Upbeat Cynicism

what do you mean i lost my mind?

Creature from the Haunted Sea, 1963

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This movie kicks ass.

Really, need anything more be said?

OK, I guess I could go on a bit.

Years ago, I had a religious experience when I read Roger Corman’s autobiography, How I Made 100 Movies In Hollywood And Never Lost A Dime. This movie gets heavy mention in it because a critic once said (and Corman agreed) that this is the quintessential Roger Corman movie. Mostly because of the final shot.

There are a few things I remember Corman relating about this movie, in fact.

The first is that it was shot more or less on a lark. Corman had taken cast and crew to Puerto Rico to shoot two films (Battle of Blood Island and The Last Woman On Earth), and they wrapped both productions early. Corman figured they should make another movie, to help amortize costs (this was a fairly common practice for him — Ski Troop Attack led to the production of Beast From Haunted Cave so that location costs could be amortized across both films). He called screenwriter Charles B. Griffith, who hopped on a plane with a monster movie idea that he would have to turn into script pages in a very great hurry.

The second thing I recall is that Corman had a conference with his prop master (I think), and gave him a rough idea of what the monster would need to be able to do, and what it should look like. Then he asked how much it would cost to construct the monster suit. The prop master scratched his chin for a minute, eyed Corman for a little bit, and then said: “You’re talking about at least a hundred and fifty dollars’ worth of mosnter, here.”

And the third thing I recall is that final shot, and how Corman agreed with a critic that it seemed to sum up his career very well. I’ll come back to that.

The story is relatively simple, but punched up by ridiculous details.

After a secret-agent type opening (starring Robert Towne under a pseudonym) which has very little to do with the rest of Creature From The Haunted Sea, Cuban ex-officials hire an American gangster to transport them and gold from the Treasury to the US, keeping the gold from Castro. The gangster of course wants the gold for himself, and comes up with a plot to get it — he’ll kill the soldiers and officials one or two at a time while asea, and gin up evidence that a sea monster did it.

Problem is, there’s a real sea monster at work, too. Of course.

Among the details that are ridiculous, which make this a comedy, is the voiceover. Robert Towne gives each character’s name, and all their aliases. The gangster is “Renzo Capetto, aka Capo Rosetto, aka Ratto Pazetti, aka Zeppo Staccato, aka Shirley Lamour”. His moll is “Mary-Belle Monahan, aka Mary Monahan Belle, aka Belle Mary Monahan, aka Monahan Mary Belle”.

There’s another character who enjoys making animal noises. The actor opens his mouth, and a sound effect is foleyed in. He later meets an ugly old woman who can do the same thing, and it’s True Love.

On the boat, while asea, they are approached by one of Castro’s gunboats (really a pleasure boat without any attempt to make it look military). The gangster tells his moll to sing a song, to prove that everyone on the boat is relaxed or something. She sings, a full song, with piano accompaniment! Where the piano came from is never explained (it’s sure not on the boat).

Lots of little gags like that pile up to make one very, very funny movie.

And that final shot? The one that makes this the quintessential Roger Corman movie?

The monster, still alive, sitting on top of the treasure at the bottom of the sea. The monster wins. I should have more to say about that, but not right now in the middle of a Spook-a-Thon.

All in all, this is a very enjoyable bad movie.

And that $150 worth of monster? Looks like even less was spent on it than that.


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