Monday, October 16, 2006


A Roger Corman quickie, and as such, sorta fun. Given the title and posters, one might expect this to be a traditional low-budget monster movie, but actually it's a comedy with a monster roaming in and out of the proceedings (mostly out until the last 10 minutes). It clearly had a sub-B picture budget and the dialogue is all dubbed in (a pet peeve of mine), but surprisingly, this was fun to watch once--I don't know that I would want to sit through the whole thing again. Several online critics have noted that the movie plays out like a spy movie spoof, although it was made at the very beginning of the spy movie boom, and the movie is best appreciated in that spirit. Secret agent XK 150 (Robert Towne) narrates this misadventure concerning a gangster (Antony Carbone) who is hired to help take a big chunk of stolen gold out of Cuba in the aftermath of Castro's revolution. On board Carbone's boat is a small crew, the group of thieves, Agent XK 150, and a sexpot femme fatale (Betsy Jones-Moreland). Carbone gets the bright idea to keep the gold for himself by killing off the Cubans one at a time and claiming that a sea monster is to blame. Little does he know that a real sea monster is following the boat, leading to a climax in which the real monster kills just about everyone except the secret agent. The monster is ludicrously bad, like a swimmer covered with a big carpet, with ping-pong balls stuck on for eyes, and it's clear that we're not meant to take any of the menace seriously. The single funniest scene is when the sexpot croons a lounge song, which just happens to be called, "The Creature from the Haunted Sea," and she keeps singing it even while a group of would-be pirates are slaughtered right behind her. I also loved the narration that introduces the crew: we're told that Carbone once tried to nominate Mussolini for president on the Republican ticket, that Jones-Moreland was caught pushing heroin at Boy's Town, and that young Happy Jack (Robert Bean) got his facial tic from watching too many Bogart movies. My favorite character is Pete Peterson Jr. (Beach Dickerson), the son of a vaudeville-era bird mimic, who communicates mostly via animal noises; it's a one-joke bit that remains funny throughout. There are many good one-liners, such as the agent (who emphasizes to us that XK 150 is not his real name) telling us that "it was dusk--I could tell because the sun was going down," or one character telling us that he found his new girlfriend in Puerto Rico "living in a sort of sorority house by the docks." Though the special effects are mostly ineffective, shots of the monster underwater attacking some swimmers look like they may have influenced Spielberg in JAWS. The Robert Towne who plays the agent is the same Robert Towne who wrote some of Corman's films and later went on to write CHINATOWN and SHAMPOO. Good for a few laughs, but not for chills or thrills. [DVD]

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