog simply by dint of his intense gaze, he goes on to find a strange large webbed footprint in the sand. We're given a closeup of his eyes as he looks around in some sort of furtively mysterious and meaningful way, before we then cut straight to the middle of some pleasant formal-dress house party. An older lady confides in one of the guests, who we learn is her husband: 'Dr Lombardi said something terrible is going to happen along this part of the coast tonight. Some visitation from the occult world!' 'Hmm, the occult world, eh,' hubby scoffs. 'Oh, really, you must meet him - he's wonderful,' wifey insists.
Hubby goes on to recount wifey's history of having a penchant for quack occultists; 'Well, so long as it amuses you,' he finishes. 'No, seriously,' she persists, 'he puts this girl into a deep trance and takes her back three hundred years, and she tells about her previous life in England. I tell you, it's uncanny'. Sounds like this Dr Lombardi must be quite a talented guy, you think?
We go off back to the beach, where we see Dr Lombardi enter and poke around in some shabby small beach house in which there is a dead man - Dr Lombardi shows no surprise or even interest in this scenario, just walks straight out again and continues on his stroll. Eventually he ends up at home, where he finds his beautiful young stage-act assistant sound asleep. He wakes her up with a creepy moustachioed kiss like a hairy and oily Prince Charming. 'You'll never leave me, you know,' he says confidently. 'As long as you're alive, I'll possess you.' 'You've taken my soul away from me', she berates him.
We soon learn that he has been hypnotically regressing her back to a previous life in which she was a sea monster (I kid you not), and that under hypnosis she actually turns into her former monstrous self, complete with scales and spiky bits. As if that wasn't bad enough, we find that he has been doing this for the purpose of having her commit murders for him, one of which we learn was the dead man we saw earlier, while under trance. We see, via various interspersed scenes, that the police have been scratching their heads over a series of so far unsolvable murders that have been taking place in the area. Dr Lombardi has been making his 'she creature' commit them so that he can enhance his prestige by convincing people that he's a real psychic rather than the charlatan he is, that he can predict the future by 'predicting' these murders before they happen - and he has the convenient alibi of being elsewhere when they occur. How are the police ever going to work out that a centuries old female sea creature has been doing these murders, at the behest of some mad dude with a dodgy moustache?
This movie is as awful as it sounds. The story is really stupid, the dialogue is really lame, and the acting as wooden as it comes (and with some of the characters, downright amateurish). Direction is so-so and the pace is pretty plodding. But, despite it all (or maybe a little because of it all), I found this quite enjoyable and compelling to watch. Its sheer cheesiness and the inclusion of so many of the silly elements I like to see in bad old films, made me want to stick with it.
'Dr Lombardi' was a satisfyingly unctuous and repulsive charlatan and I felt the actor played the part well, though without quite as much relish as I would have liked, and I would also have liked to have seen at least a bit of moustache-twirling, but no joy. Andrea the hapless unwilling she-creature looks lovely and vulnerable, as one expects such long-suffering victims of deranged madmen in these films to look, except of course when she's kitted out as the vicious sea monster.
Special effects consist of a rubbery sea monster costume that looks much like the Creature from the Black Lagoon, only with boobs. In order to go travelling, the monster turns into a floating mist which looks even less convincing than the rubber suit.
If you enjoy silly lurid cheesy 1950's Sci-Fi and/or monster movies, you'll probably enjoy this. I found it a fun time-passer and would probably watch it again. It was given the honour of being shown as Episode 808 of Mystery Science Theater 3000, which is what my copy is, and it richly deserved all the heckling the MST3K team dished out, which did greatly enhance the experience of watching this film. So if you find a copy of the MST3K version, it's well worth seeing that one, either instead of or in addition to the original film.
Recommended as just a bit of good late-night no-brainer fun.
Also on Ciao as thereddragon.