Movie Critique - Creature from the Black Lagoon

Stars: 3 / 5

Recommendation: A quintessential monster movie where the monster takes the center stage, seduces you to follow him despite the sheer fear.

Creature from the Black Lagoon is a 1954 American black-and-white 3D monster horror film produced by William Alland and directed by Jack Arnold. The film has Richard Carlson, Julie Adams, Richard Denning, Antonio Moreno and Nester Palva in the main cast. Ben Chapman played the titular role on land and Ricou Browning played the same under water.

Dr. Carl Maia (portrayed by Antonio Moreno), Dr. David Reed (portrayed by Richard Carlson), Dr. Mark Williams (portrayed by Richard Denning) and Kay Lawrence (portrayed by Julie Adams) as David's girlfriend and colleague, all go on a scientific expedition on Amazon River searching for fossils of the prehistoric gill-man in the legendry Black Lagoon. Only they end up encountering the actual gill-man. 

Originally made as a 3D, it was released as 2D version in minor theater. The TCM film that aired was also a 2D version that I saw. The film in theaters opened with an episode of Abbott & Costello from The Colgate Comedy Hour, commonly referred to as " Abbott and Costello Meet the Creature from the Black Lagoon."

The main character of the movie was definitely the Creature. The other primary character would be Kay Lawrence portrayed by Julie Adams. It took me but just a few minutes of her on screen to recognize her as Eve Simpson from Murder, She Wrote TV series. I have watched that series so many times, but never knew that she was the famous Julie Adams from this film. 

Another popular star in the film was Richard Denning who plays the part of Dr. Mark Williams. But we know him as Kenneth Bradley from the 1957 American classic love story An Affair to Remember, where he is the one in love with Terry McKay while she is in love with Nickie Ferrante. 

The film has influenced so many remakes and cancelled remakes. One such was the award winning 2017 American romantic fantasy drama film, The Shape of Water, by director Guillermo del Toro. He also wrote the screenplay on the premise to change the horror film into something romantic and fantasy. 

When I watched The Shape of Water on HBO a year after it's release, I read about it being inspired from this original horror film. I am not a person who usually watches or reads horror fiction. However this one time I really wanted to see the original that stemmed into an award winning movie some 63 years later.

Under less than 2 minutes, the opening scene narration combines both Creation of Earth and it's Evolution bringing the viewers to the current time.

The plot reminded me of King Kong movie where the huge gorilla gets fixated on the heroine of the whatever film version she is in. Another factor that always bugged me in the horror films of the past or the mystery movies was the heroine being dumb enough to go into uncharted waters and face the monster without help. Same thing happens here with Kay in the film. 

It began really good, giving the viewers the feeling of serenity, happiness and euphoria of finding the unfindable. Yet, it adds the subtle thread of fear that only increases as each frame passes, even though the plot is fairly simple and straight forward; even though you are made aware of the creature from the beginning.

Perhaps in 1954 this definitely might have created shivers and screams in the theaters. But when I watched on the 75 inch TV screen, it didn’t scare me much as I had expected. However top points to the costume and makeup artists headed by Bud Westmore. They definitely will scare you. Check out the gill-man in water and on land.

A quintessential monster movie where the monster takes the center stage, seduces you to follow him despite the sheer fear; supported by magic of the director and some pretty good acting skills by the star casts makes this a much watch movie for the Halloween movie nights or any scary movie night party you might have. Enjoy!

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Movie Trivia:

a. Two sequels were made - the 1955 Revenge of the Creature and 1956 The Creature Walks Among Us. 

b. Jack Arnold also directed most of the episodes of the American TV sitcom The Brady Bunch that aired from 1969 to 1974. In one of the episodes he has Bobby Brady wear the Creature's mask.

2) Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:

a. Interesting that there is a large sign in the coast reading "Instituto de Biolagia Maritima" in Spanish when the filming was done in Brazil meaning the language should have been Portuguese.

b. If you watch closely, in a scene where Kay is swimming and the Creature is watching her from bottom, you can see a long and large suspended cable right above her above the water. Perhaps that was for the creature to be able to move around?

c. Checkout the painted background in the Creature's cave with two pillars. Wonder if it was from another set that was left and mistakenly captured in this film. 

d. Since the stuntman playing the part of the Creature could not see well from his costume when he was carrying Kay to his lair, he scraped her head to the rocky wall.

e. When the Creature had destroyed their boats, how did Lucas and Dr. Carl Maia reach the Creature's cave without getting wet in time to aid David in rescuing Kay?


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