King of the Drive-Ins,” “King of the Bs,” or “King of the Independents”; whatever you might want to refer to him as, Roger Corman is one of the most important and influential individuals to be mentioned on this website. During his days of producing and directing one film after the next, one small chapter of his career took Corman and his tiny entourage to beautiful Puerto Rico to shoot two films back to back in a matter of weeks. But this is Roger Corman we’re talking about, so three films actually resulted from this little vacation: THE LAST WOMAN ON EARTH and THE CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA, both directed by Corman, and BATTLE ON BLOOD ISLAND, directed by Joel M. Rapp. All of Corman’s efforts done for his Filmgroup company have gone into the public domain with original film elements lost, and CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA is one that’s been done to death. Here Legend shines through with the best transfer to date.
With time to spare on the Puerto Rican stay, CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA was quickly shot as the last film in Corman’s “Puerto Rico Trilogy”, using the main cast from LAST WOMAN ON EARTH. After the revolution in Cuba, American gangster Renzo Capetto (Anthony Carbone) along with his girlfriend Mary-Belle Monahan (Betsy Jones-Moreland) and his cronies help two Cuban generals and some other refugees flee the country. With a treasure chest of gold in their possession, Renzo transports the men on his boat, but has plans on killing them one by one, laying blame on a phony sea monster. Using a muddy toilet plunger to do the dirty work and generate circular foot tracks, a real underwater creature soon appears to carry out what he started.
Extremely rushed even by early Corman standards, CREATURE attempts to blend monsters with satire, but it’s mostly a sad affair not the least bit comparable to his earlier BUCKET OF BLOOD and LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS. Like those films, this was written by Charles B. Griffith (revamping his story for BEAST FROM THE HAUNTED CAVE with a lot more social humor this time out), and even though the premise is promising enough, it all bogs down to irritating characters and one of the worst monsters ever to appear on screen, which seems only to have elevated the film’s cult appeal. Supposedly the creature was created by Corman regular Beach Dickerson, who also stars as a half-wit who makes constant animal noises. The monster suit was built from oilskin cloth, pipe cleaners and tennis balls, with the outcome looking like a walking turd. Griffith wrote a complex part for Corman to play (again, to skimp on having to pay another actor) which he gladly passed on to Bobby Beam (who also donned the monster suit). Future CHINATOWN screenwriter Robert Towne (using the name “Edward Wain”) appears as a spy out to stop Renzo, and he is also infatuated with Mary-Belle (with good reason).
Legend’s black and white presentation of THE CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA looks better than any other previous home video version. Although presented open matte, the transfer is very clean for the most part, except for an occasional line and several brief dialog jumps, with crisp imagery, deep black schemes and mostly excellent detail. The mono audio has several flaws, but is consistently clear enough acceptable throughout. The alternate computer colorized version is I guess about as good as the work Legend has been doing on many other titles, with the monster here looking more like a spinach salad (his puke-green colored mass and his protruding eyes, now looking like hard-boiled eggs, don’t make it any more convincing in color). If you have the matted non-anamorphic release put out by Retromedia (as part of their “Roger Corman Puerto Rico Trilogy” set), you’ll want to hold on to it not only for the other two titles, but for CREATURE’s excellent commentary with Carbone and the late Jones-Moreland, as well as some supplemental TV padding shot by Monte Hellman. Rounding out the extras on Legend’s disc are trailers for some of their other colorized efforts. (George R. Reis)
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