In this third Gill-Man feature, the Creature is captured and turned into an air-breather by a rich mad scientist. This makes the Creature very unhappy, and he escapes, killing people and setting fires in the process.
Jeff Morrow ... Dr. William Barton
Rex Reason ... Dr. Thomas Morgan
Leigh Snowden ... Marcia Barton
Gregg Palmer ... Jed Grant
Maurice Manson ... Dr. Borg
James Rawley ... Dr. Johnson
David McMahon ... Capt. Stanley
Paul Fierro ... Morteno
Lillian Molieri ... Mrs. Morteno
Larry Hudson ... State trooper
Frank Chase ... Steward
Similar to the under-appreciated "Alien 3"(1992), this dramatic thriller has so many ideas that to disregard it would be a waste. The Creature is sought by scientists on an expedition to the Florida Everglades, where the second film ("Revenge of the Creature") ended. Joining in the expedition is the wife (Leigh Snowden) of a disturbed scientist (Jeff Morrow), who hasn't much to do but be admired by the men around her, including a good scientist (Rex Reason) and a lecherous guide (Gregg Palmer). The Creature is subdued, but only after being burned in a ghastly fire. The head scientist (Morrow) discovers lung tissue in the Creature, and he is transformed to an air-breathing animal. Cruelly pent-up back home in a Californian sea-side stockade, he longs to return to the water. The racial undertones of his new appearance are undeniable, and we feel sympathy for him. The last scene is breathtaking, since we know he can not survive a return to the sea. The music has been updated and is haunting, and the misty underwater photography in the first half is stunning. The whole film is beautifully directed by John Sherwood, with lights, shadows, contrast in exquisite black and white. All the actors are terrific, reciting mature dialog. The Creature does not get the curvaceous girl in this one: appropriately, since he's got all these plastic-surgery troubles. In many ways, this is an improvement over the second film, which basically re-hashed the first classic. Catch this one!
I remember seeing `The Creature Walks Among Us' on TV as a kid. The local syndicated TV channel had worked out a deal with Burger King where you would buy one of their Happy Meal rip-offs (whatever they were called then) and get a pair of 3D glasses, so you could watch the movie with its `full effect.' Brilliant. I don't recall that the 3D worked very well (it rarely does on a TV screen), but I do remember how excited I was to stay up late and see the Creature from the Black Lagoon arise again in glory.
Now this was the third film in the `Creature' trilogy, and it's clear that the budget was far smaller than on either of the previous films. I'm guessing that accounts for the recycled underwater footage (there is not one new shot of the Creature swimming – it's all from the first film) and the limited use of the original Creature suit. In all probability, the suit was showing its wear and tear, we only see it from the waist up, in darkness, except for the brief scene in which they set it on fire (!). After the Gillman is captured, they explain his modified (cheaper) makeup by explaining that he is `mutating' to adapt to air-breathing circumstances. Apparently his skin is now so `sensitive' that he is required to wear a potato sack for `protection.' This means that they only had to come up with hands and a head for the actor to wear, rather than a full-bodied suit.
Still, there is something compelling about this picture, even after 20 years of growing up. Somehow the fact that the Creature is brought into our world and made to wear clothes reminds one of the Fall of Man, and our unexpected shame at our nakedness. This Creature still longs for that innocence, for a return to his primal water environment, even though his gills are damaged and his lungs would drown if submerged. The romantic subplot parallels this theme in its reversal of the original `Creature' pattern. This time, instead of a lustful but rich scientist hitting on the Hero's girl, the girl is married to the rich but jealous scientist while our Hero reminds her what love is meant to be like. This girl is already Fallen, and she begins the movie looking like a slut, but she slowly comes around to innocence, under the charms of Rex Reason.
Jeff Morrow and Rex Reason have a fascinating chemistry, just as interesting here as in their better known picture, `This Island Earth.' In that movie, again, Morrow plays the scientist who `has it all' – unlimited funding, access to advanced alien technology, and Reason portrays the good guy who won't sell his soul to get ahead. This version of the story has Reason a bit more subdued, and Morrow a bit more paranoid/manic. Comparing the two films makes it possible to appreciate the actors' range, and makes me wish they had worked together more often.
After seeming to have been killed at the end of each prior installment (with no explanation in this or the prior sequel how he survived), the Gill Man is now residing in the Everglades of Florida. Wealthy scientist Jeff Morrow has gathered a team of medical and scientific types to help him catch the Gill Man and study him. The creature is caught, but seriously burned in the process. Rushing him back to the boat, they wrap him up in bandages, and try to save his life. As he recuperates, his gills fall off, and a humanistic skin if found underneath. Okay, a little far fetched, but, the Gill Man is in between man and fish, so this plotline works. What got me was that the new human Gill Man is gigantic and lumbering in size, where the original was trim and athletic. That never made sense to me. Don Megowan (the new Gill Man) was a big fellow, and his size made him more menacing, but, I have always had a problem with that size and weight difference.
Again, we're treated to some excellent underwater photography. And, the action is on par. Jeff Morrow is nicely evil, and Rex Reason is ruggedly masculine as the hero. Leigh Snowden as Morrow's wife, lends the added touch of beauty to the story, and Greg Palmer's rather slimey character is played perfectly.
Almost any movie could have been improved upon (well maybe not an Orson Welles or Frank Capra film), and yes, there could have been some changes that would have made this better, but, I still like today as I did in 1956 when I first saw it. It's a proud member of my classic library. For most, this would be a fair at best movie, but, you gotta give 'em credit for trying to be original with the Gill Man, and not just rehashing parts one and two. Also, the team of Morrow and Reason always made for good viewing.