Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)

Like most all the classic monster B-movies, Creature is based around a scientific expedition gone horribly awry. Fossils have been discovered along the Amazon river in the mysterious and dangerous Black Lagoon that may hint of a missing link between man and reptile. When the first team out there mysteriously disappears, a second team of Americans goes out to investigate and see if they can find any more of these incredibly rare fossils. Names aren't really important, but you have your generic elder scientist, the young hunk, the money man, the standard female who doesn't do much more than scream and constantly get in trouble, and a few people who don't really matter except in terms of their imminent death at the hands (or fins I say) of the creature. Chartering a boat, they find the Lagoon and go about digging for the fossils (with dynamite and pick axes no less!), and find a fin-like hand within the rocks that all but confirm the existence of this creature. However, this creature isn't nearly as dead as they might think, and as they impede on the monster's territory even more, it's attacks on them increase, particularly after the creature finds something he'd had little chance to see before: woman.

    Tagline: From the Amazon's forbidden depths came the Creature from the Black Lagoon

    Directing:
    • Jack Arnold

    Writing:
    • Harry Essex
    • Arthur A. Ross

Release Date: 1954-03-05

Julie Adams

Kay Lawrence

Richard Denning

Mark Williams

Nestor Paiva

Captain Lucas

Whit Bissell

Dr. Edwin Thompson
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  • Before Freddy, before Jason, before even Michael and Leatherface, another pantheon of monsters ruled the nightmares of the world. They had names like Frankenstein's monster, Dracula, Lawrence Talbot, a.k.a. The Wolf Man, and Prince Im-Ho-Tep, The Mummy. Sure, most people in this day and age haven't likely seen many, if any of the original classics, but they're still well known enough that most anyone could name off all the main monsters, who played them, and which one they consider their favorites. I feel fortunate to have been raised on the original black and white monster movies that scared the hell out of my dad when he was a kid before moving on to the slasher fare, if just to be able to put things into perspective of their time. When all's said and done, I'm a sucker for the classics, so sue me, and today we get to cover my personal favorite of the bunch: The Creature From the Black Lagoon.

    This is as classic a B-movie as you can get, but given that the people at Universal and their love for the monster genre, they put enough care into it that puts this one a class above the rest. Like any of the great tragic monsters, the Creature (or Gill-Man, take your pick), is more misunderstood than anything else. He's an animal essentially defending its home from invaders, no more, no less. Sure, it does kidnap the woman, but, well, given the fact that there weren't many she-creatures in the neighborhood and that she seemed to have all the right parts, it's an easy misunderstanding. At any rate, the creature's performance by Ricou Browning and Ben Chapman (for in water and out of water scenes respectively) is nothing short of inspired. I mean, yes, it is a man in a rubber suit, but their body language perfectly portrays the right amount of frustration and anger that the creature possesses, yet at the same time making him extremely sympathetic once the humans have captured and beaten the creature into submission. Nonetheless, when compared to the other Universal monsters, the Creature's got the market cornered on the gruesome death scenes, particularly one where he rips a man's face off while he's still alive! Special attention must be given to Browning for his spectacular underwater performances where he would often have to hold his breath for up to four minutes at a time to get a shot right.

    This movie was originally released in 3-D, and what I would give to have seen it how it was originally intended. The cinematography and obvious camera tricks are brilliantly implemented to take advantage of the Amazon setting, particularly in the lengthy underwater sequences where the divers traverse the forests of underwater foliage and their bubbles flow around the screen. One particularly effective and eerie scene involves the creature swimming mere feet underneath the lead woman, seemingly dancing along with her as she is blissfully unaware. This scene among many others of the men battling the creature are almost shot-for-shot identical to scenes from Jaws released nearly 20 years later, so lest you believe the Creature had no major cultural impact, just check out that flick and try telling me Spielberg wasn't watching the same movie when he was a kid.

    Overall, The Creature from the Black Lagoon is probably the weakest story-wise of the classic Universal monsters, but given the brilliant portrayal of the monster, the gorgeous look, and the fact that it is just so damn fun, the creature is without a doubt my favorite of the original pantheon of movie monsters.

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