Creature from the Black Lagoon
creature from the black lagoon | jack arnold | harry essex | arthur a. ross | richard carlson | julie adams | richard denning | gill man | universal | sci-fi | sci fi | united states | antonio moreno | nestor paiva | whit bissell | bernie gozier | monster | creature
Film: Creature from the Black Lagoon
Director: Jack Arnold
Writer: Harry Essex and Arthur A. Ross
Starring: Richard Carlson, Julie Adams and Richard Denning
This was one of the major Universal films from back in the day that I actually still had never watched. A couple of my favorite podcasts talked about it and I was definitely intrigued to check it out, especially the concept of it is one I’m really intrigued by. The synopsis is a strange prehistoric beast lurks in the depths of the Amazonian jungle. A group of scientists try to capture the animal and bring it back to civilization for study.
We start this though by giving background information on how the Earth formed and how life on it grew at the bottom of the warm oceans. I did find this intriguing as it leads up to stating how there’s parts of the Amazon where life has kind of forgotten due to the fact of the isolation there.
Carl Maia (Antonio Moreno) is a scientist that is exploring and comes across a fossilized arm of an unknown creature. He takes pictures and removes it, but he wants to do a full dig here to try to find the rest of it. He leaves his two men behind and goes back to the institute to report his findings.
It is there that he runs into Kay Lawrence (Julie Adams). She is there with her boyfriend, another scientist David Reed (Richard Carlson). He is currently under the water and she calls him up. They all go to the institute together where he reports about what he found. Mark Williams (Richard Denning) is more in charge of the funding here and he really wants to try to find the rest of this fossil for the financial implications. Dr. Thompson (Whit Bissell) is also interested in this discovery. They don’t want to waste time and this will be the expedition crew.
A barge is obtained with its captain, Lucas (Nestor Paiva). While they were gone, we see an arm similar to the one in the fossil that is connected to something still alive. It attacks the two men at camp that Carl left behind. They start their dig, but do not find much. When they start to inquire about the river, they learn that nearby is a body of water it empties into that the natives call Black Lagoon. They center their attention there and whatever is lurking beneath the water.
Now in my opening paragraph, I didn’t actually state that even though I waited as along as I did to see this film, my first viewing I’ll never forget. I got to see this in a theater in 3D and I have to be honest. It really does rank up there as one of the best 3D experiences I’ve ever had. So there’s that.
This film though is actually very interesting to me. The first thing is that growing up, I was fascinated with dinosaurs and creatures from the past. I’ll tell you know that I believe in evolution and part of that is that there’s too much evidence to show us that there’s a lot of similarities in things that are too hard to explain as to how we got to where we are today. Something else that I also believe is that there could be isolated places like this in the Amazon and on islands where things like this could potentially exist. When you have enough time and isolation, you are going to see things you’ve probably never seen before, as they adapt to their specific surroundings over years of time. I’ll get more into the Gill Man a bit later, but as a character, I’m a big fan.
Another thing that I enjoy about this Universal film is the use of deeper subplot. I do think that some of this is the fact that is much later than your Dracula or Frankenstein and the industry had changed quite a bit. It isn’t hard to see that in this film David is representing science. He wants to study Gill Man for the purposes of possible space travel and just general knowledge. Mark on the other hand is more military or capitalism, he wants to kill it for pride and to get rich off it. Still relevant aspects of what we see today.
To move next to the pacing of the film, I think that it has a good running time and really doesn’t waste any time getting into it. The opening monologue leads us right to where this film is going to take place and the reason that we are learning about this fossil. It then just keeps giving us problems that are characters solve into the next one. It really does have that out of the frying pan, into the fire set up to it and it really does work. The ending is quite Hollywood, which I’m not surprised for the time period this came out, but it definitely is a solid ending still.
The acting for the film is pretty solid as well. Carlson I did really enjoy as I feel of all the characters, he would be the one I would identify with. I have a thirst for knowledge and he really just wants to learn more about this creature. Adams is good as well. I actually feel bad for her. When the film came out, she is clearly treated as the weaker sex and we get some toxic masculinity from David and Mark as they are low-key competing over her. You can’t fault her in any of this and it is hard to not look at the film as a time capsule, but something that I thought of. Moreno is solid, Paiva brings a humor element to the film and the rest of the cast rounded out the film for what was needed. Shout out to Ricou Browning and Ben Chapman who both appear as the Gill Man in the water and on land, they both did a great job in bringing this creature to life while making it look pretty realistic.
As with many of these Universal films, there’s not really a lot to talk about in this department. I think the Gill Man suit though looked amazing. I like how they combine looking like a man, amphibian and even a bit of a fish together into this creature. Browning’s movements in the water are also very seamless and that looked absolutely amazing to me, especially the scene with Kay swimming above him. I was actually blown away by this aspect for the time. It is also shot beautifully as well.
Something that really helps to drive tension in this one and I could actually feel my heart rate going up while watching would be thanks to the soundtrack. The songs they selected definitely fit the scenes and help to make you feel time is running around. I found this to be pretty effective in its use for sure.
Now with that said, I know I’ve held on off on watching this for as long as I had, but I’m definitely glad that my first experience is what it was. This presents an interesting concept that I definitely think could possible be true. There are parts of this world that are unexplored even though with technology, things become much smaller. The deeper issues explored are interesting and I think that it is paced in a way to keep the tension building. The acting is solid. The effects are quite amazing in making this creature look so real. Soundtrack for the film definitely helps to build that tension as well. Overall I’d say this is now in my top Universal films of the ones I’ve seen and I’d say this is a really good movie. I would recommend giving this one a viewing for younger horror fans or those that enjoy classics. I will warn you though; this is from 1954 and is in black and white. If that’s an issue, I’d definitely avoid then.
My Rating: 8.5 out of 10