Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961)

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Directed by: Roger Corman

In recent months I’ve been reviewing movies in bunches. The films I’ve reviewed have had a uniting theme, such as forgotten gems of the early nineties or outlaw biker films. Given that the last film I reviewed was ‘The Fifth Estate’, it is asking a lot to try and connect a film about WikiLeaks with ‘Creature from the Haunted Sea’, but both somehow they both fit under the airy umbrella of ‘films with a political theme’. See, ‘Creature from the Haunted Sea’ is set against the backdrop of cold war paranoia, and the United States embargo against Cuba.

I’ve been thinking about politics a lot recently, mostly populist rhetoric. Russell Brand’s interview with Paxman on ‘Newsnight’ to promote the latest issue of ‘The New Statesman’ has got a lot of my friends excited about the possibility that revolution is in the air. Although if I’m not mistaken similar sentiments were sung by forgotten singer songwriter Sandi Thom. I’ve watched the interview a few times and all I hear is a charming witty verbose man using a lot of big words but ultimately saying nothing. If anything Brand seems to be advocating the continuing wave of apathy that lurks around the ballot box. Forgetting that exercising your right to vote doesn’t just mean National Elections, but at local level as well. It is here, locally, where significant changes can be made, and in his words provide “a service to humanity”. Change can happen, and indeed has happened thanks to a democratic political process. I respect Brand as a comedian, and admire has stance on drug rehabilitation, but he just seemed a long way off the mark here.

Phew… went a bit off track there. ‘Creature from the Haunted Sea’, Roger Corman’s black and white B movie, brings together spies and sea monsters. Imagine James Bond meets ‘Sesame Street’. The film begins when a shoe shiner gets murdered by two bearded men. Prior to getting shot the shoe shiner had got off his fuckin’ shinebox and put a message in the sock of an American agent who goes by the alias of Sparks Moran, his real name is SK150.
SK150 meets a woman in a shady bar; their dialogue is hilarious, taking me back to childhood memories of Leslie Nielsen and Priscilla Presley’s exchanges in ‘The Naked Gun’ franchise. After finishing a game of chess a woman says “Long live the king”. SK150 asks her “Is that supposed to be a political remark”. The woman says “I don’t know anything about politics”. After the bar scene we’re treated to a cartoon montage that explains to us the overthrow of the Cuban government.

The spy’s job is to retrieve Cuban gold that is being held on a boat Captained by a dodgy fella named Renzo who’s done a deal with the Cuban treasury to transport some the loot out of the country. The crew comprises of crooks, gangsters, Cuban military and a moll called Mary-Belle. All of the crew have several aliases and Corman introduces us to almost each and every person on board. The best of the bunch is a simpleton who imitates animals, he makes a guttural sound after his introduction and we’re told “that for instance was the mating call of a Himalyan Yak”. He becomes more annoying than Michael Winslow in the ‘Police Academy’ films.

‘Creature from the Haunted Sea’ drifts along until the boat is deliberately crashed by Renzo into the rocks; he tries to blame this accident and the disappearance of a crew member on a mythical sea monster. This bizarre opportunity allows SK150 to try and get the treasure away from the clutches of Renzo. When the crew find themselves on a desert island we finally get introduced to the creature. This sea beast looks like the entry in a playschool competition for making your favourite ‘Sesame Street’ character. The whole film takes a bizarre turn when the creature appears. Not least because it encourages the local islanders, a bunch of bad Latin stereotypes to get in the way.

At times the scenery literally falls apart around the actors, in one scene somebody is on the phone and a bit of shrubbery drops on them. Corman’s intention with ‘Creature from the Haunted Sea’ seemed to be to make a comedy that parodies our fascination for mythical monsters. The movie provides a host of laughs, and demonstrates the appeal of a giant farce. Everything is ridiculous, and that’s what makes it wonderful. Corman when filming ‘The Last Woman on Earth’ in Puerto Rico decided to put together this movie with the same cast because of tax incentives. It showcased his abilities as a filmmaker, because somehow he managed to put together something unique like this on the fly.

– RJW
7/10

Creature from the Haunted Sea on IMDB

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