This is perhaps the best Larry Buchanan film I have ever seen.
In fact, it comes halfway close to being reasonably good. It’s amazing really.
And, yes, it is one of the package of AIP TV films he directed, which were all remakes of AIP films from the fifties. In this case, he’s ripping off Edward L. Cahn’s The She Creature – and not doing such a bad job of it.
Only it isn’t science fiction. Well, mostly
But to really understand it, we have to go back to 1922, when J.B. Rhine attended a lecture by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. That night, Sherlock Holmes’ creator claimed that we had scientific proof that communication with the dead was possible.
This impressed Rhine so much that, when he joined the Psychology department at Duke University five years later, as a first step towards proving Doyle’s claim, he tried to find laboratory proof that some form of extra-sensory perception was possible. Before long, he claimed to have found a number of individuals who apparently had enormous psychic talents.
Naturally, a lot of people – including scientists – ended up believing that psychic powers were real. And somehow – thanks at least in part to one of his young volunteers, the future SF Editor John W. Campbell – psychic powers became one of the staples of SF, both in print and on screen.
It is a little hard to grasp the impact Rhine’s work had at the time, although films like Creature of Destruction do help.
There is a basic tension here, right from the start, when Les Tremayne, as the sinister parapsychologist, Dr. Basso, lectures his audience about science, and truth – only to end up talking about atavistic monstrosities hidden within in us, and making a prediction with the help of his assistant, who is in a trance state.
And this division continues throughout the entire film, as Basso’s clearly supernatural influence and talk of eternal souls and reincarnation is contrasted with the psychologists who investigate him and the statements of the hero. He talks about how science has proved that some people can see the future, how, as a scientist, he has to keep an open mind, and how parapsychology is still in its infancy and has yet to figure out how to actually study these phenomena scientifically.
Meanwhile, Basso has his unwilling assistant so completely under his influence that she hardly has any will of her own left. And, of course, she can somehow materialize a murderous gill-man from the distant past, which then proceeds to kill off as many of the visitors to this resort town as it can.
The creature itself is mostly silly – particularly its badly crossed eyes, but it is miles better than his monster from Curse of the Swamp Creature.
Not that that would take much.
However, we don’t see too much of it. Which does help. But it doesn’t look anywhere near as good as the monster on the original posters. Which, actually, is no surprise as they used The Creature from the Black Lagoon instead! Somehow, though, I suspect that they did so without doing anything crazy like paying royalties.
I actually enjoyed this one, and even found that he succeeded in bringing some mood and atmosphere into the proceedings. As B-Movies go, you could do a lot worse.
Which is not something I would have expected to say about Larry Buchanan.
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