Friday, April 22, 2011
When you see the title Manfish on a collection of horror movies you might expect to see some knockoff of the classic Creature from the Black Lagoon. Well I did, and despite there being no creature at all (there is a shark), I wasn't disappointed that much.
Despite no monster, there is some pretty good underwater filming in this one.
Turns out the "Manfish" of this 1956 flick is a boat, and its crew is comprised of John Bromfield as a lusty and disreputable captain (Bromfield was actually in Revenge of the Creature ironically enough), Lon Chaney Jr. as a good-hearted but doltish first mate and a couple of Caribbean natives as divers. This crew is barely making ends meet when they come across Victor Jory, a black-hearted academic who is on the trail of some pirate gold, and his sloe-eyed girlfriend.
This tale it seems is a blending of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Gold-Bug" and "The Tell-Tale Heart". After a somewhat laborious opening act, the movie eventually gets into Gold-Bug gear as Bromfield, Jory, and Chaney go after the treasure following obscure clues only Jory's character can decipher. Jory's "girlfriend" (Tessa Pendergast),an exotic beauty, comes between Bromfield and Jory, playing them both against each other. The two want to murder each other through most of the movie and one succeeds, where the Tell-Tale Heart stuff kicks in.
The less said here the better as the movie's second and third acts aren't all that bad, but can be easily spoiled. There are some very dark and very funny moments in the final act of the movie, though I'm not certain the movie is going for laughs. The ending is appropriately ironic though, giving the whole affair a nice ring.
Jory is outstanding in this movie, and Bromfield is darn good. Even Chaney, usually awful at this stage of his career turns in a pretty decent role. This is one of those movies that's better than it ought to be, but beware the dull beginning. It does get better.
And if you want to see it, it seems someone has put the whole shebang on Youtube. Here's a link: