Beginning in 1954 with Creature from the Black Lagoon, Universal’s Gill-Man went on to star in two sequels, 1955’s Revenge of the Creature and The Creature Walks Among Us in 1956. Even just looking at the years of release proves Universal’s aquatic monster had significant traction at the Box office. Even though he’s not appeared in his own feature in almost 60 years, the formidable merman has not sunk from the popular imagination, and nor should he.
The third and final film The Creature Walks Among Us, directed by John Sherwood, sees yet another group of scientific minds heading into the Amazon in search of the legendary monster. This time, the power-hungry Dr. William Barton (Jeff Morrow) has his eyes rather insanely set on using the Gill Man’s particular biology to aid space travel.
It’s a nutty but endearing offering made all the better by Morrow’s ace turn as the over-zealous, inhuman, wife-bullying, scientist. There’s an elementary moral lesson going on here, but aside from that The Creature Walks Among Us sports all the finesse you expect from Universal’s production value. To this day, the Gill Man’s costume remains one of the most terrifying and impressive creature designs ever put to celluloid, as does his voice which is unnervingly strained from pig grunts. There’s an incredible underwater sequence in the first half of the film where a group of deep-sea divers are stalked by the creature whilst being observed via tension-mounting radar, its surprisingly fresh. Ricou Browning played Gill Man in all underwater sequences in all three films, even directing them, impressively; Browning was also responsible for the stunning underwater battle at the climax of Thunderball. It shows in Creature, the underwater sequences are some of the most ambitious in the Universal Monster movies.
The decision to immolate Gill Man and fry off his scales seems at first to occur part of what will be a slow transformation over the course of the film. Considering the title, it wouldn’t have been a far cry to have Gill Man fully human by the end titles. But no, the film chooses, rather admirably, to euthanize its aquatic trilogy with a sombre suicide. Captured, fundamentally altered for life on land, framed for murder, then rejected from his captors, the Gill Man decides to return to the waters from whence he came, knowing this means certain death. It’s a rare but wonderful end to one of the most entertaining, well-conceived, and scary Universal creations.
Dir: John Sherwood
Stars: Jeff Morrow, Rex Reason, Leigh Snowdon, Ricou Browning