Tuesday, July 10, 2012

From The Archives: Children of the Creature: Fifteen Fantastically Frightening Fish-Man Films!

(Originally posted on September 25th, 2010)

If you remember way back on day one of Creature Week I explained that fish-men (or Gill-Men) films were technically a subgenre unto themselves. I had originally planned to post seven mini-reviews yesterday and eight more today detailing some of these other movies, but because I was a bit busier than expected I had to hold over till today, but not to worry! Because here they all are! 15 films that are (more or less) Fish-Man in type that followed in the wake of Creature's rampage.

Let's get started!

The Alligator People (1959)


Directed by Roy Del Ruth, a former journalist and gagman who had been involved in moving making as early 1915, this is a surprisingly good b-movie though a b-movie nonetheless.

It tells the tale of Paul Webster (played by Richard Crane) a war veteran whose service cost him a limb or two. He is given a treatment by a Dr. Mark Sinclair (played by George Macready) that restores his limbs. However, the serum was derived from reptillian substance and pretty soon he begins to turn into ... well, just look!

In the way of a heroine, this film has a pretty good co-lead on in Beverly Garland who plays Paul's wife. She refuses to abandon him despite his mutation. Paul's foil in this picture comes in the form of Mr. Lon Chaney Jr. (here billed simply as Lon Chaney) who plays an alligator hating Cajun with a thing for the lovely Ms. Garland (convenient, no?).

Hardly a classic by any stretch of the imagination, but still pretty good. Give it a look if you're interested.

Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961)

This Roger Corman crap classic is a mess that has to be seen to believed! Cuban refuges, greedy gangsters, the most clueless American secret agent of all time, and one very testy sea monster! I can't even begin to describe this tongue in cheek pile of shlock, but luckily I don't have to! You can watch the entire movie below courtesy of youtube.com! Enjoy!

Curse of the Swamp Creature (1966)

From the director of Zontar: The Thing From Venus and Mars Needs Women comes ... well, a basic mad scientist story as if you expected anything else. Evil doctor turns man into monster. Sounds boring? Well, it's really not. This movie falls into the Robot Monster/ Plan 9 From Outer Space category. The production values and story are so abysmally awful as to have to be seen to be believed, made even more incredulous because the director plays the entire story straight. Give this one a watch when you're in a silly mood and I guarantee you'll have a good time.

Creature Of Destruction (1967)

From the writer and star of Curse of the Swamp Creature comes ...

Incidentally, that's the actual title as shown at the beginning of the feature. Riveting, no? The basic story revolves around a hypnotist who can predict when and where a notorious sea monster will strike.


... is the creature in question. There is a twist at the end, but don't expect M. Night Shyamalan quality. A basic b-movie. That's about all you need to know.

The Octaman (1971)

Forget Octo-Mom, let's talk about Octaman!

Here's one with a more immediate tie to the Gill-Man. Octaman was written and directed by Harry Essex who co-wrote the screenplay for The Creature From The Black Lagoon.

The story concerns a group of scientists who find several baby octopi that seem ... well, a little odd. When they take the little sushi samples with them for study, the Octaman promptly shows up and goes on a rampage to get them back. Apparently the Octaman was once a normal octopus until exposure to massive amounts of radiation made him the horrendous mutant he is today, and the odd little baby octopi (in case you hadn't guessed) are his offspring (Say, maybe he's the original Octo-Mom!)

This is strict b-movie shlock served up just the way you like it! Give it a look and be amazed!

Island of the Fish Men (1979)

Though available on dvd in North America ...

... this film was first released on region 1 vhs as Screamers!

The original by veteran Italian director Sergio Martino has a slower (and some argue more thoughtful) nature to it. The vhs version was heavily re-edited with scenes removed and gore added by none other than legendary genre director Joe Dante (of Gremlins and The Howling fame) under the title Dan T. Miller. Opinions vary as to which version is better.

Overall this movie is a basic retelling of The Island of Dr. Moreau with an emphasis on fish-men instead of animal-men. The story tells of a prison ship that sinks, the prisoners and the ship's doctor wash up on a Island with only two inhabitants and army of Gill-Men just waiting to tear them apart.  Fun for the whole Family! ... if your last name is Addams at any rate. Check it out if you dare!

Blood Tide (1982)

This film is oft overlooked and not fully without reason. It drags here and there and nothing too terribly interesting or shocking happens, but overall it is a good film and it even stars James Earl Jones!

The basic plot deals with an American couple vacationing on a Greek Island. The townsfolk want nothing to do with them and the only other American on the Island is the materialistic treasure hunter Frye played by the distinguished Mr. Jones.

While excavating an underground cavern, Frye opens a doorway that once held a fish-man like monster that the Islanders worshiped centuries ago. Hungry for virgin sacrifices the creature (who can move on land as well as underwater) feasts upon innocent swimmers and attacks a convent that is housed in its former pagan temple.

The monster is barely seen which in some films would make the creature scarier but way too often this one creates more boredom than suspense while waiting for something to happen. It's worth a look, but only if you don't mind long talky periods in between all too short monster action.

Humanoids From The Deep (1980)

I almost didn't mention this one and honestly I don't recommend it. Still, it is a highly visible fish-man movie so we'll discuss it.

The plot centers around a small fishing town where toxic waste has mutated some of the fish into horrendous Gill-Men who are determined to mate with human women. The film was shot by director Barbara Peeters who made this into an entertaining monster movie, but prior to release producer Roger Corman added in new scenes of gore and sexual assualt.

Reportedly Ms. Peeters was rather upset by this turn of events.

If you like heavy gore and don't mind watching women get abused, the dvd will do you. If you're a hair more pruddish like I am, wait for it on tv. This is one case where the edited version is actually closer to the director's intentions.

Released overseas under the alternate title Monster.

Leviathan (1989)

This film has more to do with The Thing From Another World than Creature From The Black Lagoon. The story is about a sci-fi-esque mining operation on the ocean floor that discovers the wreckage of a soviet submarine. The miners explore the wreck and bring back some Ruskie booze ... which turns out to be laced with an experimental drug that turns certain members into horrendous fish mutants.

The acting is good, the settings and staging work well and the movie is frightening at times. It's a cut above the usual silliness and even makes an effort at some lite social commentary.

From George P. Cosmatos the director of Rambo: First Blood part 2 and co-director of Tombstone! Definitely worth a watch!

Curse of the Swamp Creature (1994)

This is a film I would love to tell you about ... unfortunately I don't a thing about it! I'm not even sure if it's a remake of the 1966 film or if they just happen to share the same name. I know for a fact that it exists because it has a page on imdb.com, but beyond the scant information offered there I haven't been able to uncover a thing about it.

So there ... it exists. Now you know as much about it as I do.

The Fishmen and their Queen (1995)

Sergio Martino the director of Island of the Fish Men is back, but you'd hardly know it. Where as his first romp among the Gill-People was a fairly well done 19th century monster movie, this semi-sequel is aimed at children and teenagers but really doesn't hit that mark.

I will say it shows ambition as it neither tries to be a horror movie or a spoof of a horror movie. I think for that reason it is important to the history of the fish man subgenre in that it's at least trying (even if it does ultimately fail) to utilize the Gil-Man concept outside of the horror genre.

The plot centers around two teenage boys named Sam played by Giuliano Gensini and Tom played by Michael Velez. They live in a Mad Max-style post apocalyptic city, but manage to escape the ruins of civilization with the help of an elderly man named Socrates (played by Donald Hodson).

Together the three of them travel to a tropical island paradise that is unfortuneately being ruled by the iron fisted monarch the film draws its title from. There's a princess and a rebellion and a group of fish-men who seem more interested in overthrowing the Queen than helping her.

One odd thing about this film (and believe me there are plenty of others) is that there's only so much original footage. New scenes were shot and added in with re-edited clips from Island of the Fish Men and another Sergio Martino film called 2019: After The Fall of New York

Bland, but trying. You gotta give it credit for that.

Curse of the Swamp Creature 2 (1997)

I'm assuming this is a sequel to the 1994 Curse of the Swamp Creature. I say assume because it might be a sequel to the original 1966 version for all I could find out about it.

Once again, you know as much as I do.

Peter Benchley's The Creature (1998)

For those who don't know, Peter Benchley wrote the screenplays for Jaws, Jaws 2, Jaws 3-D, Jaws: The Revenge, as well as The Deep and The Beast. He is the co-author of this picture (along with Rockne S. O'Bannon who has contributed heavily to the Alien Nation franchise over the years.) and the movie is based on his book. One thing that can be said about Peter Benchley, this guy knows about terror on the water!

The film stars Craig T. Nelson (of Coach and The Incredibles fame) along with Kim Cattrall (Samantha on Sex And The City)

Back in the 1970s, a government experiment working with shark and dolphin DNA created a monster. It shows back up in the present, going on a rampage which could easily be avoided if the people in this movie had anything resembling good judgement. Craig T. Nelson is Dr. Simon Chase the sceintist who is blamed for the slayings at sea, after he frees a great white shark he was studying from captivity. Kim Cattrall is Dr. Amanda Mayson, his estranged ex-wife who comes along to help clear his name and who also brings their predictably imperiled son along for the ride.

A fun, well placed science fiction, action film with a hint of mystery, and a rather original looking monster.
Available on dvd from director Stuart Gillard who previously churned out such surprisingly unfantastic tv shows as 90210 and One Tree Hill ... well, those and a little thing film called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III among other things.

Dagon (2001)

Despite the title, this film is actually a loose adaptation of The Shadow Over Innsmouth another short story by the author of Dagon, H.P. Lovecraft.

Brought to life by legendary horror director Stuart Gordon who first made his mark on film (and on Lovecraft fandom) with Re-Animator and From Beyond. As with those, Gordon takes the central idea of the short story and builds upon it with fluid characters, a relevant storyline, lots of shock, plenty of surprises and a chilling final scene.

Stuart Gordon
A group of travelers wreck at sea and wash up on the coast of the Spanish fishing town of Imboca that is inhabited by only one human but has a large population nonetheless. What remains in the town is a race of hideously deformed fish men who are either the product of mating with a pagan fish man god or of becoming transformed by the worship of said deity.

The fish men want to induct the newcomers into the fold, the newcomers want to get home safely, and the last human on the Island is willing to help them. I won't spoil the end, but it will stay with you long after the initial viewing. This is one for the records, one of the absolute best fishy horror films you can find. Don't watch it alone!

Creature from the Hillbilly Lagoon (2005)

In case the title didn't tip you off, this is yet another comedy poking fun at the fish man genre.

The film breaks the 4th wall here and there, but in a good way. The jokes aren't classic, but they're not bad either and for a film that includes both 'Hillbilly' and 'Creature' in the title, the production values and acting are much better than you'd expect.

Originally released under the title of Seepage.

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