The Creature Walks Among Us
Released April 26, 1956
The third sequel in the series, with a new crew searching for and capturing the Gill-Man, and heading back to San Francisco (and not Florida like the previous film, Revenge of the Creature) for a whole new set of experiments.
This time, however, an obsessive scientist (Jeff Morrow) has to deal with his hired geneticist-doctor (Rex Reason) over whether it's a good idea to convert the Gill-man's lungs to breathe surface air (it's not) which will make him as mobile on land as any human. This has come about because the Creature is mortally wounded in a fire that damages his gills, but also reveals his more human physical characteristics beneath the surface of his skin, emphasizing an amphibian element of the Creature's physiology not mentioned before in the preceding movies. The scientist then has the idea that through surgery he can compel the Creature to be the "next evolutionary leap forward."
Leigh Snowden is the scientist's dutiful wife (who is also rather handy with a rifle and athletic as a scuba diver), but her husband's increasingly erratic behavior alienates her completely, and proceeds to screw up his big experiment with the captured creature. It also doesn't help that she is involuntarily starting to trust the geneticist quite a bit more than the malfunctioning, suspicious husband, and to top it off, their hired guide (Gregg Palmer as Jed Grant) is rather sleazy and always looking for a chance to try and seduce the wife (or possibly to just sexually assault her, it's hard to say). This behavior meets with the Creature's stern disapproval, to put it mildly, which plays into Universal's long tradition of their "monsters" often having a higher standard of right-and-wrong than the frightened humans racing about trying to contain them (not always, of course. Dracula has no particular redeeming value other than a sharp outfit and a cosmic sense of doom, well-deserved).
The quick-swimming, elegantly moving Creature of the previous films with a long "mane" of gills framing his head has been replaced in The Creature Walks Among Us with a bulkier figure that is reminiscent of Karloff's Frankenstein, squared-off inexplicably and dressed in an outfit not unlike Glenn Strange's duds, but now powerful enough to hurl around large desks and furniture and to generally trash any human-made structure that tries to keep him from where he wants to go (part of the time he doesn't want to go anywhere, he just stands around watching the peculiar activities of rest of the cast).
Near the end, the sudden, fast-moving Creature and his flash of anger (he certainly doesn't like being framed for murder by the true villain of the movie, the scientist played by Jeff Morrow) is accompanied by a shocking level of violence because of the contrast with the slowly-stewing plot of the previous 60 minutes. A tremendous improvement over the other two films is the simple upgrade of giving the Creature eyes in this movie that move and exhibit some expression, versus the unmoving frog-like bulbous eyes of the other two movies. This combination of changes and innovations, and in layering the story with more human melodrama between the characters, gives it a more experimental feel, and if only the new director (John Sherwood) and original Creature from the Black Lagoon script-writer Arthur Ross has better developed the Creature's dilemma as a burn victim and his exile from the water.
The Creature Walks Among Us is the final episode in the Creature from the Black Lagoon films and ends with the creature's foray on land as an air breather coming to a close as he heads toward the sea again, walking over a sandy dune toward the California coast and the Pacific waves rolling in, but his gills are no longer operable and so there appears to be no chance for his reentry back into his watery world as the end titles flash to the screen. The open-ended cliffhanger indicates Universal may have had an idea for furthering the series after 1956, but this never materialized.
From former screen legends who have faded into obscurity to new revelations about the biggest movie stars, Valderrama unearths the most fascinating little-known tales from the birth of Hollywood through its Golden Age.
Winner of the 2020 Peter C. Rollins Book Award
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Named a 2019 Richard Wall Memorial Award Finalist by the Theatre Library Association
Original page August 2015