Roger Corman was arguably the low budget king of the 60’s and 70’s. No one could produce films as cheaply and efficiently as he did. Sometimes this met with great success and results. Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961), also known as Creature from the Cursed Sea, is a film that Corman produced and directed. This is undoubtedly one of the most bizarre movies I’ve ever seen.
The film opens with noir-esque plot and a spy chase, but never really references it or goes back to it. Which leads me to believe this was unused footage from another movie. Corman would often do this to save money. We do get a voice over throughout from the central character Agent XK150, played by Robert Towne (credited as Edward Wain). Robert Towne went on to write one of the greatest neo-noir films, Chinatown (1974). He, like many great New Hollywood filmmakers, learned from Roger Corman and his low budget filmmaking style.
This film is a parody of multiple genres including noir films, gangster pictures, spy films, and monster movies (or creature features as I like to call them), notably Creature from the Black Lagoon. It is a purposefully bad B-movie and the low budget aesthetic extends this notion.
This film has a strange xenophobia towards Cubans, probably due to the Cold War and the way Americans viewed Cubans at the time. Still, much of the plot involves the Captain of the ship, Renzo, killing off Cubans whose gold he is smuggling, by blaming it on a creature he supposedly made up. Turns out this creature is in fact real!
No matter how many Cubans Renzo and his crew murder, more just keep popping up. As if there is an endless supply of Cuban passengers on the boat. This isn’t the only thing about the plot that makes little sense. In fact the film as a whole was really difficult to follow.
The creature is really only in 5-10 minutes of the film, if that. His look explains why this is the case. Even the crew had difficulty holding their laughter in due to the look of the monster. I half expected Scooby Doo and the gang to show up and unmask the monster, revealing it was the Captain the whole time (I kinda wish Corman had gone with this angle). However, the creature does go mad toward the end of the film and kills off quite a few people in a short time period, including Renzo the Captain.
The story mainly focuses on strange love triangles that form once the boat passengers get to an island. Also there’s a character who pretty much exclusively speaks in animal sounds. I can’t make this stuff up! The story was smart enough to incorporate the Cuban’s gold as a maguffin. A maguffin is something that is necessary and important for the characters in the plot but is really meaningless outside of its use as a plot device. Hitchcock popularized this term.
As terrible as the film is, I chuckled quite a few times and was entertained mainly because of how ridiculous the whole thing is. There were certainly some dull moments, and the story doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense. It is a schlocky B-movie with low production value. However, the film knows what it is and never strives to be anything greater, so I can’t really hate on it. I’m not going to say I’d recommend this film but if you’re interested you can watch it here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4otn6892-Rg
Written by William David Glenn IV