Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961)

Roger Corman’s Creature from the Haunted Sea should have a lot going for it as a theoretically effective and funny parody of spy, gangster and monster movies. Filmed over the course of a week in Puerto Rico, the movie is entertaining in places and shockingly weird in other spots. Unfortunately, this flick is too damn dull to recommend.

Creature from the Haunted Sea was written by Corman stalwart Charles B. Griffith. He has the nose for some jokes, but no clue as to how to pace them or spread them out over the picture. The disarrayed backdrop may have a lot to do with that, with Creature coming from a script previously filmed as Naked Paradise. Griffith redrafted some of it to match Corman’s shooting locations.

The convoluted plot opens in Cuba after the revolution. Two former military officers, along with a group of Cubans, want to escape the country with some gold. They hire some American gangsters, led by Renzo Capette (Antony Carbone), to get them off the island. Renzo, however, wants to kill the Cubans and get at the gold himself.

The gangster convinces the Cubans that there’s a hideous monster skulking around. Unfortunately for everyone involved, there actually is a hideous monster skulking around. An undercover agent (Robert Towne) wants to sabotage the operation and stop the gangsters and Cubans from exacting their Machiavellian plot, but the monster also has goals.

This isn’t the sort of movie to take seriously, of course, but even by B-movie standards it’s pretty stinky. The jokes are scattered and sometimes exasperating, although the Marlowe-like narration from Towne can be funny. When the movie spends time with an animal-sound-spewing doofus (Beach Dickerson), it’s hard to take.

Many scenes drag on forever, like when a group that includes an island girl and a spasm-afflicted smilebag (Robert Bean) has a conversation against some trees. The dialogue is galling, although it does get better when the next scene features some sea gambolling and a bit of decent underwater photography.

Because of this tortuous approach, very little actually happens in Creature from the Haunted Sea. Its 75 minute runtime struggles to pass and the monster only shows up occasionally, rendering its ludicrous appearance and screwball noises immaterial. It’s only when the being drops in for the concluding “highpoint” that business picks up.

Whether it’s the inclusion of a long, long, long song delivered by a gun moll (Betsy-Jones Moreland) or the listless manner of the whole affair, the ping-pong pupils and oilcloth of the monster can’t save the day. Creature from the Haunted Sea could’ve been a camp classic, but the monster doesn’t appear enough and the rest of the movie is beyond boring.

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