The Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954) – A Review

The Creature From The Black Lagoon 1954 monster horror movie Julie AdamsA very unusual fossil is unearthed pointing to some unknown amphibious creature that exists in the mysterious Amazon. A group of scientists depart downriver into the Amazon to look further into this mystery. This expedition will soon come face to face with one of cinemas most famous monsters – the Creature from the Black Lagoon!

More than sixty years on, The Creature From the Black Lagoon continues to entertain and fascinate audiences. The film has become a monster classic. The extraordinary looking ‘Gill Man’ has deservedly sat alongside cinemas most popular monsters. Right from his first appearance fans have been mesmerized by this creature. To this day he remains one of the most distinctive and beloved movie monsters of all time.

And the movie is very good too! Director Jack Arnold crafts one of the greatest beauty and the beast aquatic monster tales around.

There’s naturally underwater photography and it’s quite impressive. At the time it must have really dazzled audiences who poured into theaters. Just consider, most underwater scene folks saw up to this point was with miniature models, filmed inside pools or even slow-motion dry recreations. Here, it looks like we just actually submerged underwater and are witnessing men struggle for survival against this creature.

Creature From Black Lagoon Julie Adams swimmingIt might look a bit quaint today, but it’s still thrilling to watch. The famous Adams swimming scene still looks spectacular and has that underlying creepiness and sweetness to it.

The poor Creature being attracted to this stage beautiful being in his water. The unsettling feeling that something is lurking underneath her. It’s really one of the most simple scenes, but it’s a real standout in the movie.

Some of the underwater shots of Adams swimming will immediately remind movie fans of Jaws. It surely must have been an influence on Spielberg when he set out to make that movie twenty years later. His ‘homage’ of the scene turns into a much more horrific opening to Jaws than anything we see here.

Watching this with my nephew he was a bit confused by the Gill Man’s desire to capture Adams. He asked, “Well, what’s he going to do with her when he catches her?”

I didn’t have a clear answer for him. I knew what I would do with her if I was him. Her and her bathing suit makes for quite the indelible image.

Creature From the Black Lagoon 1954 movie castCreature is much better made than the typical 1950’s horror movies of its time. It takes its time building up to the monster – a fossil discovery, traveling to the Amazon, hints of an ominous presence lurking about. We’re waiting for the big reveal of this thing and when it comes we’re not disappointed.

They gave their monster such a distinctive appearance, that kids must of been astounded by him! He is the real star of the show.

Ok, it’s a man in rubber suit, (played by Ben Chapman and Ricou Browning underwater) but the Gillman remains such a unique looking monster it’s no wonder how he became considered a true brother in arms with his Universal co-horts, Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolfman.

Even today the Gillman looks as impressive as ever. You can’t take your eyes off this monster! That suit and this monster is one of the things that really elevated this to a ‘classic’ level. Had they had the Creature look more like he did in the third Creature film The Creature Walks Among Us from the start, I don’t think so many of us would still be talking about him today. It’s that distinctive fish-like look that makes him so darn special.

When I first saw The Monster Squad and the Gillman showed up I was somewhat surprised at how he looked in comparison to the original. The versions they came up with in that 1987 film looked good, don’t get me wrong, but there were no great leaps made in the appearance of the Gillman from 1954 to 1987. Heck, even in The Shape of Water I didn’t think that creature looked much more spectacular than the original.

They really nailed this monster the first time out.

Julie Adams The Creature From The Black Lagoon 1954 Universal monster movieLike most of all the great movie monsters the Creature has a bit of humanity that he exudes. You kind of feel sorry for him. Here he is living alone in his quiet lagoon when strangers come along and start poking their noses into his habitat. These human go about hunting him, they pollute his home, they try to capture him, hurt him. It’s no wonder the poor guy gets aggressive towards them and begins protecting his territory and himself from them.

With most 1950’s monster movies there’s some of those cheesy staples that come along with them. A few moments of stiff acting, loud overly dramatic screams by terrorized characters, those repetitive scary music cues, that cheesy 3D gimmick.

During this time that ‘3D experience’ was the rage. While so many of those 3D movies during the 1950’s have been forgotten and the 3D novelty that was the main draw in watching them has long since wore off, Creature wasn’t pinned down by the format and stands on its own as a quality movie.

Once I got to see this flick in a theater in 3-D. The audience wore those flimsy red and blue 3-D specs in order to enjoy the full 3-D experience. It was really nothing special. There are a few corny shots of arms stretching out at you and harpoon guns aiming at you, but really it added nothing. The movie plays just fine in ordinary two dimensional. No 3D bells and whistles make it anymore special. It’s special enough on its own without the glasses.

The human cast is easy to breeze over, since let’s face it they’re not the true stars here. Richard Carlson (It Came From Outer Space) and Richard Denning are two chiseled scientists who butt heads and hearts over how to handle the Creature and Adams. In a way, both the Creature and Adams are being pulled in two directions by these two leading men. Do either of them care what the monster and the girl want???

Creature From The Black Lagoon 1954 Julie Adams Richard CarlsonWhit Bissell gives one of his very academic performances with lots of ‘science talk’. I always associate him with the final scene of Invasion of the Body Snatchers the most. Then of course we have the crusty and colorful Nestor Paiva as the boat captain.

They all serve their parts well and do everything you could ask of them. The first time I saw the 1955 sequel Revenge of the Creature I was disappointed that Adams and Carlson didn’t come back for it. I wonder why. That would have been nice to have seen how these two were after this Amazon adventure and watch their story continue back at civilization with the Creature now being captured.

Plus, I wonder in that time would Adams have warmed up to him more and unhappy with how he was being treated. That could have made for a very interesting follow-up.

The movie moves at a really prisk pace running about 80 minutes. There’s no lags in telling its story. It’s seeped in the 1950’s cheesy monster era, so while you might sneer at moments I think you have to be impressed of just how well made a movie it is. It’s aged much better than its contemporaries from the period. Ok, so it might not make you scream like it did to kids in 1954, but it’s still an awfully good time!

There has been persistent talk about a remake of Creature for decades! So far it’s never happened. The Shape of Water was inspired by Guillermo del Toro’s wish that the Creature and Adams’ relationship would have succeeded. It’s a good movie, but i’s not exactly a true remake of the film.

Creature From The Black Lagoon 1954 Universal monster movie Julie AdamsWith Universal Pictures attempting their big Dark Universe series, they talked about films starring a lot of the classic monsters. Along with Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy, a Creature remake was said to be in the planning stages. That’s pretty much the extent of what I’ve heard.

Sure, there have been rumors of Gal Gadot and Scarlett Johansson being eyed for the leading lady role (that’s some predictable casting huh?). I’m betting The Shape of Water will be the best Creature feature inspired film we’ll be seeing.

Even though I envision it being subpar, I have to admit I would be very curious to see an actual Creature remake though. All the other famous monsters have been done over and over again through the years, but the Gillman seems to have settled solely into his 1950’s era and has never left it.

Maybe that is for the best.

 

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1 Response

  1. Capt. Nemo says:

    Wasn’t there a sequal were the Black Lagoon monster was captured and taken to Florida?

    I think they wanted to punch up the sympathy angle for him. Did they make the humans intentionally malicious?

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