As of 9/5/12, can be seen online on Hulu.
The first review is a Roger Corman classic, The Creature from the Haunted Sea. Filmed in a tropical setting in post-revolution Cuba, Corman once again shoots for the bleachers and ends up popping a flyout. The story really plods along as a mixture of monster movie, spy film and farce all wrapped into one. All this is compounded with a bad audio track and a lot of dead space. However, for the right viewer, this film is somewhat of a diamond in the rough, if the rough is a pile of dog mess.
Have you ever seen a student film? I’ve seen a few. Too many, probably. Some work, most crash and burn. The common hallmark to student films that just don’t work is that the writers and directors are too heavy handed. They have this grandiose “God complex” that established directors only get out of doing tons of cocaine and banging interns.
In the first few seconds of this film, you get the same feeling. It’s a cold opening; no title or credits. Suddenly, a young man runs from two sinister looking people. There is a serviceable chase sequence, but the actors are sluggish. It feels like watching the fat kids finish running a mile in Gym class. Still, our belief is still suspended: this seems to be a dire situation. After escaping his persurers, our unnamed hero visits a bar to meet a secret agent incognito, wearing a Poncho Villa mustache, sunglasses and a bent cigarette. At this point, I still feel the film is serious, and yet, this guy couldn’t spy his way out of a paper bag. It’s as if someone recut Naked Gun 2 with James Bond, or Remmington Steel with James Bond, or Roger Moore James bond with any other James Bond.
Thankfully (or unfortunately), the film gets a whole lot goofier. The soundtrack gets more whimsical and Elfmanesque. Our fears of this being a very unbelivable spy film are qualmed, and the story unfolds. Revolving around an expedition to smuggle Cuban Gold and Refugees to America, we are introduced to Lorenzo Capetto, a mafia stooge remnicient of Bogart. There’s a love interest, a southern fried hick, a guy who makes animal noises (which are dubbed in and actual animal noises), a few cuban soldiers, and our hero, secret agent XJ-150.
Overall, this film is not good. The problem is simple; the writing isn’t good enough for comedy, the budget isn’t big enough for action. Half of this film feels like waiting for a root canal, the other half is split between genuine entertainment and painful agony. Painful, like watching a hackneyed love triangle with truly bad dialogue, or joke after joke using chicken noises where all of them fail. Wow, Hilarious! It’s like listening to Fibber McGee and Molly, except you can actually claw your way out of the living room instead of being forced to listen while your grandmother clips coupons and cries about how fat your mother has gotten.
The parts that are good are fleeting. The monster who terrorizes the crew isn’t very scary, but he lays people to waste. The kill count is in the double digits, and the killing scenes are definitely not as goofy as the other scenes. They have a sinister quality to them that is not unlike an actual monster movie. Also, they make the opening sequence to Malcolm in the Middle more watchable.
The setting is also immersive and quite beautiful. The scenes shot from a shipwreck were genuinely of high quality, with fish, turtles and other aquatic creatures swimming around. Also, there are a few comedic gags that genuinely work, like a telephone on the middle of a shipwrecked island. Still the working joke ratio is pretty small, 5 bad jokes for 1 good one. In general. I would only recommend this for Roger Corman fans and people who like sleeping through bad movies.