Tuesday, February 26, 2013

#925. Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)

Directed By: Jack Arnold

Starring: Richard Carlson, Julie Adams, Richard Denning

Tag line: "Centuries of passion pent up in his savage heart!"

Trivia: The physical appearance of the Creature was modeled after a likeness of the Oscar, the figurine awarded annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Creature from the Black Lagoon is both a throwback to the early days of horror, providing Universal Studios with yet another iconic monster to add to its collection, and a fine example of the science fiction genre that would come into its own in the 1950s.

During an expedition to the Amazon, Dr. Carl Maia (Antonio Moreno) uncovers an incredible fossil, a skeletal hand with webbed fingers, which he brings to a Marine Laboratory for further examination. His good friend, Ichthyologist Dr. David Reed (Richard Carlson), is fascinated by the discovery, and persuades his sponsor, Dr. Mark Williams (Richard Denning), to fund a second expedition so that they can find the remainder of the skeleton. Joined by Reed’s girlfriend, Kay Lawrence (Julie Adams), the team eventually makes its way to an area of the Amazon known as the Black Lagoon, which, unbeknownst to them, is home to an amphibious creature, part man and part fish, that doesn’t appreciate their presence. Things get even more dangerous when the creature spots Kay while she's out swimming, and falls instantly in love with her.

Directed by Jack Arnold, Creature from the Black Lagoon tells a harrowing tale of man’s intrusion into the natural world. Much like the giant ape in King Kong, we end up feeling sorry for the Creature (the locals nicknamed him the “Gill-Man”), and wish that Reed and the others would have simply left him in peace (many of the Creature’s so-called acts of terror are retaliatory in nature; his initial attack is the result of a glass bottle being thrown at him). Yet the fact that we sympathize with the monster doesn’t make him any less frightening. The sequence where the Creature secretly follows Kay as she's swimming, matching her speed and, at times, gliding only a few feet below her, is extremely suspenseful, and a scene in which the monster, having just been captured, gasps for air as it tries to escape from its cage sent a chill up my spine. Two separate performers played the Gill-Man: Olympic swimming champion Ricou Browning handled the underwater scenes, while actor Ben Chapman donned the suit on dry land, and through their combined efforts, one of the cinema’s best-known monsters was brought to life. Along with its renowned title character, Creature from the Black Lagoon also boasts stunning underwater photography, a number of inspired set pieces (the monster’s subterranean lair is wonderfully realized), and, in Julie Adams, the prettiest woman to appear in a classic Universal horror picture.

Originally shot in 3-D, Creature from the Black Lagoon is equal parts jungle adventure and monster movie, with a dash of Beauty and the Beast thrown in for good measure. What’s remarkable is it does justice to all three, and is more than worthy of its ranking as one of the finest horror films ever made.


Robert M. Lindsey said...

I recently watched this after not seeing it since the '70s and was impressed at how good it really is.

Boss Butcher said...

Hell yes! I always enjoy watching this movie. The creature really stands the test of time.