It would be a shame to dismiss this film so easily or quickly, however, as there is a lot more than meets the eye here and, to be fair, this was never intended to be the new definition of brilliance, supplanting even Citizen Kane as the greatest movie ever made... this time with a Sea Monster in it.
Who could come up with such a weird-ass combination of American Spies, Cuban Military Frog divers, Evil Gangster Captains and bug-eyed Seaweed Monsters from the salty depths of hell? Who else but Roger Corman? Who else indeed but the director of Little Shop of Horrors? Well, I'll tell you who else. If this film feels a lot like the kind of comedy found in the original Little Shop of Horrors, it's because it was penned by Little Shop of Horrors' scripter Charles B. Griffith! Yes, yes, yes... the same writer and the same type of comedy as Little Shop of Horrors (and I don't mean the musical). That should give you an idea of the quality of this film. It's often bad, often good, often so bad it's good and occasionally so bad it's still bad. But it can be lots of fun.
In a pre-credits sequence added for the 1963 television debut, we're introduced to Agent XK-150, an American Secret Agent stationed in Castro's Cuba fighting for Truth, Justice and the American Way in his own idiotic way. He disguises himself as a flunkie named Sparks Moran to infiltrate an organized crime ring, but through his film noir narration he assures us that his real name is XK-150! That makes at least a little sense, seeing as how the actor playing him is using the pseudonym Edward Wain when (I assure you) his real name is Robert Towne. Yeah, Robert Towne... as in the screenwriter of Chinatown, The Two Jakes, Heaven Can Wait and Mission Impossible. Same guy, man! Yep... The Corman School of Film Success! Amazing.
Anyway, after padding out the opening that features a clueless meeting with lovely Agent XK-120 (Jaclyn Hellman), not to mention a goofy, yet funny animated credit sequence, XK-150 introduces us to our American Mob firmly planted in Cuban Society, led by Renzo Capetto (Antony Carbone). He's got a beautiful girlfriend named Mary-Belle Monahan (Betsy Jones-Moreland), a gaggle of henchmen like Pete Peterson, Jr. (Beach Dickerson), Mary-Belle's brother Happy Jack Monahan (Robert Bean) and the dim-witted Sparks Moran (and you know who HE really is)! Renzo's also got a boat full of gold that he doesn't want to share with his Cuban Army Cronies led by General Tostada (Edmundo Rivera Álvarez)!
Renzo's wicked plan? To capsize his boat and come back for the gold later, killing the Cuban allies (who helped him raid their own treasury) in the process and blaming their deaths on a fictional Sea Monster that is rumored to haunt these very waters. The problem with Renzo's wicked plan is that there really is a factual Sea Monster that really does haunt these very waters. It's a monster in lame, loose-fitting mossy costuming with scuba flippers on its feet, huge plastic bug-eyes the size of a wealthy stripper's breast implants and sleeves that don't always cover the arms of the actor beneath, but hey, you don't haunt the sea with the monster you want, but with the monster you have, right?
What follows is pretty much what you'd expect in a film like this with a setup like that. All the while the film is filled to the rim with Naked Gun-style comedy. Well... at least what the makers would have liked to be Naked Gun-style comedy. True with deadpan and unselfconscious lines like "It was dusk. I could tell 'cause the sun was going down.", "I had managed to work my way onto the crew by posing as a notorious gum-machine burglar from Chicago." and "I devised my undetectable radio set using simulated hot dogs for knobs and tubes inside of dill pickles while watching sewer workers during my lunch hour." most of the audience will either laugh out loud a few times or at least roll their eyes and shake their heads. However, whether that's your style of comedy or not (and Brother, it's mine) the problem is that the film on the whole can't keep this momentum going as well as, say, an Ice Road Trucker might.
At times the film feels like your standard Corman B-Movie like Attack of the Giant Leeches with some of the underwater horrors of Creature from the Black Lagoon. Sometimes the jokes (for those who can pay attention and get the dry humor) can be truly quite funny, other times they only approach the mild-witticisms of the 1966 Batman still other times the jokes don't go anywhere at all and, yes, there are some stretches that could really use some jokes that never come. Occasionally the jokes imply that Griffith and Corman think they're quite a bit funnier than they are. The right audience is sure to find a lot of this movie funny, but will like the jokes that are there enough to wish there were more.
The monster looks so funny in and of itself that it almost seems that Corman and Griffith planned to make a Sea Monster flick of some kind, but decided they'd better make it funny when the Kraken started looking like the Cleavage instead! Speaking of which, special props should go to actress Sonia Noemi Gonzalez and her lovely (and quite hilarious) character of Mango Perez! YUM!
Creature from the Haunted Sea is a must for B-Movie Horror and Farcical Comedy fans (who can handle the unashamedly goofy, yet dry nature of the laughs). From a special effects standpoint the film is nothing to write home about, nor did it have the budget for paper or pen! Regardless, to call this one all good would be a stretch and to call it all bad is missing a whole pint of the point! It's good, it's bad it's Creature from the Haunted Sea and it gets Two and One Half Farcical Stars out of Five. Corman is Corman, B is B, Creature Features are crazy and I... am going to see you in the next reel.
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