Creature From the Black Lagoon (Jack Arnold, 1954)

posted in: Duane, Review | 0
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An Amazonian science expedition encounters a strange creature living in the lagoon at their dig site. The scientists attempt to capture the creature and bring it back to civilization for further study/oppression.

COSDS-Creature-From-the-Black-Lagoon00006With Universal having all but retired its original line of monsters and facing waning interest from a bored populace, the success of Creature From the Black Lagoon was a much needed shot in the arm to the floundering studio. It’s certainly not difficult to see why this film was so successful, the monster was unique, creepy as fuck and the effects (even by today’s non-CGI standards) were top notch. Being only the second Universal film to be presented in the 3D format (the first being It Came From Outer Space the year previous) it had novelty enough to pack the theaters and was popular enough to spawn two sequels.
COSDS-Creature-From-the-Black-Lagoon00002The film revolves around a group of scientists on an expedition down the Amazon after a geologist discovers a weird fossilized webbed hand embedded in a  rocky outcropping a little way down the river. After being unable to locate the rest of the skeleton they surmise that much of the rock over the last few thousand years have been washed away into a nearby lagoon (yes, the “black” one). That night, the creature attacks two of the laborers in their tent which of course brush off as an animal attack. So the natural reaction to that would be to fuck off to the lagoon, obviously. On their way downriver (while blowing the boat’s steam whistle in order to scare alligators and just generally being obnoxious dicks) they encounter the titular creature (or how he is more commonly known, the “Gill-Man”). Evidently, the creature’s sole motivation is to squeeze the lady scientist’s (Julie Adams) tits; A desire he communicates by fixating on her and making squeezing motions with his fishman flippers. It’s pretty much set from there: one burly science guy wants to capture the creature alive to study it and no doubt poke it with things (Richard Denning) and the other one wants to kill it and mount it on his wall or something (Richard Carlson).
COSDS-Creature-From-the-Black-Lagoon00018The film has an abundance of the expected sexism and macho grandstanding considering the decade, with the science dudes being the prerequisite cookie cutter brawny men, scuba diving and smoking pipes (not at the same time, although that would have been awesome) and doing 50s manly-man stuff. The beautiful lady scientist is of course treated as a piece of arm candy for the most part, left behind or placed “out of harm’s way” constantly. One of my favorite lines was “Well there’s just one thing, Mark… we’re going into unexplored territory with a woman.” which of course she takes in stride, talking about how she’s not afraid and smiling the whole time like a trooper. Despite being an effective monster movie,  Creature From the Black Lagoon has plenty to say regarding mankind and his proclivity for corrupting everything he touches. At one point the scientists try and capture the creature by dumping a bunch of fish tranquilizers into the lagoon, which results in a bunch of stunned and dead fish floating to the surface, but to no avail. When they finally do manage to drug the creature, he ends up falling off the boat after another failed attempt at a titty squeeze and is discovered stumbling around the shallow end of the lagoon high as fuck. I’ll even go as far as to say the modified oxygen tank they use to spray the drug at the Gill-Man at one point is a metaphor for mankind’s rape of the earth. Here we have the 50s-era chiseled white guy blasting a load in the face of the strange prehistoric creature underwater in order to oppress and/or dissect him. The message is pretty overt, really.
COSDS-Creature-From-the-Black-Lagoon00010The underwater scenes are obviously plentiful and exceptionally done. The Gill-Man looks amazing, there aren’t any flaws to the suit whatsoever, and the actor is able to swim in it completely unhindered which really lends an air of near-authenticity to the creature itself. In one scene, Kay the lady scientist goes for a swim in the lagoon (well, what else is she gonna do? Science???) and we are treated to this beautiful shot of her swimming at the surface of the lagoon from underneath, with the Gill-Man pacing her, watching from below. Talk about creepy; a lot of the scenes involving the Gill-Man have a bit of a voyeuristic feel to them which I enjoyed a great deal. Of course being a 3D feature plenty of things are thrust annoyingly at the camera; spear guns shoot you in the face constantly, the creature reaches toward the audience to no end, etc. This is a minor annoyance to us in 2D land however, and the rest of the film certainly makes up for its gimmicky transgressions with a brisk pace and plenty of atmosphere. The cute lady scientist constantly posing in short shorts or a bathing suit doesn’t hurt either.

If you’re looking for a monster movie that’s a refreshing change of pace from the typical vampires, werewolves and the like, give Creature From the Black Lagoon a shot. There’s obviously nothing here in the way of titties and blood, but it’s worth it for the creature alone. Classic.

Official COSDS Nunspank Rating:
Gill-Man, high as fuck
Yearning for the titties
Never piss off the Captain of your boat.
It’s RAPE TIME!!! (if only!)


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Duane co-founded The Church of Splatter-Day Saints in 2005. When not immersed in film he's enjoying good whiskey, smoking meat in the backyard or thinking about sluts. He makes a damn fine habanero fire sauce.

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