31 Weeks to Halloween: The Creature Walks Among Us (1956)
After nearly seven months worth of Saturdays being dedicated to the classic Universal Monster horror movies - as part of our 31 Weeks to Halloween countdown - we have finally arrived at the final film in our countdown as well as the final film in the classic series. While our countdown has only lasted seven months worth of weekends, the films we've been reviewing each week were released over a 24 year period, all leading up to one final film: The Creature Walks Among Us. Released in 1956, the film once again brought back Ricou Browning, who played the underwater scenes of the Gill-Man in all of the films. "All of the films" being this films two predecessors: Creature From the Black Lagoon and Revenge of the Creature. This movie, however, was directed by John Sherwood as a part of his directorial debut, and quite honestly, looking back at the movie 64 years later, I'd say he did a pretty damn good job for his first feature. The film takes a very, very different approach to the monster than the two previous films, which really makes it stand out in the series even if it's not the best. The Gill-Man is absolutely terrifying in The Creature Walks Among Us, and oddly enough it's not even because of how he's acting, it's how he looks. But before we get ahead of ourselves with this fintastic finale to the Universal Monsters series...
The Creature Walks Among Us once again sees a group of doctors and scientists hop aboard a boat in search for the legendary Gill-Man who haunts the depths below after escaping an oceanarium in Florida. The doctors and scientists, including one of their wives, make the journey to the Everglades to capture the creature, preferably alive of course. Once a few of them go diving, they encounter the beast and have a slight run-in with him... a run in resulting in the Gill-Man being very badly burned. The group gets the creature aboard and begin surgery to try and save him. To their surprise, the doctors noticed that the Gill-Man was shedding his gills, and his human-like skin also contained a human-like lung! Tests showed that the creature fell right smack in the middle of half human, half marine animal - hence the double sets of breathing techniques. Once healed, they put this ridiculous suit on him - oh yeah, they give him clothes - and transport him back to their lab where they can study and attempt to train him to be less violent. Little did they know that getting him back to the lab was just the beginning of their troubles... will the doctors be able to successfully train the Gill-Man to live among them?! Or will the creatures primal instinct cause him to slaughter them all?! Find out in... THE CREATURE WALKS AMONG US!
Going back to what I was saying, this version of the creature is absolutely fucking haunting - but it's not even when he's in his natural look. After the creature goes up in flames and is taken aboard the vessel, when he sheds his skin he becomes a thing of pure terror. They show his eyes with eyelashes, this very unsettling facial structure and his bizarre human-like skin. It is very, very uncomfortable to look at and if that's what they were going for, then they knocked it right out of the park. Unfortunately, a little of the chill factor dissipates when the doctors insist on dressing him up in this silly suit that he walks like Frankenstein's Monster in. Very awkward and stiff, the Gill-Man spends the whole second half of the film in his clothing and it kinda... takes away some of the terror. What's funny is all of the other monsters in the Universal series wore clothes (except for Invisible Man when he was invisible) and it obviously never bothered me, but with a full-bodied monster suit, it's so uncomfortable to see and makes for a really weird look. Regardless, the creature is still a terror you wouldn't want to cross paths with!
I thought the plot - minus the whole love interest thing (which I didn't/don't even get into it) - of the film was actually a pretty sweet little twist on the Creature storyline. I don't think audiences would have expected the Gill-Man to catch fire as he does and for him to shed his outer skin, revealing human skin underneath! And not only that, but to give him working lungs (and an opportunity for drowning) was a very interesting little plot twist that definitely makes for a great film. If you enjoy this monster and his previous films, you'd definitely appreciate the differences introduced in this movie that cross boundaries the others didn't dare. There's some fantastic underwater footage of the Gill-Man as well - maybe not as great or to the extent as we've seen in the previous films, but still some great shots regardless. Does it make up for the really weird on land shots of him in the suit? Eh, not really but it doesn't hurt the film at all so it's whatever. At the end of the day, The Creature Walks Among Us makes for a great finale to the classic Universal Monsters series. It's unfortunate the classics didn't continue to maybe have some other crossovers with the Gill-Man and some other other monsters, but it is what it is. Twenty five years of monster making madness had to come to an end at some point, and all of these films - including The Creature Walks Among Us - set the stage for a ton of the horror films we grew up with today. Check this one out!!