Creature from the Black Lagoon

07/16/2019 06:54

Film: Creature from the Black Lagoon

Year: 1954

Director: Jack Arnold

Writer: Harry Essex and Arthur A. Ross

Starring: Richard Carlson, Julie Adams and Richard Denning



This was one of the major classic Universal films that I saw after the others. A couple of my favorite podcasts talked about it and I was intrigued to check it out, especially the concept of it is one I’m intrigued by. I’ve now gotten the chance for a second watch, both times at the Gateway Film Center and in 3D.

Synopsis: 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 to stating how there’s parts of the Amazon where life has been forgotten due to the isolation there.

Carl Maia (Antonio Moreno) is a scientist that is exploring and comes across the fossilized arm of an unknown creature. He takes pictures and removes the fossil. His hopes is to do a full dig here to find the rest of it. He leaves 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 named David Reed (Richard Carlson). He is currently under the water and she gets his attention. They go to the institute together where he reports about what he found. Mark Williams (Richard Denning) oversees funding. His attention is gained and he wants to find the rest of this fossil for the financial implications. Dr. Thompson (Whit Bissell) is also intrigued by 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 saw an arm like the one in the fossil. This one though is connected to something still alive. Its owner attacks the two men at camp that Carl left behind. This new group starts their dig, but don’t find anything. David asks about the river and 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.

That is where I’ll leave my recap and introduction to the characters. Now I’ve already said that both viewing have been in 3D. This second time was for the 70th anniversary and I have to say, this film ranks up there as one of the best 3D experiences I’ve ever had. How they use it works so well.

Now that I’ve said that I’ll go back to how the basis here is something that I’ve been fascinated by since childhood. Learning about dinosaurs and creatures from the past is something that I’m still interested in. I’ll set up 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. There is evidence to show that it is possible in remotes areas you can see things you’ve probably never seen before, as they adapt to their specific surroundings over time. I’ll get more into the Gill Man (Ricou Browning and Ben Chapman) 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 subplots. A benefit here is that is much later than your Dracula or Frankenstein and the industry has changed. 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. Both sides and this debate are relevant aspects of what we see today.

Moving this over to the acting, it is solid. Carlson works in his role. He’s one of my favorite characters as I feel of the group, he would be the one I would identify with. I have a thirst for knowledge and he wants to learn more about this creature. His fighting back is out of necessity to live. Adams is good as well. I feel bad for her. When this came out, she is clearly treated as the weaker sex and we get toxic masculinity from David and Mark as they are low-key competing over her. You can’t fault her for any of this and it is hard to not look at this 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 Browning and 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 realistic.

Let’s then finish this out with filmmaking. I’ll say that we are limited with the effects that we get, but the look of the Gill Man suit is amazing. I like how they combine man, amphibian and even fish together into this creature. Browning’s movements in the water are also seamless and that looked amazing to me, especially the scene with Kay swimming above him. I was blown away by this aspect for the time. It is also shot beautifully so credit the cinematography there. They also do well with capturing the setting. Something else it does well is to drive tension. They get trapped here in this creature’s habitat. The soundtrack also helps. I could feel my heart rate going up thanks to the music. I found this to be effective.

In conclusion, this is one of my favorites in the Universal classic run. This presents an interesting concept that could possibly be true. There are parts of this world that are unexplored even though technology makes the world smaller. The deeper issues explored are interesting and still relevant. We have good acting. This is well-made with the suit for Gill Man and what they do with the cinematography helping there. Like I said, I think this is one of the stronger films in that original run by Universal. I’d recommend giving this one at least a viewing if you haven’t.


My Rating: 9.5 out of 10