What was the unspeakable secret of the sea of lost ships? Please do not give away the answer to the secret.
Sparks Moran, aka Agent XK150, goes undercover inside the Capetto gang in order to prevent the criminals from smuggling a group of Cuban exiles, as well as a sizeable portion of Cuba's treasury, out of the country. To carry out the deed Capeto assembles a motley crew of thugs including Mary Belle Monahan (who sings the film's haunting theme song), her brother "Happy" Jack Monahan (who, of course, never smiles), and Pete Peterson Jr. (a man capable of communicating only through the use of animal impressions). It isn't long before Sparks stumbles upon the eeevil Capetto's real plan to kill the Cubans, keep the money, and blame the whole thing on a legendary monster which supposedly lives in the nearby waters. Everything goes according to plan until the real monster shows up and starts laying waste to the entire cast. Can Spark's incredible power of voice-over narration save the day or will he too become a victim of the Creature From the Haunted Sea?
For our first ever attempt at a film club review, I chose at random Roger Corman's 1961 opus Creature From The Haunted Sea. May as well test everyone's resolve right from the start. Rising to the challenge this month are Christina from The Northern Cross and D. G. D. Davidson from The Sci-Fi Catholic, both of whom went the extra mile and posted complete reviews on their own blogs. Let's start with some excerpts from their excellent posts before getting to my usual rantings. (Noticeably absent from the excerpts are the wailing and gnashing of teeth once they got about 15 minutes into the movie and realized what a stinkfest I had picked.)
...I did stay for act three of the movie and, with that, I should really try to find a religious meaning in it. To my shock, I found that it was truly a religious film with a very deep spiritual message for us all.
Near the end of the film, Mrs Bad turns to Captain Bad and proclaims her undying love for him. As an aside, I refuse to rewatch the film to remember their names; now that some amnesia has set in I refuse to fix it. Right then the monster appears and attacks Mrs Bad while Captain Bad tries to make his cowardly escape, only to meet his doom in the end. This struck me as a beautiful allegory of our first parents' fall into sin.
In the second chapter of Genesis we learn that man was given a commission to cultivate and protect the garden of Eden. Yet, when the serpent came to tempt Eve, he remained suspiciously quiet. He allowed her to take the full brunt of the attack out of cowardice and fear; threw her to the monster, so to speak, in hopes of jumping ship and saving his own skin. Yet in the process, he lost his own life and the lives of all future generations...
D. G. D. DAVIDSON
...This movie does have some memorable and very funny lines, including, "As an American gambler and gangster, you're above suspicion," "We'll jump overboard and swim for it--through shark-infested water, of course, so no one will follow us," "No matter where you go or what you do or who you kill--I'll love you til the day I die," and ,"Well, she was living in a sort of sorority house down by the docks--she's awful friendly."
At the end of the film, the monster dispenses monster judgment. Everyone guilty of being a gangster, being a murderer, being an adulterer, being a thief, or being a Cuban is dead and the only characters left alive are the American spy and his reformed-prostitute-with-a-heart-of-gold girlfriend...
...I think the reason we like to see the villains Get Theirs is because we do have built into us a sense of justice. Movies like Creature from the Haunted Sea take a certain reality for granted, that negative actions have negative consequences. So the movie could be viewed as a morality tale: thou shalt not steal gold from Cuba and murder people to cover thy tracks. All in all, I'd have to say that's a sound moral message...
This movie was made in five days, and by the looks of it, the crew probably spent the first three and half of those days drunk. Which amazingly still leaves enough time for Roger Corman to make a movie. Having directed over 30 films in the five years prior to Creature From The Haunted Sea (and produced more than that, including our old pal the Beast From Haunted Cave), Corman had this stuff down to a science. In this movie you'll find unused footage from earlier films inserted scattershot throughout the production, music recycled from previous movies, a script which was changed from a thriller to a comedy halfway through filming without bothering to reshoot the earlier scenes, and a monster suit reportedly made out of Brillo Pads and ping pong balls.
But mostly you'll find a main character in Sparks Moran who never actually accomplishes a single part of his mission. He doesn't recover the money, bring a criminal to justice, save a life, or defeat the monster. He does get a girl in the end, but not the one he wanted. Sparks is like a bargain basement version of Peter Seller's Inspector Clouseau, except without the charm, wit, or a talented actor to play him. (Ironically, the guy who portrayed Sparks, Edward Wain aka Robert Towne, actually went on to write Chinatown, but that was decades away from this movie.) And yet, through the sheer power of trying to be a good guy, Sparks is the only original character to sail off into the sunset.
"Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good." the Catechism tells us. "Human virtues acquired by education, by deliberate acts and by a perseverance ever-renewed in repeated efforts are purified and elevated by divine grace. With God's help, they forge character and give facility in the practice of the good." We can probably count Sparks out in the education department and his actions weren't very deliberate, but by gosh, he has perseverance. If Sparks Moran has nothing else, he has the virtue of Fortitude, and should be admired for it.
Well, that about wraps it up for this month's film club. After that grueling experience, it's going to be quite a task to convince Christina and D. G. D. to sit through another one of these movies, but maybe I can come up with something a little less trying next time. (Remember, suggestions for movies are always welcome. Otherwise I'll pick them, and you see what you get when that happens.) And now that you've all seen this can be done without permanent mental damage (permanent being the operative word) maybe we can convince one or two more of you to chip in next time. See you then.