Creature from the Haunted Sea  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Creature from the Haunted Sea is a 1961 comedy film directed by Roger Corman. Written by Charles B. Griffith, the film is a parody of spy, gangster and monster movies, concerning a secret agent, XK150 (played by Robert Towne under the pseudonym "Edward Wain"), who goes under the code name "Sparks Moran" in order to infiltrate a criminal gang led by Renzo Capetto (Antony Carbone), who is trying to transport a colonel, a group of exiled Cuban nationals, and a large portion of the Cuban treasury out of the country.

When Capetto tries to kill the Cubans guarding the money and blame their deaths on a legendary sea monster, he soon finds out that the monster is real. The film was shot in Puerto Rico back-to-back with two other Corman productions, The Last Woman on Earth and Battle of Blood Island, from a script that had previously been filmed as Naked Paradise and Beast from Haunted Cave. Griffith rewrote the script to accompany both the locations Corman was shooting on and a comedic storytelling approach, as opposed to the previous versions of the script, which had been straightforward.


After smuggling a strong box of the Cuban treasury and a group of exiled Cubans out of the now communist Cuba, a group of criminal and exiled Americans plot how to rid themselves of the Cubans guarding the money and come up with the plan to imitate a sea monster and blame the deaths on it. An American spy smuggles himself on board and acts as a narrator and all around good guy, ending up as the only original character to survive until the end. The sea monster turns out to be real and quite deadly. The movie concludes with the sea monster killing everyone and getting the money for itself, while Sparks Moran, the spy, ends up with the girl.


In 1959, following the completion of The Little Shop of Horrors, Roger Corman assembled a small cast and crew and arrived in Puerto Rico to direct The Last Woman on Earth and produce a World War II film titled Battle of Blood Island. According to Corman, "I had discovered that tax incentives were available if you 'manufactured' in Puerto Rico. That included making movies." When Corman still had unused footage left over from The Last Woman on Earth, he decided to make another film. Screenwriter Charles B. Griffith was asked to rewrite a screenplay that had previously been filmed as Naked Paradise and Beast from Haunted Cave for the new locations, to complete the screenplay in three days, and that Corman would be playing one of the characters, Happy Jack Monahan. Angered with the situation, Griffith wrote Corman the most difficult role he could think of, requiring the character to be laughing hysterically in one scene and crying like a baby in the next. Corman states that when he read the script, he "realized Happy Jack practically became the lead. I know Chuck did this to drive me crazy. It was too big a role, and required an actor." Corman gave the role to the film's boom operator, Robert Bean, who also played the role of the Creature.

Creature from the Haunted Sea was shot in five days. Locals appeared in the film as extras, reportedly being paid $1 an hour. According to Corman, "I was trying to get more movement into long dialogue scenes. Chuck had one scene in the script that especially bothered me because I couldn't figure out how to give it some action. We were shooting in a palm grove and I had these Americans playing touch football with a coconut. [...] If nothing else, there was a lot of movement in that scene." During a scene in which the character Renzo Capetto is shown loading a gun, actor Antony Carbone was given a real gun which fell apart unexpectedly. After shooting a take that "worked perfectly," Corman decided that the first take was funnier, and used it in the film with added narration to achieve humorous effect.

According to Beach Dickerson, the Creature was made from "a wetsuit, some moss, lots of Brillo pads. [...] Tennis balls for the eyes, Ping-Pong balls for the pupils and pipecleaners for the claws. Then we cover him with black oilcloth to make him slimy." According to Carbone, the cast "really had to do some deep concentration in order not to laugh when we saw it." Carbone felt that Corman should have shot the scenes featuring the Creature from its point-of-view, so that the audience would never see the Creature. "That would at least keep a semblance of some fear. Because when you see this Creature, you gotta laugh! Not that the laughter isn't good, but the laughter should not be about the Creature, it should be about the actions of the Creature. For example, when the Creature kills, you should take the action from the actor to make it funny—his eyes pop out, or he puts his finger in his mouth like a child, or some humorous little bit that the person being killed could do. Therefore you sustain both the secrecy of this thing and bring out the comedy. Then I think it would have been at least plausible, in a way." Despite Carbone's feelings about Corman's filmmaking aesthetics, he stated that the film was "very funny" and he "had a lot of fun doing it."

When the cast and crew had difficulty getting out of the country, the cinematographer hid the film from Corman until the cast and crew got paid for the production. Actress Betsy Jones-Moreland stated of the production that "the only problem with that movie is that it started out to be a takeoff on everything Roger had ever done before. It was to be a comedy, a laugh a minute. Then all of a sudden, somewhere in the middle of it, that got lost and it got to be serious!" Moreland continued to state that she "just assumed that nobody would ever see it. In the beginning, because it was going to be a "sophisticated" spoof and it was going to be an inside joke, I was not ashamed of it. Later, when it didn't turn out to be that way, when it got off the track and got dumb, then I wished that I'd never heard of it."

The film's musical score, written by Fred Katz, was originally written for A Bucket of Blood. According to Mark Thomas McGee, author of Roger Corman: The Best of the Cheap Acts, each time Katz was called upon to write music for Corman, Katz sold the same score as if it were new music. The score was used in a total of seven films, including The Wasp Woman and The Little Shop of Horrors.

Release history

Creature from the Haunted Sea was not released until 1961. The film's marketing campaign did not make the film out to be a comedy, and instead promoted the film as a straight thriller. The film's poster asks "What was the unspeakable secret of the sea of lost ships?" and requests that audiences "do not give away the answer to the secret." Many audiences found the advertising to be misleading, which hurt the film's box office.

In March 1963, Corman reassembled the cast in Santa Monica to appear in new scenes directed by Monte Hellman for television airings of the film, expanding the length to 74 minutes. A title song, sung by Betsy Jones-Moreland, was added by Hellman on the assumption that a film called Creature from the Haunted Sea should have a title song. Hellman also shot footage for television versions of Beast from Haunted Cave, Ski-Toop Attack and The Last Woman on Earth. According to Hellman, "That was probably the most fun I've ever had, because I was the producer, writer and director, and I had absolute control over the crew and how the money was spent and everything. It was really fantastic, plus the fact that it was totally off the wall stuff—it was like Saturday Night Fever."

In 2008, a colorized version was released by Legend Films.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Creature from the Haunted Sea" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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