“American crook Renzo Capetto sees a chance to make a bundle when a Caribbean island has a revolution. He plans to help loyalists (and the national treasury) escape on his boat, then kill the men and blame their deaths on a mythical sea monster. Trouble ensues when the real monster shows up!” (courtesy IMDB)
This week I discuss the last film in my trilogy of terror – okay, my trilogy of mild bemusement – Creature From The Haunted Sea (1961), starring the Oscar-winning Edward Wain and a panoply of Cuban tap-dancers, directed by who else but Roger Corman. This is a classic of cold war paranoia that did more for Cuban-American relations than Brian DePalma’s Scarface (1983). Ladies, gentlemen, and uncommitted, I take great pride – and not a little amount of blame – in discussing Creature From The Haunted Sea.
The more perspicacious of you may have noticed that if Edward Wain did win an Oscar, it wasn’t under that name, and it certainly wasn’t for acting. No, that goes to more deserving folk, like Marisa Tomei. Edward Wain is the non-de-blame of the famous scriptwriter Robert Towne, who won the Oscar for his script for Chinatown (1974), and had it taken away again for writing Mission Impossible II (2000). He’s also written Shampoo (1975), The Last Detail (1973), Days Of Thunder (1990), The Two Jakes (1990) and the first Mission Impossible (1996), and was uncredited as a writer on Eight Million Ways To Die (1986) and Orca The Killer Whale (1977), for which he is truly grateful. He also directed and wrote Tequila Sunrise (1988) and Personal Best (1982), which wasn’t – a personal best, that is.
Antony Carbone, who plays the Bogartesque Shirley Lamore…I mean, Renzo Capetto, we’ve already seen as the venal cafe proprietor in A Bucket Of Blood (1959), and Betsy Jones-Moreland, who plays the Bacalline Mary-Belle Monahan, also worked with Corman in The Saga Of The Viking Women And Their Voyage To The Waters Of The Great Sea Serpent (1957), which was responsible for killing five cinema workers when the marquee collapsed under its own weight. Her career ended playing a judge in the early nineties revival of Perry Mason with Raymond Burr, as indeed did his. Mary-Belle’s brother, Happy Jack Monahan, was played by Robert Bean, who made one more film after this – Runaway Runaway (1971) – thereafter becoming…a Has-Bean! Hey, someone had to say it, and it may as well be a professional.
The lovable animal impressionist, John Belushi…I mean, Pete Peterson Junior, the son of Pete Peterson Senior, was played by Beech Dickerson who produced Runaway Runaway, a title that cinema-goers took to heart. Dickerson was also the sound recordist of Last Woman On Earth (1960), The Wild Ride (1960) and Ski Troop Attack (1960). His experience in sound enabled him to dub his own dialogue for Creature From The Haunted Sea. Unfortunately, he mixed up the tapes with the ADR for Wild Kingdom, hence his animal impressions. He was also the assistant director on The Wild Racers (1968) and T-Bird Gang (1959), and the location manager for The Trip (1967), which meant he had to take a lot of acid. And the Cubans? Well, they disappeared into the American population and were never seen again.
Now, Charles B. Griffith was never one to abandon a script structure if could be used over and over and over again. I refer you to A Bucket Of Blood and The Little Shop Of Horrors (1960) as prior examples. His script for Creature From The Haunted Sea was based on the structure of Naked Paradise (1957) and used again in Atlas (1961) and Beast From Haunted Cave (1959). Coincidentally, the production coordinator for Beast From Haunted Cave was Beech Dickerson. Corman never threw anything – or anybody – away. Speaking of which, remember the scene with the man waiting whilst the top secret agent makes his collect call to the mainland? That was Roger Corman. And with that Hitchcockian cameo – and that’s the only time you’ll hear this film connected to Alfred Hitchcock.
So, with that chilling conclusion – especially if you’ve left all the windows open – we bring Creature From The Haunted Sea to a belated end, and indeed, an end to our Charles B. Griffith mini-festival. Join me next week, as I once again dip into the cesspool of cinema to bring you the made-for-television shocker All The Kind Strangers (1974) for Horror News. Until then, toodles!
Creature From The Haunted Sea (1961)