Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)
Release year: 1954
Director: Jack Arnold
Screenwriter: Harry Essex, Arthur A. Ross, Maurice Zimm
Starring: Richard Carlson, Julie Adams, Richard Denning, Antonio Moreno, Nestor Paiva, Whit Bissell, Bernie Gozier, Ben Chapman
Moviegeek Sunday Classic #174, week 42 2017
A scientific expedition looking for fossils along the Amazon river gets more than they asked for, when they stumble across a prehistoric Gill.man. There are mixed feelings about whether it should be captured or simply killed, but they need to make up their minds, for the Gill-Man knows what he wants.
The Gill-Man is one of the lesser popular of the Classic Universal Monsters and for obvious reasons. Not many of today’s audience will be scared by the stiff rubber-suit that is the creature, though the dead look in his eyes at moments can be eerie. But the Gil-Mn has still made an impact, with homage paid to it in movies like The Monster Squad (1987) and Monsters vs. Aliens (2009). Played by two actors, Chapman (Jungle Moon Men, 1955) on land and Ricou Browning (Flipper’s New Adventure, 1964) in water (both uncredited), the creature benefits from Browning’s skills as a diver in the underwater scenes, where it has considerable more speed than with its stiff walk on land. The slowness of the creature means the fright impact of the monster would have been close to zero, if it would have taken place in ‘our’ world, but as it is, this takes place in the jungle and that is Gil-Man’s territory. Despite being filmed in studios as well as Florida and California, the Amazon settings seems convincingly exotic and the underwater scenes are marvelously considering the time it was made. The underwater photography is lush and clear with great lightning, showing all the drama vividly, which is great, as the underwater scenes are among the most dramatic of the movie. As the leading lady, Adams ( The Man From the Alamo, 1953) is a perfect cast, stunning and with a great scream, perhaps the two most important feature for a damsel in distress part. But her Kay gets to be more than just that and is a surprisingly well-sculpted character with intelligence behind the screams. Carlson (It Came From Outer Space, 1953) plays David, the boyfriend to Kay, strong and capable. His wish to kill the beast is fought by his boss Mark Williams, played by Denning (An Affair to Remember, 1957), who sees financial benefits from bringing it back alive. The tension between the two men adds to the complications and works in favour of the creatures, while giving a suitable human aspect to the drama of the story. However, the two men do get overshadowed by the Gil-Man and his primal interest in Kay, which undoubtedly is the most captivating part of the film. Though not the strongest of either the Classic Universal Monsters or the Classic Universal Monster movies, this is still an entertaining and atmospheric and in the skilled hands of Arnold, who made other horror movie like Tarantula (1955) and The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) and with a brassy and memorable signature theme announcing the entrance of the Gil-Man, this has more than earned its place among the Classic horror movies.
A remake has been in the talks for decades, but as Universals Studios has started remaking their classic monsters, starting with The Mummy in 2017, it has been announced, that at remake is still happening.
The movie generated two sequels: Revenge of the Creature (1955) and The Creature Walks Among Us (1956). While Jack Arnold returned to direct Revenge of the Creature, The Creature Walks Among Us was directed by John Sherwood.
The Creature’s appearance was based on old seventeenth-century woodcuts of two bizarre creatures called the Sea Monk and the Sea Bishop. The Creature’s final head was based on that of the Sea Monk, but the original discarded head was based on that of the Sea Bishop.
Picture copyrights: UIP