SHE-CREATURE, THE(director: Edward L. Cahn; screenwriter: Lou Rusoff; cinematographer: Frederick E. West; cast: Chester Morris (Dr. Carlo Lombardi), Marla English (Andrea), Lance Fuller (Dr. Ted Erickson), Tom Conway (Timothy Chappel), Cathy Downs (Dorothy Chappel), Ron Randell (Lt. Ed James), Freda Inescort (Mrs. Chappel), Paul Dubov (Johnny, the barker), William Hudson (Bob, the ex-fiance), Paul Blaisdell (monster); Runtime: 76; American International Pictures; 1956)
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Mr. Cahn, in this AIP cheapie, provides some amusing hokum exploiting the occult-horror B-film genre in a very Hollywood type of way. The film’s location is an unnamed beachfront community in Southern California, where both a skeptical police Lt. Ed James (Randell) and a square professor of psychic research, Dr. Ted Erickson (Lance Fuller), are faced with unsolvable murders and the one they suspect is doing the killings is a mad occult-hypnotist called Dr. Carlo Lombardi (Chester Morris). They aim to get the evidence to convict him of a series of bizarre murders by proving that he is a charlatan. Lombardi claims that the killer is a supernatural she-creature who comes to life from his creation at the beginning of time by rising out of the sea to commit murder. He gets visions of the creature and thereby can predict when the creature will appear. His beautiful assistant, a former carnival worker, Andrea (Marla), who hates him but is so possessed that she can’t break free from his slave-hold, is put under hypnosis in their act to become a 17th century English woman.
The film opens with Lombardi staring furtively out to sea, conjuring up the creature. A set of larger than human footprints with seaweed appear on the sand; Lombardi follows them to a beach house. Inside the house, a couple has just been brutally killed. Lombardi is seen coming out of the house by Erickson and then walking casually along the shoreline. Dorothy’s dog King is barking near the beach house and leads her and her boyfriend Erickson there. On the same beach her wealthy parents are hosting a party where Mrs Chappel (Freda Inescort) is being teased by her husband Timothy (Tom Conway), for believing in Lombardi’s predictions and in his ability to communicate with the dead. Erickson is at the party as a guest of Dorothy’s.
Erickson is uncomfortable with her rich society connections and more comfortable with his academic scientist friends, who share the same smug beliefs as he does. He seems uncommitted to her outpouring of love. Instead, he falls in love with the very warm-hearted Andrea.
Meanwhile Chappel, a businessman who will do anything to make a buck, offers Lombardi a fifty-fifty partnership in the occultist’s act, with all expenses paid by him. Lombardi not only accepts, but moves into Chappel’s luxurious home.
Chappel also tells Erickson that he can make plenty of money from Lombardi’s fraud act by promoting his predictions and that he will give Erickson the money earned from the venture to help him get off to a good start when he marries his daughter. Erickson refuses to accept this dirty money. He will become a vocal critic of Lombardi, trying to figure out his trick, and will work with the police to see how he manages to get the sea-creature to commit these murders; and, he will try to find out if there is such a thing as this creature. It was rather comical to hear that one of Erickson’s harshest criticisms of Lombardi is: “He is putting hypnotism back twenty years.”
When a local carnival barker (Paul Dubov) who once employed Andrea and is still concerned for her safety is found murdered in his apartment in a supernatural way after expressing concern to Lombardi about how deep he puts her under hypnosis, the police arrest Lombardi. But Chappel sends his lawyer to bail him out.
The act has so far earned Lombardi and Chappel $250,000 a piece. The profits pour in from the following sources: a best-selling book written by Lombardi about Andrea, who under hypnosis discovers that she is a reincarnation of a 17th century English woman; Lombardi’s syndicated columns in newspapers around the country; and, the stage act, where Lombardi predicts when the monster will strike again.
Paul Blaisdell is the monster in a chintzy rubber suit-which covers a busty composite of scales, claws and tusks.
The viewer gets to see Lombardi put Andrea under at gatherings in the Chappel house, where there is smoke coming from her or into her whenever there is an exchange of souls. The Cahn way of filming these seances is more funny than scary.
Warning: spoiler in the next two paragraphs.
In the final scene Lombardi realizes that the only thing that can break Andrea’s hold he has on her, comes from her strong love for Erickson. He therefore decides to use his powers to kill Erickson. Lombardi possesses the dog’s soul and King starts to attack the professor, but is ordered not to by Andrea. Lombardi then puts Andrea under in Chappel’s house gathering and the prehistoric sea-creature comes out of the sea again, as the police try to burn the creature and finally stop it with high-powered rifles.
This is strictly a lightweight nonsense film, which should be good for a few laughs. It is perfect viewing as a Saturday matinee. I can’t see anyone taking this one seriously. The film ends in a mock-serious tone, with Erickson gazing out at the sea and telling Andrea (her spell was finally broken) in a humble low voice: “Perhaps, it was not meant for us to know the dark secrets from the past.”
REVIEWED ON 11/3/2000 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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